using old gumshoe lilicks now copied by a series of lager ads) and The .llan ll'llli 'I‘ii'o Brains (as mad surgeon Dr lll‘uhruhurr. pronounced Ilin'u/iurr). "l‘hose moytes really weren't good enough' is his current assessment ol that period. but the moyies gained a steadily growing cult of fans oyer here that has now swelled to the point ol' mass popularity. ()l~ his comic heroes Martin admits to admiring that great acquired taste
.lcrry l.ewis: 5
‘You haye togct oycr the sloppy sentimentality.
‘ ii \ H
wasn‘t an actor he was always .lerry [.cwis. just like (‘haplin was always ('haplin or Laurel and Hardy always Laurel and l lardy.‘ Such a statement only puts the locus on his own \ crsatility. tor added to the stand-up years and plethora ol yaried cotnedy roles he's done. there’s also the darker work in the ['S moyie ycrsion ol Dennis l’ottcr's l’emtlex I'rom llt’tlt't'll or .lohn Hughes spiky picture ol trayellers' exasperation Planes. Trains aml .‘lllluntnltllt’s to consider - not to mention a lamous 1088 stage appearance with Robin \Villiams in Beckett's ll'altmg 1-m- (iodol. It all leads us to question iust who is the Star we call Steve Martin'.’ Perhaps the key is in the notion ot the cerebral cotnedian. ()l' the lengthy deyelopntcnt ol~ his script for Rotamte. he rcl‘lects ‘I do enjoy writing alone because it's so personal. it becomes naturally eccentric. With no one guiding you it becomes a dialogue with yourscll.‘
.’\s a philosophy grad and collector ol
modern art he's always been
my olyed in ideas. and it's the same with his comedy. So much of it is rooted in abstraction. like his l'amous liyc routine The ( 'rta'lS/ioex. the way .-tll ()l'.\le manages to conyince its that there are two souls in the same body . or a layourite gag ‘Some people hay e a way with words. other people. ..uh. .. not/tare way. . .l guess‘.
Martin's l‘ormercollaborator(‘arl Reiner howeyer. was correct when he said about Stcye that. 'he‘s the .L'UN \\ ho saw Fred Astaire and said I can do llltlll‘. Both thinker and wild
and era/y guy . Martins ultimate gilt is that he can turn his conceptual
comedy into physical pcrlormancc and not lose us along the w ay. We understand what his ama/ing male and temale walk in :lllol .lle actually means. and the scene in Roxanne w here he has to think up tw enty insults about his ow n huge conk is similarly stunnineg executed. Remember too the test lor drunkcness in Ha Han ll’ali 'I'im lira/ax: iuggling oranges and tap dancing w hile singing llte ( alalma .llagilalena ll'al/lie/merSong. liasy. 'l'his tacility tor making lresh the improbany ereatiy c conceit is the basisol \lartin’s brilliance. By doing st) he allow s us to share tor a moment in his own incrediny lecund imagination. [is like the well-known ()scar \Vildc story : someone says to him -1 wish I'd ma that‘ and \Vilde rcl‘lics ‘ You will do‘. lhc ritual of
ALMOST I I l
repetion marks our experience ol' all genuinely im-entiye comedy (we all have our Python routines oil by heart ) because it allows us to be as witty as the l'unnyman. to listen to any of Martin's concert recordings is to participate in the ritual recitation ol‘well-loyed material. because the audience knows the stull so well. the memorable scenes liberally strewn throughout his lilmography seem to la” into the satne category almost as soon as we experience them. so lucidly are his era/y notions communicated.
We should not howcyct‘ mistake this tor the real or priyatc Steve Martin. He is still the Star. and Stars alter all are those we lcel we understand. whilst acknowledging the gull between us and them that‘s a delinition ol~ their status. In person. that sense of access you get with Martin's big screen creations is dccisiyely blocked. l lc can be yery dil'lident under inane questioning (‘l ney er remember one anecdotc’ ). and is Very cagcy about discussing topics that are yery dear to him like his art collection ('.\ly enioyment is so personal I don't want to publicise it'). ..\s he beams at you. remote. beatil‘ic and content. you notice how internalised he seems. like some lakir retaining extraordinary control through the power ol' meditation. ‘I can switch till. I'm switched till now" he smiles.
DirtyRoi/('11Scoundrels opens ueroyx (‘t'llll‘tll Seollaml on June .i’ll. See Ilie l’rlm \et'lloltlor eompleleprogramme (lt’!tlll\ and a lull I‘t’t‘lt’ti‘.
The List 3(lJune — l3 .luly 19897