Sunday, May 15, 2011
From my Facebook scroll, Steve Martin's speech on the acceptance of the Mark Twain Prize.
The young Steve Martin crackled with kinetic comedy action. His wild-and-crazy-guys and "Exc-u-use me" routines vaulted him to the very top of the comedy world in the 1970's. He knew how to tap into passe vaudeville cliches like juggling and an arrow through the head and make them funny again.
The mature Steve Martin is an acquired taste. He has a softer touch than younger comics, favoring light narratives over jackhammer punchlines.
For his new monologues he dons a haughty mien that invites the audience to laugh at him. That style works because he has a comedy persona that has taken decades to build, so we're laughing at the combination of man and material. If you don't know him, agreed, it's not that funny.
Finally, it helps to know that Steve Martin greatly admired Jack Benny (http://books.google.com/books?id=ieVj9Z-w12UC&lpg=PA154&ots=G1YWtyZHib&dq=steve%20martin%20on%20jack%20benny&pg=PA154#v=onepage&q=steve%20martin%20on%20jack%20benny&f=false), the great radio and early-television comedian who had them ROTFLOL without saying a word.
It's interesting that different people have such different tastes. Martin, in his gentle way, did remind me very much of Jack Benny and I don't find him at all haughty but obviously the older Martin does not appeal to all.
It's ironic that the self important poohbahs of the DC social scene named a comedy award after Twain of all people.