Conversations with Steve Martin

Conversations with Steve Martin

Edited by Robert E. Kapsis
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhmpx
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  • Book Info
    Conversations with Steve Martin
    Book Description:

    Conversations with Steve Martinpresents a collection of interviews and profiles that focus on Martin as a writer, artist, and original thinker over the course of more than four decades in show business. While those less familiar with his full body of work may think of Martin as primarily the "wild and crazy guy" with an arrow through his head, this book makes the case that he is in fact one of our nation's most accomplished and varied artists. It shows the full range of Martin's creative work, tracing the source of his comic imagination from his early standup days, starting in the mid to late 1960s through the films he has written and starred in, and emphasizing his more recent creative outpourings as playwright, essayist, novelist, memoirist, songwriter, composer, musician, and art critic.

    "Standup is the hardest material in the world to write for someone else; it's like trying to condense 10 years of experience into 20 minutes of new material.," Martin says. But commenting on his fiction writing, he says. "I think you have to be able to find as a writer that state where you don't know what you're going to say or what the character is going to say or who the characters are. That's the biggest thrill of all. When you start to trust that subconscious thing and you don't censor yourself--just remember you can always throw it away--that's when the good stuff comes out."

    The selected materials consist not only of pieces focused primarily on Martin's writings, but also broader profiles and conversations that help explain Martin's development as a writer within the larger context of his many other accomplishments, talents, and performance skills.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-063-1
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxv)

    Conversations with Steve Martinis a collection of interviews and profiles that focus on Martin as a writer, artist, and original thinker over the course of more than four decades in show business. While those less familiar with his full body of work may think of Martin as primarily the “funny man” with an arrow through his head, this book makes the case that he is in fact one of our nation’s most accomplished and varied artists. It examines the full range of Martin’s creative work, tracing the source of his comic imagination from his early standup days (starting in...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xxvi-2)
  5. Hey!!! It’s Steve Martin!
    (pp. 3-6)
    Tom Shales

    Hey—we’ll get to those Revealing Interview Quotes in just a minute. But first—how about some Witty Media Journalism!

    Steve Martin bounds onto a stage. “Hi, I’m Steve Martin,” he says. “I’ll be out in just a minute!” A little later: “Okay—Let’s go with the PROFESSIONAL SHOW BUSINESS!” And still later:

    “I just remembered—I am SO MAD at my MOTHER! 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 a normal audience roars, only to be...

  6. Behind the Best Sellers: Steve Martin
    (pp. 7-8)
    Carol Lawson

    “Up to now, author of everything but a book.” That is what the jacket of Steve Martin’s best seller,Cruel Shoes, says, but this breathless claim isn’t quite true. Mr. Martinhasbeen the author of a book—but only a few people know about it. In fact, the book he wrote just happened to be calledCruel Shoes.

    The book came out a few years ago, before Mr. Martin turned into a hot property, as they say in show business. He had written some short sketches and poems, which he decided to publish on his own without any hoopla....

  7. Carl Reiner and Steve Martin Plan Another Film at Universal
    (pp. 9-12)
    Samir Hachem

    Steve Martin and Carl Reiner recently made a national promotion tour covering Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas in less than three hours—without ever leaving NBC’s Studio 4 in Burbank. The actor and director were plugging their new film,The Jerk, which opens here December 14. In a global-village-like press conference, out of town reporters were hooked up by satellite in a closed circuit television broadcast Universal had arranged because, as Reiner mused, “they figured it was cheaper.” (Actually, cost was estimated by a studio spokesman at anywhere between $40,000 and $70,000.)

    Dressed in a gray suit, a...

  8. Steve Martin Sings: The Rolling Stone Interview
    (pp. 13-25)
    Ben Fong-Torres

    “So I wanted everything to cease, and I wanted to throw the dice.” Steve Martin, overdosed on success, threw his dice and what a number he rolled: the lead inPennies from Heaven. In this MGM tragi-musical, which zigzags from doomed darkness to dreamy fantasies, Martin plays Arthur Parker, a song-sheet salesman, who lies and cheats, sings and dances—who does just about everything, in fact, but act funny. For a man who rose to stardom through comedy, he was clearly taking the biggest risk of his career.

    It was a role Martin worked hard to get. He had to...

  9. Steve Martin: A Wild and Serious Guy
    (pp. 26-32)
    Dale Pollock

    Steve Martin has put away the arrows-through-the-head. He’s deflated his balloon animals. His feet are no longer happy. He’s no more the wild and crazy guy.

    Four years ago he made what appeared to be a smart move. He gave up his standing as America’s most successful standup comic for a movie career. His debut film,The Jerk, sold $74 million in tickets.

    Then he took the fall.

    Instead of makingJerk IIor variations of the joke, he did an about-face—a sort of drama,Pennies from Heaven, a stylized musical fantasy that confounded audiences (and most critics) and...

  10. Steve Martin Revises Cyrano
    (pp. 33-37)
    Aljean Harmetz

    The rooms in Steve Martin’s house flow into each other like tributaries joining a giant river. There are no doors, and each white wall is dominated, almost totally covered, by the bold brush strokes of some huge painting—a Hockney, a Kline, a Noland. The choices are bold but at the same time meticulous. They echo the kind of large but by no means reckless gestures that Mr. Martin has written into the character of C. D. Bales in his screenplay for the current film,Roxanne.

    C. D. Bales is, of course, Cyrano de Bergerac, the swordsman with a big...

  11. A Side Order of Steve Martin
    (pp. 38-47)
    Elaine Dutka

    Steve Martin has always been “out there.” During his days as a standup comedian in the 1970s, the prematurely gray fellow in the white custom-tailored suit would face the audience with balloons on his head and go lurching across the stage with an attack of “happy feet.” On the big screen, he portrayed a woman trapped in a man’s body inAll of Me, and Cyrano de Bergerac as a modern day fire chief inRoxanne.

    His new film,L.A. Story, (to be released by Tri-Star Pictures on Friday) has its own over-the-top quirkiness, with scenes of Martin rollerskating through...

  12. Playboy Interview: Steve Martin
    (pp. 48-78)
    David Sheff

    People still approach him on the street and ask for his autograph (they don’t get it—he hands them a preprinted card instead). They plead with him to do the shtick they remember from his many appearances onThe Tonight ShowandSaturday Night Live.

    Steve Martin refuses. Long gone are his days onstage in his trademark white suit with a fake arrow sticking through his head. The new Steve Martin plays an evangelist, an architect, a producer, or a sentimental dad in hit Hollywood movies. The wild and crazy Steve Martin has given way to the mature and sedate...

  13. Steve Martin: The Late Period
    (pp. 79-103)
    Adam Gopnik

    Steve Martin’s humor has always been unpredictable, which may explain why, after transforming himself from the wild and crazy guy into Hollywood’s perfect comedic talent, he has decided that his real future may be as a playwright.

    One evening last April, a group of actors and writers assembled at Steve Martin’s house, in Beverly Hills, for the first reading of a new play. The play, written by Steve, was calledPicasso at the Lapin Agile, and it told the story of an imaginary encounter between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in 1904. The actors, who had agreed to perform for...

  14. Raw, Salted, and Roasted: What’s on the Table When Nora Ephron and Steve Martin Get Together?
    (pp. 104-110)
    Hilary de Vries

    They look as if they have just dashed in from a faculty reception: she in her nice wool suit and pearls, he in a sport coat and tie. They are busy and smart, pressed for time, of course—Steve Martin and Nora Ephron would hardly be otherwise—but they are also hungry and they fill the room with a restless, heat-seeking energy.

    They are here to promote their movie,Mixed Nuts, which opens Wednesday and is based on a relatively unknown French comedy,Le Père Noël est une ordure(Santa Claus Is Garbage). He is the star; she is the...

  15. Hotline to Hollywood
    (pp. 111-118)
    Richard E. Grant

    Richard E. Grant and Steve Martin first met in 1989. Steve told Richard that he was a huge fan of his work, and the pair worked together on 1991’sL.A. Story. They have been great friends ever since. Two Sundays ago Richard telephoned Steve in New York to talk about the American star’s new filmA Simple Twist of Fate(which has its British premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival), but then they got chatting about life, the theater, personal hygiene, and Hugh Grant . . .

    Richard E. Grant: Why are you coming to Edinburgh?

    Steve Martin: When I...

  16. An Interview with Steve Martin: Thinking about Life
    (pp. 119-149)
    Charlie Rose

    CHARLIE ROSE: While studying philosophy in college, Steve Martin got a job writing comedy for the Smothers Brothers and Sonny and Cher. But he longed to perform and soon took his standup act on the road. By 1977 he had become a fixture on such shows asThe Tonight ShowandSaturday Night Live. Martin was ready to make the transition to film.The Jerk, All of Me,Roxanne,andParenthoodare just some of his memorable films.

    But through it all he has been a writer not only for film and television, but short stories and now plays. His play,...

  17. A Conversation with Author and Actor Steve Martin
    (pp. 150-161)
    Charlie Rose

    CHARLIE ROSE: Steve Martin is here. He first made his mark as an Emmy Award—winning writer forThe Smothers Brothers Comedy Hourin the early 1970s. His long career spans the worlds of standup, television, film, theater, and books. He may be best known for such films asThe Jerk, All of Me, Roxanne,andL.A. Story. In the past few years, he has returned to where he began—writing. He has completed several plays, includingPicasso at the Lapin Agile. His new book,Pure Drivel, is a collection of his comic essays, taken mostly from theNew Yorker...

  18. Not Wild but Witty Repartee with Steve Martin and Harry Shearer
    (pp. 162-166)
    Harry Shearer

    Media and movie personality Harry Shearer sat down Sunday with media and movie personality Steve Martin to talk about writing, comedy, and the creative process. Shearer, best known locally for his radio program,Le Show, KCRW-FM (89.9), began the interview with a discussion of Martin’s new bestselling book,Pure Drivel(Hyperion, 1998).

    The hourlong chat was sponsored by Writers Bloc, a nonprofit organization that will host similar events with authors David Halberstam, Elmore Leonard, and Christopher Buckley in the coming months.

    In addition to the conversation with Shearer, the evening consisted of Martin reading selections from his book and a...

  19. Two Brains? More Like Four, and Counting
    (pp. 167-174)
    John Walsh

    “At the time of this writing,” writes Steve Martin at the beginning ofPure Drivel, “I have not worked in a movie for three years. During these years, in which I vowed to do nothing and leave myself alone about it, I accidentally produced several plays, a handful of sketches, two screenplays, and a reorganization of my entire self.” It wasn’t his first attempt to leave a lucrative career in the movies. In 1993, shortly after splitting up with his wife Victoria Tennant, he told theNew Yorkerhe had “gone as far as I could in light comedy,” after...

  20. Steve Martin: Writer
    (pp. 175-184)
    Richard Stayton

    If you’re looking for the arrow through his head, or the wild and crazy guy, read no further. But if you’re open to surprises, here’s a serious and literary guy with something to say. Ever since 1988, when he won a Writers Guild award for hisRoxannescreenplay (based on the playCyrano de Bergeracby Edmond Rostand), Steve Martin has been quietly emerging as one of the best writers in and outside the business. His lineup of achievements is formidable: scripts forL.A. Story,A Simple Twist of Fate(suggested by George Eliot’s novelSilas Marner), andBowfinger’s Big...

  21. Steve Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview
    (pp. 185-196)
    David Wild

    “What a great day,” Steve Martin notes as he sits outside at a cafe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “I wish I were alive.” At fifty-four, Martin has pulled off a remarkable evolution from wild and crazy guy (“I should have said I’m a wild or crazy guy,” he says. “It would have been more logically correct”) to Renaissance man. Since retiring his standup act in 1981, he has become a versatile leading man. He has also branched out into a more than respectable writing career—as a playwright, a screenwriter, and what used to be called a humorist, contributing...

  22. Writing Bowfinger: A Talk with Steve Martin
    (pp. 197-212)
    Annie Nocenti

    Steve Martin is perhaps most aptly described by the all-round title of “humorist.” As a performing artist (actor, standup, musician), screenwriter, essayist, and playwright, his comedic mind has explored a versatile range of the arts.

    Martin was born in Waco, Texas, and raised in Southern California. At the young age of ten he took a job selling guidebooks and performing magic tricks, first at Disneyland and later at Knott’s Berry Farm. After high school, he enrolled at California State–Long Beach, majoring in philosophy. Eventually, he transferred to UCLA, switching his major to theater and enrolling in a television writing...

  23. The Pleasure of His Company: The Writing World of Steve Martin
    (pp. 213-222)
    Jeff Zaleski

    Last night,PWattended a BEA 2003 party in Beverly Hills for novelist Gigi Levangie Grazer, wife of movie producer Brian Grazer. Harrison Ford was there with a diamond stud in his ear and Calista Flockhart on his arm, but Hugh Hefner came by himself, an old man in a tight suit. Cuba Gooding rambled in, as did Lara Flynn Boyle, and Paris Hilton arrived in jeans cut disturbingly low.

    We were expecting a similar crowd for tonight’s Hyperion party for Steve Martin at the swank Hotel Bel-Air. The author ofThe Pleasure of My Company,due out in late...

  24. Famous Just Right: Steve Martin
    (pp. 223-234)
    Meghan Daum

    Everyone who ever had a crush on Steve Martin developed an even bigger crush when he started writing for theNew Yorkeralmost ten years ago. His first piece, a satire of middlebrow art world pretensions in which the narrator claims to own a birdbath sculpted by Raphael, reminded us of what we already kind of knew: that Steve Martin is a serious person who conveys his seriousness by sending it up.

    No matter how much recognition he receives as an art collector and patron—he recently donated $1 million to the American art collection at the Huntington Library in...

  25. Steve Martin on Screenwriting, Storytelling, and Shopgirl
    (pp. 235-241)
    Josh Spector

    With the big screen adaptation of his novellaShopgirlheading toward theaters in October, multitalented writer and comedian Steve Martin offers a glimpse into his writing process and the inspiration for his latest film asCreative Screewritinghas a conversation with a true comedy legend.

    In a career that has spanned nearly forty years, actor/comedian/writer Steve Martin has entertained the public with his unique brand of comedy. With an impressive resumé that has seen him write such classics asRoxanne, L.A. Story, The Jerk,andBowfinger,as well as starring in such blockbusters asFather of the Bride, Planes, Trains...

  26. Born Standing Up (Excerpt)
    (pp. 242-244)
    steve Martin

    Lorne Michaels, the producer ofSNL, inquired about my hosting the show. Yes and yes, I said. I flew to New York a few days early, and Lorne walked me into the busy studio on Saturday afternoon. Gilda Radner’s cheery lilt and Laraine Newman’s alto voice crisscrossed as they rehearsed a sketch. Chevy Chase noodled on a piano in a corner. Danny Aykroyd and John Belushi, one a virtuoso and one a hurricane, energetically entertained each other while the cameras swung around the studio, and the dominant sound was the resonance of Danny’s big laugh. Belushi turned out to the...

  27. Steve Martin: All about My Father
    (pp. 245-251)
    Emma Brockes

    Steve Martin crosses the lobby of New York’s Algonquin Hotel in what I at first take to be a disguise of some sort. It’s not entirely his fault: the toothbrush moustache he wears is a condition of his lead in the secondPink Panthermovie, currently filming in Chicago. But the wide-brimmed hat, our-man-in-Havana-style suit, and sunglasses the size of wing mirrors are all wardrobe decisions that, along with his mildly self-conscious air, announce his arrival as subtly as a town crier.

    I’d seen Martin’s public persona in action at theNew Yorkerliterary festival the day before, where he’d...

  28. Steve Martin Memoir Recalls a Past Life
    (pp. 252-267)
    Terry Gross

    TERRY GROSS, host: This isFresh Air. I’m Terry Gross

    [Soundbite of albumLet’s Get Small]

    Mr. STEVE MARTIN [Comedian, Actor]: To open the show, I always like to do one thing that is impossible. So right now, I’m going to suck this piano into my lungs.

    [Soundbite of laughter]

    GROSS: That’s Steve Martin from his 1977 album,Let’s Get Small. He did standup comedy for eighteen years. His memoir,Born Standing Up, looks back on those years, what was going on in his mind and on stage. It just came out in paperback.

    Steve Martin became famous from his...

  29. Steve Martin Is Serious about The Crow
    (pp. 268-270)
    Randy Lewis

    Steve Martin has a reputation as one of the toughest interviews in the entertainment business. He’s known for clipped yes–no responses to questions about the making of his latest film, his thoughts on the art of comedy, or, especially, his personal life.

    But bring up a subject that’s near and dear to his heart—like, say, the banjo—and he’s a different guy

    “I’m ready to talk music,” Martin said recently between a raft of promotional interviews forThe Pink Panther², which opens next week.

    The music in question is his debut album as a musician,The Crow, subtitled,...

  30. Actor and Author Steve Martin on His Book An Object of Beauty: A Novel
    (pp. 271-285)
    Charlie Rose

    CHARLIE ROSE: Steve Martin is here. The legendary actor and comedian is also an avid writer. He’s written plays, children’s books, magazine pieces, a memoir, and a novella. Now he is publishing his first full-length novel. It is calledAn Object of Beauty. It is the story of an ambitious young art dealer fighting to reach the top of the New York City art world.

    In addition to his writing and film work, Martin also tours the country as a professional banjo player. His debut albumThe Crowwon a Grammy Award in 2008 and is still a bestselling album....

  31. Steve Martin Finds His Muse in An Object of Beauty
    (pp. 286-299)
    Tony Cox

    TONY COX, host: This isTalk of the Nation. I’m Tony Cox in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

    Most people know Steve Martin for his comedy, from his early days doing guest appearances onSaturday Night LiveandThe Tonight Show,to starring roles inThe Jerk, L.A. Story, Roxanne, Parenthood, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,and many more. But Steve Martin’s not just about comedy. He is a modern-day Renaissance man. The actor is also a screenwriter, a playwright, a Grammy-winning bluegrass musician, and a novelist.

    In his new novel, AnObject of Beauty, Martin gives us a window into the big-money...

  32. The Wild and Crazy Tweets of Steve Martin
    (pp. 300-304)
    Renee Montagne

    RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Steve Martin is still finding new ways to make people laugh. Forty years on stage, on record albums, on the big and small screens, sometimes playing his banjo, the comedian is now on Twitter with nearly two and a half million followers. And his funny, slightly demented Twitter feed has gone old school, collected on paper in a book, where many of the biggest laughs come from his followers’ responses.

    When Steve Martin came into our studio he was carrying his banjo, and quick to admit that before he started tweeting in 2010, he was skeptical.

    STEVE...

  33. Index
    (pp. 305-316)