It's a bit jarring to see Conan O'Brien without his beard, which is weird, because he only had it for about a year since his break from NBC (and then also during the WGA strike).
On Conan's first full night back to being clean-shaven, he welcomed Steve Martin to his TBS late-night show. Martin delighted with stories about his new bluegrass album, making a movie about competitive bird-watching, and also granting O'Brien's wish to compete in "Dueling Banjos." Of course, there was a catch. A funny, offbeat catch. The whole chat and performance is in this clip. Roll it!
Norm Macdonald got into a weird, public discussion with Steve Martin today on Twitter, and Macdonald even told Martin via Twitter that he mentioned it to David Letterman.
Norm wasn't kidding. So to speak. He kids a lot. You know that. Here's the evidence, from tonight's Late Show with David Letterman.
Background: This is the first Tweet of Steve Martin's that Norm was reading. And this was the second one that confused him and Dave.
Steve Martin appeared on Late Show with David Letterman last night, and while he had an enjoyable story to share about having Sir Paul McCartney sing on one of his new bluegrass songs, Letterman also wanted to know what Martin gets out of using Twitter.
So Martin explained himself. If you're not following him already, he's @SteveMartinToGo. If you are following him, then you know that he's just as likely to spin a tall tale about tourism as he is to offer a quip or reply to a fan.
Roll the clip!
Last night's Late Show with David Letterman included some remarkable TV, and not just because it felt like it could have been 1994 again -- what with Howard Stern bashing Jay Leno over three segments, and a musical medley from Naughty By Nature (that, yes, including both O.P.P. and Hip-Hop Hooray).
Watching Stern and Letterman dance verbally around each other, watching Stern idolize Letterman while also mentioning his sex scandal multiple times, watching them talk about their history of telephone calls, watching Stern talk about therapy, watching Letterman watch Stern. All great stuff. Of course, CBS won't put this online for you kids who didn't watch it then to watch now.
So I dug up something else for you to enjoy. Here are a series of clips from an episode of Letterman's short-lived run in the morning for NBC in 1980, when he had an hour after the Today show and before Wheel of Fortune and Card Sharks. Yes. Before we had Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford to mock in the mid-mornings, well before that, we had Dave.
His earliest incarnation of his talk show career on network TV. The David Letterman Show included stage manager Biff Henderson, the set layout is remarkably similar from how it still is 31 years later on a different network, and even back then, Dave was doing "Small Town News."
This episode also includes two segments with Steve Martin, who rolled out in his pajamas in bed with a six-pack of beer, there to promote his All Commercials special that would air that night, Sept. 30, 1980, on NBC.
In the second segment, they answered viewer mail questions about comedy.
Hope you enjoyed this trip back in time!
(And yes, that was John Tesh in a front-row seat in the audience. He was a local TV reporter in NYC in 1980.)
On last night's edition of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert had comic legend Steve Martin on as his guest, and Colbert made darned sure he wasn't going to have to offer a refund to his viewers afterward. Watching his show is free with a cable/internet subscription. But that aside, Colbert poked fun at the 92Y situation at the top of the program.
And then later, Colbert put Martin's art expertise to the real test, first with a real pop quiz about art. Guess how he fared! No, really. Guess!
And finally, Colbert showcased art in a way that managed to include hoity-toity artists such as Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey and Andres Serrano, but also make it all about Colbert. Which is how it should be. You can watch this whole segment unedited -- read: bonus time -- now:
By the way, did you know that Steve Martin has a new book out that revolves around art? He does, he does!
Also, if you really want to see what an hourlong conversation with Steve Martin about art and his book would look and sound like, the fine folks at CBS did just that on Sunday. On the Internet! Enjoy it after the jump...
In the wake of last week's misunderstanding at the 92Y here in New York City, Steve Martin has offered several "refund jokes" to his followers on Twitter, and in Sunday's edition of the New York Times, Martin wrote an op-ed that not only offered his perspective on what happened, but also suggested that he could have, would have found a way to leave his audience entertained had he not been interrupted.
Now let me try to answer the question you might be asking yourself at this point: was I boring? Yes, I might have been. In hindsight, I probably should have read a few pages from my book to give the audience a feel for it, and I did struggle with a few explanations. But I was not lazy and neither was Deborah. We were both working very hard at our task.
I have no doubt that, in time, and with some cooperation from the audience, we would have achieved ignition. I have been performing a long time, and I can tell when the audience’s attention is straying. I do not need a note. My mind was already churning like a weather front; at that moment, if I could have sung my novel to a Broadway beat I would have.
But I can’t help wondering what we might have said if we hadn’t been stopped. Maybe we were just around the corner from something thrilling. Isn’t that the nature of a live conversation? It halts, it stutters, it doubles back, it soars.
A remarkable thing happened earlier this week on New York City's Upper East Side. An organization, the 92Y, offered a full refund to patrons who attended an event with celebrated comedian Steve Martin. How did this happen? Why did this happen?
Let us face facts.
The 92Y advertised Steve Martin in conversation with Deborah Solomon on Nov. 29, 2010. It sold out, with tickets selling for $50, plus an additional mixer for $12 that Martin himself wasn't even attending. The description mentions that he has a new novel, "An Object of Beauty," but also mentions his other credits in writing and performing for film, TV and stand-up comedy. Other cities also were selling tickets for $10 for fans of Martin to watch a simulcast and submit questions to him. The BSC Mainstage in Pittsfield, Mass., promised an "interactive experience, as audience members will have the chance, during the live event, to submit questions to the speaker via email."
So, obviously, you're expecting an hour completely devoted to art, right? I'm sure there are some Steve Martin fans who would spend $50 just to be near him for an hour, even if he didn't utter a single word.
But that's not how this was billed. Billed as an interactive conversation with Martin, I'm certain that everyone who paid money for this expected to learn more about the man they adore. Mediaite's Panel Nerds noted that even after someone from the 92Y admonished Solomon to ask more interesting questions, "this discussion went on too long for many audience members who wished to hear more about the Martin they knew already. In this way, Solomon was too rigid, twice “catching” Martin talking about himself, instead of about the book, and quickly turning her – and in turn his – attention back to the novel."
Defensively, Steve Martin wrote on Twitter last night: "So the 92nd St. Y has determined that the course of its interviews should be dictated in real time by its audience's emails. Artists beware."
He misses the point. For one thing, his conversation was sold to fans in other cities as an interview that would include their emails! Maybe they didn't tell him that, and if so, that's on them. But it's not his fault that the interview bored people. It's the fault of the person interviewing him. Deborah Solomon, who famously or infamously sometimes enjoys distorting interviews to make her subjects in the New York Times Magazine look bad (see what she did to Seth MacFarlane in 2009, for example), includes a note each week that her interviews are condensed and edited. When performing live, it's deliciously ironic that the people who employed her asked her to condense and edit! Solomon told her colleagues at the NYT that she thought it seemed most timely and interesting to talk to Martin about art and his new novel about art. Well, that's nice. But when you're interviewing someone in front of a live audience who has paid money to watch the interview, perhaps for more than one second, you should consider the live audience and what they might find interesting.
That's not to say you cannot still ask him about the novel and about his artistic interests. You just need to ask him questions that will provoke answers that everyone will enjoy.
It's not that difficult, if you're a professional journalist!
Just ask Lawrence Grobel. Who is he? He's a guy who profiled Steve Martin in the October issue of American Airlines' American Way magazine. And Martin Tweeted a link to this article yesterday, too. And this is how Grobel, who describes himself as a longtime friend of Martin's, helps introduce his piece:
My flying off to Nashville to hang with Steve would be no different than my calling Steve on the phone to have a conversation with him. Either way, we’d be doing the exact same thing: sitting very still, talking seriously. I would try to be his straight man, throwing up potentially funny scenarios in hopes that he would hit them out of the ballpark. And Steve would analyze them philosophically, because that’s what he does.
Steve Martin is not always on. Fine. Great, even. The profile is still enlightening and amusing. Do you know why? Because Grobel had the good sense to play to his audience.
I think back to when I was a reporter at the Boston Herald, and had the chance to sit down face-to-face with Will Ferrell as he did press for Talladega Nights. Ferrell couldn't have been nicer or more enjoyable as we talked about the movie and his past experiences in comedy (Boston Herald archives). But the Boston Globe, who met with Ferrell in the same hour, decided to call him out for not being funny on command. Why? Because he couldn't respond to unasked questions.
This reminds me of that, because the main reason the 92Y felt a need to refund audience members, and why the audience was unhappy in the first place, was because they felt they'd been misled.
They had a comedy idol in front of them, and they were disappointed. I don't blame Steve Martin for this. I don't blame the 92Y for this. I blame Deborah Solomon for this. She had the ability to ask this comedy legend questions about his life and his pursuits, including the new novel about the art world, in a way that made people feel as though they were getting their money's worth. And she didn't do that. Instead, she chose to ask questions that interested her. For once, she learned that her magazine tagline -- "INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED" -- should apply equally to her.
In its 28th year, the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal has featured just about every big name in comedy. But Steve Martin, having "quit" stand-up comedy before JFL's debut, was not among them until last night, when he made his debut hosting two Gala-type showcases at the fest. (Photo by Montreal Gazette)
Word on the street has put forward the idea that Martin, now 64, may in fact be making a return to comedy. Though I couldn't talk to him personally to confirm or deny that word, I do know that on his current banjo and bluegrass tour with The Steep Canyon Rangers (who also accompanied him in Montreal), Martin has been making audiences laugh with his banter between songs. And Martin has plenty of experience as a host, doing so three times at the Academy Awards. He pulled it off quite nicely last night, as well. He told the audience that hosting brought forth a lot of responsibility to be funny. "But then I remembered that my friends John Cleese and Marty Short hosted last year, and I thought, well, I'm funnier than those idiots," he joked. Martin then acknowledged that he had finally come to Just For Laughs, which he called "comedy mecca. And we all know how funny Mecca is."
They played a highlight reel of Martin's greatest JFL moments, which, of course, amounted to footage from the first few minutes of the show, paused to allow latecomers to find their seats -- at which point Martin cracked, "You would think in a place discovered by Cartier, they'd know how to get to places on time" -- and Martin performed a custom tune with the band singing along called "Atheists Don't Have No Songs." Most Galas have goofy sketches for the host to perform, but Martin was not required to be wild or crazy on this evening. He did, however, play an audio recording of one of his phone calls to his wife, so as to make sure he wouldn't get the Mel Gibson treatment. And he closed out the night with a performance of "King Tut" (sans Egyptian outfit).
Oh, and there were plenty of stand-ups, too. The bookings were all over the map, and most certainly not hand-picked by Martin, with one notable exception. At the 10 p.m. show, Martin introduced Dane Cook as a "surprise guest." Cook told me he flew in just for this opportunity to perform for his comedy idol, arriving just in time for the late show, and departing this afternoon. At the showcase, Cook told the audience: "People say to me, Dane, why don't you come up and do the festival more often? Because the sets are fucking ugly!" (Photo by Tim Snow)
When is a gala more than a Gala? How about when it's Steve Martin making his Just For Laughs Montreal debut? That's happening this July, as the festival has tapped Martin to host what it's dubbing as its first Best Night Ever Show.
Martin will host two shows on Saturday, July 17, at the St. Denis Theatre, with a selection of top comedians plus an appearance by bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers (who currently are on tour with Martin). Tickets go on sale Saturday at hahaha.com.
If you think that's something, check out what Montreal will have to provide for Martin. Here's Steve Martin's tour rider!
I'd write about how seriously Steve Martin has taken this banjo business, but I've already written that. So let me write this: Not long after establishing his own presence on the Internets, he's already figured out what rules the Internets -- videos of kittens and puppies! Martin just so happened to have written a song on his banjo about his own dog, and now he's turning to you -- yes, you -- to upload your very own music video for his song, and if he likes it the bestest, you'll win $1,000. The rest of us will win thousands of new doggie videos. Read the rules on Steve Martin's Wally on the Run DailyMotion page. Hear him explain the contest right here, right now:
Steve Martin played Carnegie Hall earlier this week. But didn't he swear off big stand-up comedy shows decades ago? Why, yes. Yes, he did. Martin headlined Carnegie Hall not as a comedian, but as a banjo player, performing with his band, and alongside bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. Martin talked about his love for the banjo also this week on Late Show with David Letterman, and here's a clip of that, in case you missed it earlier because you were too busy trying not to think about Letterman having sex (oops, sorry about that). Roll the clip!
Related: Doing other press for his concert tour, Steve Martin did answer some comedy-related questions posed by Chris Garcia for Rooftop Comedy. Such as...
Does performing in front of a live audience ever make you want to try stand-up again?
"I don’t really have a reason to. It’s strange, I just don’t have a reason to do stand-up. I do enjoy the comedy little bits we have in the show, I enjoy that and -- but I -- that’s -- it’s such a tough job. It would always be a blend of banjo at this point, I think."
If you blinked in early 1984, then you may have missed The New Show, which was a primetime comedy oddity that Lorne Michaels produced during his brief stint away from the reins at SNL. And how did this show open its first telecast? With a dance parody of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," performed by Steve Martin (and also Dave Thomas). It's, um, yeah. Filled with laugh track. Kinda cute. But everyone in January 1984 was wanting to be just like Mike (before Michael Jordan made everyone want to be just like Mike again, but that's for another post). As Martin explained over the weekend on The New Yorker's blog: "I’m not sure whose idea it was; it might have been Lorne’s. Pat Birch choreographed it. The hard move was that little leg twist that he did. You really have to throw your leg. I did it a thousand times in about three days. And a couple of weeks later I noticed—er, I have a pain here. The pain lasted about two years, then it went away on its own."
So here's that video opening to the series. Stay through the end for the cast intros, which looked as though Michaels rounded up spare parts from SCTV, SNL and added a couple of newcomers (Jeff Goldblum!). Does anyone actually remember this show?
This should have been so much better, shouldn't it? I'm sure more than a few people out there had high hopes for Steve Martin's 15th turn as host of Saturday Night Live, and yet, this morning, the only things I feel like talking about in this episode don't really have anything to do with him. Did SNL really agree to produce three real Pepsi ads? Looks that way. Did SNL really go after New York Gov. David Paterson's blindness? Yes, and also more on that front. Did Kristen Wiig have another "wacky" character? Sort of, yes. Where oh where is Darrell Hammond? You'll find out in a bit. Let's cleanse our comedy palates before digging into this week's recap. So what better way than with this classic Steve Martin SNL clip that just now became available on Hulu: King Tut!
Now. Onto the recap...
Any great documentary leaves you feeling a greater knowledge and fulfillment about the subject matter, and wanting to further share your newfound knowledge with even more people. Any good documentary gives you insight into a subject and leaves you wanting more. Judging from the first two hours of the six-hour PBS treatment from WNET, Make 'Em Laugh, which debuts tonight (and I just finished watching via screener), you'll get a good, almost-great examination of the past century of comedy performances.
Billy Crystal opens the series with a NSFW Civil War joke, letting audiences know that this is not going to be that kind of PBS documentary project. Crystal nominally hosts each hour with a comedy segment introducing that hour's topic, while Amy Sedaris provides voiceover narration. Another common thematic device for the narrative -- arrange comedians by an archetype, open with the most contemporary and popular example, then flashback a century and work your way chronologically back to the future, so to speak. "Hopefully, it's not hamfisted," Michael Kantor said at a preview panel at the 92Y last month. Kantor, the series producer, director and writer, said there's some rare footage of Woody Allen, and some early Paul Lynde that we'll get to see. "By and large, we tried to air footage that you couldn't find at the rental store," Kantor said. Rental store? Who goes to those anymore? Anyhow. This doc is must viewing for comedy fans to know that their generation wasn't the first or the funniest to get a joke. "I think Americans need to be reminded of our own history sometimes," Kantor said. That's as true about comedy, it turns out, as it is about politics.
The first hour, "Nerds, Jerks and Oddballs," examines the role of outsiders in comedy. So we start with the man who everyone in Hollywood was bowing to in the past year, Judd Apatow, who tells us: "I'm just trying to reflect the attitudes of me and my friends." To those who criticize Apatow for bringing immaturity to the forefront, he reminds us: "Really, there's no comedy that isn't about immaturity."
For the 51st annual Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy went with a live, primetime announcement/mini-concert. But you want to know who got nominated, don't you? While putting American Idol's star judge Simon Cowell up for Record of the Year (he produced "Bleeding Love" for Leona Lewis along with Clive Davis and Ryan "Alias" Tedder) certainly contains some comedic value because you wonder if he'll show up in a tight black V-neck or a tight black tuxedo, we do have some other actual comedy honors to share with you as well. Although there are some truly outrageous and ridiculous nominations among the dozens of categories, too (but that's for me to analyze in another forum).
Best Comedy Album nominees from 2007-2008
Lewis Black, "Anticipation"
Flight of the Conchords, "Flight of the Conchords"
Kathy Griffin, "For Your Consideration"
George Carlin, "It's Bad For Ya"
Harry Shearer, "Songs of the Bushmen"
Didn't Flight of the Conchords win last year for their EP, which is just a shorter version of this album? If you want to get all technical about it, then, yes. So cross them off the list. And do not be surprised for a posthumous honor to go to Carlin.
In Best Spoken Word Album, Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" goes up against Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Are You)" and David Sedaris ("When You Are Engulfed in Flames")! Also in this category: Sidney Poitier ("Life Beyond Measure") and the trio of Beau Bridges, Cynthia Nixon and Blair Underwood (reading Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"). As much as Colbert has been the man of the moment for the past two years, Martin really should get this, wouldn't you agree?
Freestyle Love Supreme can celebrate some more, as Lin-Man and King Sherman's "In The Heights" soundtrack is up for Best Muscial Show Album (against Gypsy, The Little Mermaid, South Pacific and Young Frankenstein).
John C. Reilly singing "Walk Hard" got nominated for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (also earning Judd Apatow a nomination as co-writer). They're up against John Mayer, Peter Gabriel, Carrie Underwood, and Amy Adams.
Speaking of comedy on Sunday mornings, what if I told you the serene CBS Sunday Morning turned out to be the best mainstream TV news source for profiling comedy these days? I know. And yet. Yesterday, the program did an in-depth feature on Rita Rudner. In March, a profile of The Onion. February saw a profile of director Jason Reitman and his father, Ivan. Steve Martin got a look-see in late November. There are regular dispatches from Mo Rocca and Ben Stein, plus CBS's own in-house guy Bill Geist. Here is the video from The Onion profile:
Saturday Night Live answered the Obama question right away in the cold open, which tried to take on this week's CNN/Univision Democratic debate. Fred Armisen played Barack Obama. So??? Armisen has similar facial features, which helped his cause. Already has that faraway look in the eyes down. Skin tone? Too light. Voice? Eh. Which makes for an early verdict of, to use the TV political parlance, too close to call. Of course, Armisen isn't half-African, but that didn't stop him from impersonating Prince for years on the show. He won the gig over three outside comedic candidates, all of them African-American. That alone should prompt some renewed debate about SNL's casting diversity. Again. Hence the renewed. For Lorne Michaels, though, it could've just as easily been the easy and economic decision to pick an Obama from within the cast, at least for now. He's shown with President George W. Bush that he's OK with recasting the role when it suits the show, so why rush into hiring a new SNL'er, right? The larger problem, anyhow, is that SNL's political jokes continue to fall short of the funny finish line. They still go for the obvious joke. In this case, the media loves Obama. By the time Armisen attempted a "yes we can" joke, the bit had stretched too long. I clocked it. The entire cold open lasted almost nine minutes. 9! Why so long? Especially for a first show back from the strike? And there's a cameo by a lip-synching Obama Girl?
Kristen Wiig, as CNN's Campbell Brown, gets to say "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" and then the intros, now with "featured player" Casey Wilson. First new cast member in three years.
Tina Fey's monologue, going so-so until Steve Martin jumps onstage to help show Fey how to move from a writer to a performer. Actually, Fey did get in a good joke about what the WGA won from the strike. But Martin's bit with Fey showed how and why Fey has won the latest acting awards. By the way, the monologue, another four minutes. That, plus the cold open and the credits, and already the thought creeps in, are they trying to stretch everything in the first week back?
A fake ad follows, traditionally, and this is for Annuale, a pill that allows women to have only one period a year. The joke's in the small print. And the annual rage. LOL?
A Rock of Love spoof, with Jason Sudeikis getting the Bret Michaels part, choosing from Wiig, Fey, Wilson and Amy Poehler. Wilson gets to, or has to, French kiss Sudeikis. Welcome to SNL! It's all fairly funny, but isn't this VH1 show in its second season?
The first SNL Digital Short post-strike, about making movies acceptable for old people, not winning an Emmy.
Kenan Thompson? He shows up in a game-show, "What's That Bitch Talking About?" with contestants Bill Hader and Tina Fey.
Former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee makes a planned appearance during Weekend Update, and it's to explain why he's still in the race, and it's all well and good. "I'm not a math guy. I'm more of a miracle guy." Then an obvious won't overstay his welcome joke. Fey also reappears on the Update desk for "Womens News," which makes one wonder (and by one, I mean some viewers not named me) whether her appeal for Hillary Clinton was real or just part of the act.
Hey, it's Celebrity Apprentice, and did you know Darrell Hammond is still on SNL? Now you do. Hammond gets to do Trump, while they trot out several celebrity impressions of folks who aren't on the show but would be funny if they were, along with Armisen as Gene Simmons on the newly released sex tape. Poehler as the former Six Flags dancing spokesman was a particular hoot.
Sudeikis got to take over a wedding reception sketch as that guy who gives that speech.
Wiig stars in a video for Virgania Horsen's Hot Air Balloon Rides that audiences at Comix saw previously during an SNL Strike Benefit show.
A Food Network spoof has Hader channelling Daniel Day-Lewis looking for the perfect milkshake. Get it? "I drink your milkshake!" Somehow it also gets in a No Country reference. Chalk this up to catching up for lost time, plus the Oscars are on Sunday?
A "Lady Business" scene that's supposed to be from the makers of Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia? OK.
Somehow, I get the sense that they know they're writing four weeks of new shows and don't want to put it all out on the first week. Or they just needed to shake off some rust. I hope that's what happened here.
NOTE: No Maya Rudolph. She's no longer under contract. More videos from last night's SNL after the jump.