Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Some of Steve Martin's fans came to the Kennedy Center Thursday night wearing toy arrows through their heads. They knew Ramblin' Man Martin would appreciate it - he wears an arrow himself sometimes.
Like the top arrow, Martin's comedy tickles the mind without really piercing it. He's the life of his own wild party, and the laughs flow like champagne. But the substance doesn't match the style.
In fact, the evening is so funny precisely because most of the gags are so blissfully empty and dumb, and because Martin revels in their absurdity and orchestrates them with such razzmatazz. He regards his microphone, his amplifiers, his banjo, his balloons, his camera, even his ushers as toys in a fantastic sandbox.
His looney tunes are most striking when they suddenly interrupt his mock attempts at sophistication. In a short film that preceded the show, Martin posed as a smooth waiter, but his restaurant came tumbling down around him. Throughout his act, Mr. Cool becomes Mr. Crazy, and the audience roars with laughter.
He doesn't attempt the depth or the range of a Tomlin or a Pryor, and he probably would be more successful on TV right now than either one of them. He's snappy and quick and slightly juvenile. He's not our greatest comic, but he's our goofiest.
Poor John Sebastian, who opened the show with a pleasant set of fluffy folk songs, was practically parodied by Martin. They both wore white, they both encouraged sing-alongs, they both wiggled and whistled. But Martin took it too, too far and brought the house down.