Steve Martin is about as big of a comedy legend as it gets. In the ’60s and ’70s as a writer for Smothers Brothers, he became one of the greatest stand-up draws in showbiz, especially on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. He eventually faded away from live performances to concentrate on his successful movie career in The Jerk and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
King Tut has kept it pretty mellow over the past decade or so, mostly concentrating on playing banjo and touring with various critically-acclaimed bluegrass bands, including the Steep Canyon Rangers. He has an anual award that he doles out called the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, which an up-and-coming banjo player receives $50,000 cash for winning.
Last night, however, in New York City, Martin revisited his stand-up comedy career for the first time in 35 years. Martin was a surprise opening act for Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon Theater, giving a 10-minute warm-up set for the audience of a couple thousand. He also played the banjo.
“Thank you. Jerry couldn’t make it tonight … Have a safe ride home! Actually, I’m here tonight because of that old showbiz saying: Never lose a bet to Jerry.”
“I’ll be honest with you, right off the top, because I’m a little upset with the Beacon Theatre. I was backstage and I used the restroom. And there was a sign that read, ‘Employees Must Wash hands. [Pause] “And I could not find [pause] one employee [pause] to wash my hands.”
“By the way, I apologize for the ticket prices. [Pause.] I know it seems expensive, because there is like one guy, two guys, and a couple of mics, but it’s not that way. There are like four sound people, and two lighting people, and [pause] drivers, and wardrobe people, and catering, and someone to walk Jerry’s Fitbit around. [Pause.] A celebrity look-alike, in case Steve doesn’t feel like going on. Steve says hi, by the way.”
It brings a smile to my face that Steve Martin is back on the stage cracking jokes. 2016 has had some lousy moments, but this is one of the good ones.