Steve Martin appreciation thread


A couple recent Steve Martin things.

He was on an episode of Jerry Seinfeld's web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". You can watch it HERE.

And a couple weeks ago I saw a performance of Bright Star, a new stage Musical from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. They have been collaborating on music and in concerts for the past few years, but now they have expanded that partnership into a play. It premiered in San Diego, then moved to D.C., and is now heading to Broadway. Steve's play Picasso at the Lapin Agile is one of my favorites. This is a much different style, very old fashioned in many ways, intentionally, with some dark edges. But a very sincere Musical. I liked it. Good music, the cast was strong. One element of the story is presented as a sort of mystery or a surprise in the second act. I think it's so obvious a "twist" the hiding it is counterproductive, but that was my only gripe with it.

And if you don't have young children you may not have realized it, but Steve lent his voice in support to the animated feature Home, last year. In 2016 he'll be in front of the camera again, with a supporting role in Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, an adaptation of Ben Fountain's National Book Critics Circle Award winning novel. Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, and Joe Alwyn also are in the cast.

Seventy years old, and no signs of slowing down at all.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

For the last bunch of years amigos Steve Martin and Martin Short have been traveling the country doing stage shows together. Stories and jokes are told, songs are sung, banjos are played. Hadn't been able to match up with one of the dates before, but tonight I am seeing them in Baltimore. Front row, Baby.

And I'm sure many have you have seen in your Facebook feeds or wherever that Steve is online teaching a Masterclass in comedy. Twenty-five video lessons.

No, I have not signed up for it.

Steve has not done anything in the feature film world in the last few years...other than having three of his classic titles place on the MoFo Top 100 Comedies: The Jerk (#24), Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (#33), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (#52). I am sure he is positively bursting with pride.

While there are no new features of late he has been busy. Netflix released a video of "Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life", the extremely successful stage show the pair have been performing all over. Captured for posterity.

Steve and Marty have been having such fun together that they also co-star in the original Hulu series "Only Murders in the Building" which Mr. Martin co-created. It follows three neighbors in an exclusive New York City apartment who investigate and create a podcast about, well...murders in their building. Co-starring Selena Gomez, it has aired two full seasons so far and recently been picked up for a third. The series has netted multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

And just yesterday came this announcement...

Apple Original Films Lands Steve Martin Documentary From A24 & Tremolo

A two-part documentary film exploring the life and career of the legendary Steve Martin has landed at Apple Original Films. Martin is working on the doc with Oscar winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor), who directs and produces the as-yet untitled films from A24 and Tremolo Productions. A24 will executive produce alongside Tremolo’s Caitrin Rogers.

The film will join Apple’s documentary slate including the four-part Earvin “Magic” Johnson docuseries They Call Me Magic; Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry; The Velvet Underground; Sidney, the upcoming documentary honoring Oscar-winning actor, filmmaker and actor Sidney Poitier, and the recently announced untitled feature film about the life of actor and advocate Michael J. Fox.

Martin currently stars in Hulu’s "Only Murders In the Building", which has received seventeen Emmy nominations at next month’s awards, including outstanding comedy series and lead actor for Martin. The series has been renewed for a third season.
I presume that documentary will use Born Standing Up as its template, but it also must be looking at his career beyond stand-up comedy or they would have simply kept the book's title. As a superfan, naturally I am excited.

Streaming this Friday...

Steve has finally allowed a comprehensive documentary about his career to be made! Made by Morgan Neville (30 Feet from Stardom, Won't You Be My Neighbor?), it is available on AppleTV+. From their website, "Steve Martin is one of the most beloved and enigmatic figures in entertainment. STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces dives into his extraordinary story from two distinct points of view, with companion documentaries that feature never-before-seen footage and raw insights into Martin’s personal and professional trials and triumphs. “Then” chronicles Martin’s early struggles and meteoric rise to revolutionize stand-up before walking away at 35. “Now” focuses on the present day, with Martin in the golden years of his career, retracing the transformation that led to happiness in his art and personal life."

An article from Vantiy Fair...
Steve Martin Gets the Documentary Treatment in Steve!—And He Doesn’t Hold Back
9An exclusive look inside the ambitious two-part portrait of the comedy legend, which Morgan Neville structures as a documentary like no other.

Morgan Neville considers himself a lifelong fan of Steve Martin. The Oscar-winning documentarian, best known for his compelling portraits of Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and Anthony Bourdain (Roadrunner), had memorized all of Martin’s comedy albums by the time he was 12. At that age, he convinced his father to drive seven hours to see his favorite stand-up in Las Vegas, where it turned out Martin would perform his final solo shows before embarking on a risky new chapter. Neville read all of Martin’s books and closely followed his movie-star career. Flash forward forty years, and the fan was sitting across from the icon, chattering aimlessly. Neville had set up the mics himself. They talked about art and movies and salad. Where was this leading? “I didn’t know what it was,” Neville says. “I would much rather just talk and talk and talk about all kinds of things—and then after that, figure out what I need to actually get to eventually.”

In this case, Neville wound his way toward STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces (premiering March 29 on Apple TV+), which describes itself rather precisely. The Apple Original Films project is cut into distinctive halves, the first, an archival journey through Martin’s challenging beginnings in stand-up, and the second, a contemporary vérité examination of the lauded comedian on a quest for personal fulfillment. “I just kept feeling like, ‘Oh, it’s two films,’ so I literally started making two different films,” Neville says. He is not exaggerating. Neville had different editors working on the two parts, who were not allowed to review each other’s work; the same goes for composers, graphic designers, and other crew—total “church and state,” as he puts it. The goal, executed seamlessly, was to create two movies that could be watched in either order, or one without the other—but that together, complete a singular picture of a singular artist.

Eventually, those casual conversations between Neville and Martin yielded an intensive process. Neville and his team began scouring Martin’s home for personal belongings and artifacts. All told, the director says they scanned 5,000 pages of material—journals, photos, write-ups—that particularly informed the direction of Steve!’s first part. “I had two people in his basement scanning things for two months,” Neville says. Most crucially, he found Martin’s diary from 1975—a pivotal year in which everything changed for him, and that comes to center the archival section of Steve!

The intimacy of Martin’s entries reveals how close he was to giving up a career in comedy altogether. He’d make his celebrated debut on "Saturday Night Live" the next year; before that, he was working clubs and making appearances on smaller shows but struggling to understand his audience and gain momentum. Neville showcases incredible clips of Martin’s earliest work, tracking a 15-year journey to perfecting his act before the abrupt decision to abandon it altogether. “There’s so much archival footage that has never been seen in there,” Neville teases. “It keeps you in that time period. You’re not now looking at older people talking about back then. Hopefully it feels more like you are on this journey with him—and you don’t know how it’s going to end.”

Martin narrates the first Steve! film over the clips of everything from his stand-up to his time on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" to his "Saturday Night Live" hosting specials. His reflections are honest, emotional, and rooted in a strangely if firmly held belief that Martin reveals early on: “I guarantee you I had no talent.” In the three years since Neville started working with Martin on the project, the thing that surprised the director most about the comedian was his humbleness. “He’s the least chest-thumping celebrity I know,” Neville says. “Taking somebody off a pedestal and saying, ‘They’re just a person who’s trying to figure this out’—that stuff resonates to me as a storyteller because I feel like we’re all just trying to figure it out.”

It’s not just Martin’s warmth and approachability that delivers such a candid portrait. Neville knows what he’s doing here too. “For people who’ve been interviewed a lot, either there’s a rote way of answering questions about things they’ve been asked about many times, or it can sometimes feel, for the subject, like an interrogation, which puts them on a defensive footing where they’re thinking about what they’re saying,” Neville says. “I’m just starting to have a conversation with no agenda to start to understand him.”

We see this relationship play out more directly in Steve!’s second half, in which the Martin of now is less narrator than star, actively filmed by Neville in real time. By this point, the pair had a rapport going. “The first day of filming, I remember Steve came out with two pairs of glasses and he’s like, ‘Which ones do you think I should wear?’” Neville says. “I’m like, ‘It’s a documentary, Steve. You can wear whichever ones you want. But wear the brown ones.’” Among the first sequences they shot together was of Martin and his close friend and Only Murders in the Building costar, Martin Short, workshopping material for their dual act. You watch them simply try to make each other laugh and relocate their rhythm post-COVID. “One of the best shoots I’ve ever done in my life was sitting and watching Marty and Steve work on jokes for hours,” Neville says. The director followed Martin around quite freely from there, the only stated boundary being that Martin’s 11-year-old daughter would not be included.

If Steve’s first half concerns the subject’s pursuit of a career and figuring out how to be funny before a crowd, the second is driven by larger questions: As Neville describes them, “How do I be happy? How do I figure out who I am as a person? How do I figure out the emotional side?” Accordingly, for all of Martin’s landmark successes, far more time is spent on the setbacks, the regrets, and the complications of mega fame. The narrative is framed by the moments that changed the course of Martin’s career, or the professional leaps that felt the riskiest; Neville uses cartoons drawn by Martin to graphically chart these peaks and valleys. “We talk about his failures a lot. There’s more on Mixed Nuts than there is on Father of the Bride,” Neville says. “The Wikipedia-ization of storytelling, which is, ‘And then they did this, and then they did this, and then they got this award’—I don’t care about any of that.”

Martin and Neville still talk regularly. While going over potential marketing materials for Steve!, they recently picked one particular line apart: “He revolutionized comedy.” Martin wasn’t so sure about that. “I talked to Steve about it yesterday and he’s like, ‘That’s nice for them to say, but it’s not true—I didn’t do that,’” Neville says with a laugh. At least Neville has got his subject’s approval on the actual movie(s). “When I first showed him the film, Steve sent me an email and said, ‘I love it,’” Neville recalls. “Then ten minutes later, he sent me an email that said, ‘Can I show it to my shrink?’”