30 Nov Steve Martin ~ A Comedic Philosopher
Stephen Glenn Martin (born August 14, 1945 in Waco, Texas with an older sister, Melinda) is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and musician. He has won five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2013. Additionally, he was nominated for two Tony Awards for his musical Bright Star in 2016. Among many honors, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2005, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, and an AFI Life Achievement Award in 2015. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Martin at sixth place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. The Guardian named him one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination.
Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1969, and later as a frequent host on Saturday Night Live. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before sold-out theaters on national tours. Since the 1980s, having retired from stand-up comedy, Martin has become a successful actor, starring in such films as The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983), All of Me (1984), ¡Three Amigos! (1986), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), L.A. Story (1991), Bowfinger (1999) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). He played family patriarchs in Parenthood (1989), the Father of the Bride films (1991–1995), and the Cheaper by the Dozen films (2003–2005).
Since 2015, Martin has embarked on several national comedy tours with fellow comedian Martin Short. In 2018, they released their Netflix special An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life for which they received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations. In 2021, he co-created and starred in his first television show, the Hulu comedy series Only Murders in the Building, alongside Short and Selena Gomez, for which he earned three Primetime Emmy Award nominations, two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award nomination, and a 2021 Peabody Award nomination. In 2022, Martin and Short co-hosted Saturday Night Live together with Gomez making an appearance.
Martin is of English, Scottish, Welsh, Scots-Irish, German, and French descent, and was raised in Inglewood, California, with his sister, and then later in Garden Grove, California, in a Baptist family. Martin was a cheerleader at Garden Grove High School. Martin’s first job was at Disneyland, selling guidebooks on weekends and full-time during his school’s summer break and then at the Magic Shop in Fantasyland.
Martin enrolled at California State University Long Beach with a major in philosophy. In his authorized biography, close friend Morris Walker suggests that Martin could “be described most accurately as an agnostic … he rarely went to church and was never involved in organized religion of his own volition”. Inspired by his philosophy classes, Martin considered becoming a professor instead of an actor-comedian. His time at college changed what he believed and what he thought about everything.
Martin states, “I majored in philosophy and started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, ‘Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!’ Then it gets real easy to write this stuff because all you have to do is twist everything hard—you twist the punch line, you twist the non-sequitur so hard away from the things that set it up. Martin recalls reading a treatise on comedy that led him to think: What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation.
Martin periodically spoofed his philosophy studies in his 1970s stand-up act, comparing philosophy with studying geology. If you’re studying geology, which is all facts, as soon as you get out of school you forget it all, but philosophy you remember just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life. In 1967, Martin transferred to UCLA and switched his major to theater, began working local clubs at night, and at twenty-one, he dropped out of college.
In the 1970s, his television appearances led to the release of comedy albums that went platinum. The track “Excuse Me” on his first album, Let’s Get Small (1977), helped establish a national catch phrase. His next album, A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978), was an even bigger success, reaching the No. 2 spot on the U.S. sales chart, selling over a million copies. “Just a wild and crazy guy” became another of Martin’s known catchphrases. Late night SNL’s audiences jumped by a million viewers when he made guest appearances, and he was one of the show’s most successful hosts. Martin has appeared on twenty-seven Saturday Night Live shows and guest-hosted sixteen times, While on the show, Martin grew close to several cast members, including Gilda Radner. On the night she died of ovarian cancer, a visibly shaken Martin hosted SNL and featured footage of himself and Radner together in a 1978 sketch.
Martin’s show soon required full-sized stadiums for the audiences he was drawing. Concerned about his visibility in venues on such a scale, Martin began to wear a distinctive three-piece white suit that became a trademark for his act. Martin stopped doing stand-up comedy in 1981 to concentrate on movies and did not return for thirty-five years. About this decision, he states “My act was conceptual. Once the concept was stated, and everybody understood it, it was done. … It was about coming to the end of the road. I just stopped.”
In 2016, Martin made a low-key comeback to live comedy, opening for Jerry Seinfeld. He performed a ten-minute stand-up routine before turning the stage over to Seinfeld. Also in 2016 he staged a national tour with Martin Short and the Steep Canyon Rangers, which yielded a 2018 Netflix comedy special, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. The special received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations with Martin receiving two nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special and Outstanding Music and Lyrics for “The Buddy Song”.
In 2020, Martin reprised his role as George Banks in the short Father of the Bride, Part 3(ish). Martin stars in and is an executive producer of Only Murders in the Building, a Hulu comedy series alongside Martin Short and Selena Gomez, which he created alongside John Hoffman. In August 2022, Martin revealed that the series will likely be his final role, as he does not intend to seek out roles or cameos for other shows or films once the series ends.
Beginning in 2019, Martin has collaborated with cartoonist Harry Bliss as a writer for the syndicated single-panel comic Bliss. Together, they published the cartoon collection A Wealth of Pigeons. In 2022, they collaborated again for Martin’s illustrated autobiography, Number One is Walking.
In 1993, Martin wrote his first full-length play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The first reading of the play took place in Beverly Hills, California at his home, with Tom Hanks reading the role of Pablo Picasso and Chris Sarandon reading the role of Albert Einstein. Following this, the play opened at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, and played from October 1993 to May 1994, then went on to run successfully in Los Angeles, New York City, and several other US cities. In 2009, the school board in La Grande, Oregon, refused to allow the play to be performed after several parents complained about the content.
Martin hosted the Academy Awards solo in 2001 and 2003, and with Alec Baldwin in 2010. In 2020, Martin opened the 92nd Academy Awards alongside Chris Rock with comedy material. They were not previously announced as that year’s hosts, and joked after their opening monologue, “Well we’ve had a great time not hosting tonight”.
Martin first picked up the banjo when he was around 17 years of age. Martin has stated in several interviews and in his memoir, Born Standing Up, that he used to take 33 rpm bluegrass records and slow them down to 16 rpm and tune his banjo down, so the notes would sound the same. In the American Idol season eight finals, he performed alongside Michael Sarver and Megan Joy in the song “Pretty Flowers”. Martin is featured playing banjo on “I Hate Love” from Kelly Clarkson‘s upcoming tenth studio album Chemistry . It was released as a promotional single on June 2, 2023.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Martin was in a relationship with Bernadette Peters, with whom he co-starred in The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven. He also dated Mary Tyler Moore and Karen Carpenter. On November 20, 1986, Martin married actress Victoria Tennant, with whom he co-starred in All of Me and L.A. Story. They divorced in 1994.
Martin went on a USO Tour to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm from October 14 to 21, 1990. Martin met with military service men and women all over the region signing thousands of autographs and posing for pictures. “Everybody coming out here, giving up part of their lives for this effort. I had some time off, and I felt kind of bad just sitting there,” Martin said, “so I came.”
On July 28, 2007, Martin married writer and former New Yorker staff member Anne Stringfield. Bob Kerrey presided over the ceremony at Martin’s Los Angeles home. Lorne Michaels served as best man. The nuptials came as a surprise to several guests, who had been told they were coming for a party. In December 2012, Martin became a father at age 67 when Stringfield gave birth to their daughter.
Martin has been an avid art collector since 1968, when he bought a print by Ed Ruscha. In 2001, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art presented a five-month exhibit of twenty-eight items from Martin’s collection, including works by Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. In 2006, he sold Hopper’s Hotel Window (1955) at Sotheby’s for $26.8 million. In 2015, working with two other curators, he organized an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and several other locations called, “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” featuring the works of Canadian painter and Group of Seven co-founder Lawren Harris.
Martin served on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art board of trustees from 1984 to 2004. Martin assisted in launching the National Endowment for Indigenous Visual Arts (NEIVA), a fund to support Australian Indigenous artists in 2021. Martin has supported Indigenous Australian painting previously. He organized an exhibition in 2019 with Gagosian Gallery titled “Desert Painters of Australia”, which featured art by George Tjungurrayi and Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
Martin suffers from tinnitus; the condition was first attributed to filming a pistol shooting scene for Three Amigos in 1986, but Martin later clarified that the tinnitus was actually from years of listening to loud music and performing in front of noisy crowds.
Martin stated, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, that Jerry Seinfeld is one of his “retro heroes”, “a guy who came up behind me and is better than I am. I think he’s fantastic, I love to listen to him, he almost puts me at peace. I love to listen to him talk”.
Martin’s offbeat, ironic, and deconstructive style of humor has influenced many comedians during his career. Net worth is estimated at $140 million.