Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Be oblong and have your knees removed..."

To anyone driving along the A1 either in the mid-afternoon yesterday or the early hours this morning, vaguely alarmed by the sight of a fellow motorist at the wheel of a rather scruffy Ford Ka, chuckling inanely to himself as he negotiated the manic drudgery of London traffic: please accept my apologies, but I would like taken into consideration the old Steve Martin albums on my iPod I was joyously revisiting: Let's Get Small and Comedy Isn't Pretty!...

Okay, okay, so the trailers for the forthcoming Pink Panther remake suggest he has learnt no lessons at all from that Bilko embarrassment, and is either thicker than thought or just cravenly corporate.
And surely the world was crying out for a Cheaper By The Dozen sequel about as fervently as for, I dunno, Japan trying to stage some kind of Pearl Harbour reprise. Or indeed, a Big Momma's House follow-up film.

But for all his mailed-in performances in dross such as The Out-Of-Towners, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Father Of The Bride II (I didn't mind the first one, so EXCUUUUUUSE MEEEE!), he can surely be forgiven thanks to such critically-acclaimed lunacy as The Jerk, the luvverly Roxanne and the ingenious-yet-tortuous-to-watch All Of Me, as well as the less-lauded but gleeful Three Amigos! (guiltily gigglesome as a kid, better and better with age), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Ruprecht alone is worth any cinema price hike) and Little Shop Of Horrors, in which his evil, Elvis-alike, sadistic dentist cameo steals the show ("I thrill when I drill a bicuspid - it's swell though they tell me I'm mal-a-a-djusted...")

But his pre-film star fame tapes are a wonder to behold - or, at least, er, be-hear. He was selling out stadia and crashing the pop album charts in the late Seventies, with routines equally absurd, self-satirising and crashing stand-up comedy cliches...

A few of my favourite moments, albeit obviously sure to fail when simply transcribed rather than heard...
* "To open a show, I always like to do one thing that is impossible. So right now, I'm going to suck this piano into my lungs..."
* "I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. I got a fur sink. Oh, let's see.... Electric dog polisher, that was a good one. Gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater. And of course I've bought some dumb stuff too..."
* "I feel good tonight, I really do. I finally got something I really wanted, and that's important - it really is. I finally got some, er, hostages..."
* "I wanted to expand my life in the way Leonardo did... And that's why I took up juggling. I know what you're saying, you're saying: 'Steve, where do you find time to juggle?' Well, I juggle in my mind... Whoops."
* "People look at guys like the Mona Lisa - Leonardo's Mona Lisa, they think: oh, that's not so great. Not a lot of people know this - the Mona Lisa was painted in one stroke..."
And, best of all...
* "Let me give you a warning, okay - I was in Paris, about two months ago [...] Let me give you a warning, if you're going over there - here's an example: 'chapeau' means 'hat. 'Oeuf' means 'egg'. It's like those French have a different word for everything..."


He's also pretty mean on the banjo, the happiest instrument around...
His written essays are highly recommendable too, especially the compilation book Pure Drivel (among his tips for aspiring writers are the oh-so-so-sensible: "Naked Belligerent Panties: This is a good sexy title with a lot of promise.", "'Dagnabbit' will never get you anywhere with the Booker Prize people. Lose it.", and "Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol."

On the debit side, Stevey - this game is just rubbish...

4 comments:

Pete said...

What a hack, you missed out L.A. Story.

Must try harder :)

The Phantom said...

Absolutely. My favourite too. And with a pre-anorexic Sarah Jessica Parker on roller skates instead of Manolo Blahniks!

Clarajean said...

oh the banjo....
...do you think it would be hard to learn?

Aidan said...

Ah-a, well, of course, this wasn't meant as a comprehensive career retrospective...!
LA Story is indeed very good, though - for example, his reaction to his agent sleeping with his girlfriend: "I thought they were only meant to take ten per cent..."
"Parenthood" was also affectionately good, despite the occasional schmaltz and foisting a young Keanu Reeves upon the world...
Steve Martin as an eager dad trying to impress his kid's birthday party with some balloon modelling: ".... your lower intestine!"
Clara - I expect it requires plenty of painstaking practice - but it's an ambition of mine to try, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday...