Why We Love
Amid the dreary cattle call of late-night TV interview shows, few famous names stand out. No matter how famous, how attractive or how articulate they might be, they mostly all say the same thing, trying their best to manufacture some new blend of hipster freshness or "rehearsed spontaneity," in a ringing phrase I recently came across. But beneath it all, they're all selling their latest movie or TV show or whatever.
And yet, more than 30 years after he first blasted onto the national scene with his hilarious stand-up routines (a kind of neo-Buster Keaton with a '70s twist) and stomach-splitting Saturday Night Live character sketch brilliance, Steve Martin finds a way to remain as fresh as ever, at least for me. He's done that in part by engineering his own improbable mid-career make-over: he's now at least equal parts writer and comedian. He's written several well-received books, and has followed Woody Allen's earlier lead by writing several comic sketches for the New Yorker. However much fame he may have accumulated from movies and live appearances over the years--which is not inconsiderable--if you take his recent appearances at face value, he now sees himself primarily as a writer. And yet in his signature brilliant fashion, he finds a way to make it all work together, these twin veins of writing and comedy.
His appearance last week on David Letterman is the latest case in point. He talked mostly about writing, and then, in a roast of the ritual film clips other actors bring along to these shows, it cut to a clip of him...writing. The clip consisted of him sitting silently in front of a Mac laptop, staring into the screen without moving or saying a word. That was funny enough. But the punchline (when the clip was finished, and the camera returned to him and Letterman) was much funnier: "I wish they had cleared that with me, because that was actually a clip of me editing."