Hey - we'll get to those Revealing Interview Quotes in just a minute. But first - how about some of that big-time, media, Journalism Writing!
"I am SO MAD at MY MOTHER," Steve Martin will tell a willing audience. "She's 102 years old, and she called me the other day, and wanted to borrow TEN DOLLARS for some FOOOOD! I said, 'Hey! I WORK for a living.'"
At this the audience roars, only to be told the next minute, "Okay - let's go with the PROFESSIONAL SHOW BUSINESS! Hey! We're havin' some fun, though, arent's we kids?"
Well they are having SOME FUN - but who is this nut? Oh, just the world's greatest comedian, that's all. Just a man who fills multi-thousand seat halls that it usually takes rock stars to fill. Just Steve Martin - 'a ramblin' kind of a guy . . . a crazy kind of a guy . . . a yew-neek kind of a guy" who laughs at how much his audience paid to get in and repeatedly tells them what fun they're having.
Steve Martin, whose fluffy gray hair by rights does not belong on a 32-year-old head, was not having fun when he came into Washington yesterday for tonight's two sold-out concerts at the Kennedy Center. The cab got a flat tire on the way from the airport and it took three hours to get into town. Then the Sheraton Carlton Hotel said it never heard of him and his precious reservation, so he had to move to another hotel. He wasn't in the mood to tell any of those FUNNY COMEDY JOKES; but then, he rarely is in the mood when he's not on stage.
Martin may seem like just another of those 15-year-of-hard-work overnight sensations, but he's bigger than a stand-up comic's been in maybe a decade. He is beginning a 50-city, 60-day concert tour selling out right and left, and his new album, "Let's Get Small," has only been out half a week but will appear on Bill-board's what's-hot chart next week.
"There's no age group he doesn't appeal to," marvels a flact at Warner Brow. Records.
What does he appeal with 3/8 With everything. He throws the book at his audience - a history of American stick that includes the old arrow through the head gag, the funny nose, the baloons twisted into animal shapes ("this one's a venereal disease"), the joke for joke's sake. He plays the total ego, the clod, the self-assured master of virtuouso ineptitude and the fool who takes the audience riding for a fall with him.
And he's not very political and he's not even very dirty. Does he think he is a sign of the times?
"Yes," he says, "Apatry."
He does not feel a part of any generation. "But I feel like were part of a new society, a changing society. We're kicking the '60s goodbye, and I'm enjoying that exteremely. There's a new formalism now, I think. In the late '60s, it was a very informal period. You could say dirty words and insult people and it was okay to get up and dance at a movie. All that's just fashion, not good or bad or anything, just the way things were for awhile. Right now things are going back to formalism. I like the change."
It's Martin's yew-neek kind of a style to constantly call attention to form when on stage. He'll say, "We're having SOME FUN though, aren't we, kids?" or, "Let's go with PRO-FESSIONAL SHOW BUSINESS!!!" or "Okay - that's enough FUNNY COMEDY GAGS!"
Once, when guest-hosting the "Tonight" show and being faced with grumbled reaction to a joke, he shot back, "Hey folks - COMEDY is NOT PRETTY." In fact, he gets louder welcoming ovation from the Carson audience than any other guest host.
And he'll open the season for the youth-seducing "NBC's Saturday Night," where his guest-host appearances helped put him over the top into the total consciousness of all humanity. He's made it by defying the current; he doesn't rip any jokes out of the headlines.
"I'm just tried of topical humor," he says. "I am consciously atopical. No. 1, topical is old hat, and No. 2, my act's different. It's personal. It's about what happens in the moments you wake up, or the moments before you go to sleep, little personal private observations of the world in general. That person I play on stage is oblivious to newspapers. He's full of opinions about nothing.
"I think people are distrustful of government, distrustful of organizations, distrustful of everything. They just want to get back to their personal lives, and let those other guys do what they want.
Steve Martin is a cranked-down prophet for a new age of Self.
But our story doesn't start here - OBVIOUSLY. It starts in the shadow of Disneyland, where Steve grew up, eventually going to work at the Magic Kingdom and once or twice even meeting Unca Walt, though he was too paralyzed with awe to say anything to him. "The balloons? They came later, but the seed was planted there, at the joke shop where I worked. We sold arrows-through-the-head, funny noses, all those things that at first were funny, and then when you were in college they were metaphysically funny, and then they got just funny again.
"But I don't use them much any more."
He was a philosophy major in college, later got a job working for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS where he found the censors to be "just idiots, just people off the street that they turned into censors." Years of performing in small clubs, then as the booed-upon opening act for rowdy rock groups, prepared him for the giant step he took in the past year.
He elbowed his way into our hearts with a loud "Well Ex-cuuuuuuse Me," that has, like some of his other trade-marks, waddled its way into the language of the times.
At his solar-powered home in chic Aspen, he lives a vegetarian life without drugs or booze, he says, which completes his refreshingly reactionary image.
"I quit drinking two years ago and I quit smoking dope 10 years ago and my life changed 100 per cent. I don't mind drugs, but I do mind blithering idiots. When some guy at a concert walks down to the front and stands there just swaying. I can tell he's stoned out of his mind. I don't mind drugs, really: I'd like to get drunk every night. But I just don't want to pay the price."
John Denver comes over to his house now and then and he goes over to John Denver's house now and then. Sometimes they play horsehoes. Such a healthy life for a comedian. Comedians are supposed to be neurotic wrecks born on the lower East Side of New York.
But Martin is part of a - we hate to say it, but it's true - New Breed of comedian that includes people like Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Chevy Chase. And he's also a living parody of comedians when he's up on stage. Martin doesn't exactly tells jokes; he does comedy about joke-telling.
"I don't like to offend people," he says on the album, recorded at a San Francisco club. "I don't do any fag jokes or anything like that." Pause. "How many fags do we have here tonight, by the way?"
He picks up and plunks at a banjo and dares the crowd to sing along: "Now I ask you very confidentially, way down upon the Swan -- "
He tells the crowd he had to break up with his best girl. "One night she said. 'Please drive me home.' I didn't want to, so I shot her."
He admits, "I love bread. I'm into money. I love everything about money" and lists some of the luxuries he's bought himself - "a $300 pair of socks. A fur sink. An electric dog polisher.
"Of course," he says, "I bought some dumb stuff too, you know."
Finally, he gives the crowd his benediction: "Laugh once a day - because a day without sunshine is like . . . night."
The world's greatest comedian's hotel room is invaded by his manager. They're playing cuts from Martin's comedy joke album on WFIL radio in Philadelphia, he tells Martin - and they NEVER do that! It's unheard of. This Steve Martin does not look impressed.
"I hope it's not a flash-in-the-pan career," Martin says later. You know, one year and it's all over. Right now we're having a nice rush of concerts and this record thing, but you know, it all comes to an end, no matter who you are."