Comedy is Not Pretty. And Steve Martin is Not Funny. Anymore.


Well, excuuuse this post, courtesy of Alan Vanneman.

One-time funnyman and current West Coast answer to East Coast non-funnyman Woody Allen Steve Martin appeared at NYC's 92nd Street Y to talk about art with New York Times mag scribe Deborah Solomon. They bored the audience so much that the venue offered a refund. From Vanneman's writeup:

"We acknowledge that last night's event with Steve Martin did not meet the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from 92nd St. Y. We planned for a more comprehensive discussion and we, too, were disappointed with the evening. We will be mailing you a $50 certificate for each ticket you purchased to last night's event. The gift certificate can be used toward future 92Y events, pending availability."

The entertainment value of the Times piece is helped along not a little by bitchy, whiny quotes from both Debbie and Steve.

"Frankly, you would think that an audience in New York, at the 92nd Street Y, would be interested in hearing about art and artists," "Ms. Solomon" opined. "I had no idea that the Y programmers wanted me to talk to Steve instead on what it's like to host the Oscars or appear in 'It's Complicated' with Alec Baldwin [a film in which an unwilling Steve gets an unwelcome closeup of Alec's big, fat, naked ass]. I think the Y, which is supposedly a champion of the arts, has behaved very crassly and is reinforcing the most philistine aspects of a culture that values celebrity and award shows over art."

For his part, Steve found the Y's action "discourteous" believing that the Y owed him a "consultation" before deciding that an evening of Steve on art wasn't worth fifty bucks. To let the hotshots at the Y know he was still the Man, Stevo closed with a zinger: "As for the Y's standard of excellence, it can't be that high because this is the second time I've appeared there."

Whole thing here.

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  1. I’d pay to miss a Steve Martin anything.

    1. “The first would be the crap about the kids…”

      “Okay, I need revenge against all my enemies; they should die like pigs in Hell!”

  2. I’m surprised our resident art house patrons aren’t defending him because of his role in Shopgirl.

    1. Pretentious pap.

    2. By his role, you mean the fact that he wrote it and the novella it’s based on?

      Yeah, he did. And, he’s still funny. check out his twitter feed and his atheist hymn.

  3. Why those lttle BITCHES!

  4. What the fuck is this post about?

  5. Steve thought he was in The Jerk again, but without Carl Reiner to remind him what kind of jerk.

    1. You mean I’m gonna STAY this color?

  6. There are audience members who get angry every time a comedic actor makes a dramatic movie. “If it has Robin Williams/Jim Carrey/Bill Murray in it, then it has to be funny! This sucked, I want my money back!” The question of the refund is up to the venue, but it doesn’t mean that the movie shouldn’t have been made.

    It’s part of the reason why Steve Martin left standup–huge arenas full of people reciting his own jokes at him, and angry if he strayed off script.

    He makes a silly comedy every couple of years. The next one is about birdwatching. There will be tons of interviews and late night appearances about that. These opportunities to hear him talk about the arts are pretty rare.

    1. “These opportunities to hear him talk about the arts are pretty rare.”
      Thankfully so.

  7. I used to live down the street from the 92nd Street Y. Frankly, a yawn-inducing misuse of a comedian’s talents sounds like a par-for-the-course event for that venue. What did the audience expect?

    On the other hand, there used to be an amazing blues joint just a few blocks from there on Third Avenue …

    1. Yes there was. When I lived at 89th I’d try to go all the time. It was rare that I ever got in or on doing so could see the stage.

  8. Isn’t this like an Andy Kaufmann “meta-comedy” thing, a famous comedian appearing at a venue and then spending hours not being funny?

    1. No, it’s Steve Martin since Parenthood; i.e. not funny.

      Everybody gets old and loses their edge. Steve lost it in 1989. It happens.


      1. What about Bowfinger? I sort of liked that. Of course a) I got it for $1 at Redbox and b) I wasn’t expecting much.

      2. Wait – for or against Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? I just watched that clip and nearly doubled over again.

        1. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a very good movie and pretty damn funny.

          Of course, I’m a big Michael Caine fan, and always liked Steve Martin – back when he was funny.

          e.g., Let’s Get Small

          What was that movie with Daryl Hannah, based on Cyrano de Bergerac, where he was the fire chief with the huge nose? That one was kinda funny.

          1. “Roxanne”

      3. Episiarch|12.2.10 @ 11:09PM|#
        Everybody gets old and loses their edge.

        Then they get nasty and boring and repeat themselves till they die.

      4. Don’t make me get the genital cuff, Epi.

  9. The event was billed as discussion about art & Martin’s new book about art. The interviewer is an art critic. As a commenter above asked; “What the fuck is this post about?”


    1. You wonder how those folks deal with all the press conferences with Schwarzenegger that don’t feature the flexing of muscles and quotes from the Terminator films.

      1. Most of Arnuld’s press conferences *do* have those, though.

  10. Are you seriously on the side of a bunch of fucktards too stupid to realize that Steve Martin, as the author of a new book about the art world, would be talking about art? Or that the man who has in the last decade starred in such films as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” and “Pink Panther,” “ink Panther 2” and “It’s Complicated” wouldn’t be funny? Gee, go figure.

    And fuck the Y for offering a refund to those asshats.

    That said, Deborah Solomon’s weekly interview’s in the Sunday Magazine might be the worst thing the NYT publishes on a regular basis.

    1. Not to defend Steve too much, but to quote Krusty, “They backed a truckload of money up to my house!”

      Let he who among us wouldn’t sell out for a paying gig at the Huffington Post cast the first ethernet packet.

    2. That’s saying something with Krugmanand Thomas Friedman on the payroll.

  11. This was the perfect opportunity to mention ants on Jesus censorship and you blew it. Thanks for nothing, jacket.

  12. On reflection, I want to add one more defense of Steve Martin. He may not be as funny as he once was, but I still think he is fairly clever. Why?

    Tell me one cause he has gone on the airwaves in defense of? Alar? Global warming? Overpopulation? AIDS? Biodiversity? {shudder} Libertarianism?

    Color me forgiving, but isn’t it refreshing to see someone who is famous not spouting off on things they know nothing about?

    1. I’ve heard multiple celebrities recently trying to convince us regular people to use less toilet paper to “save” trees.

  13. Those people are idiots. It was billed as a discussion about art and Steve Martin is a major art collector. Why you would go to an art event and expect 1970’s Steve Martin is beyond me.

  14. Oh, and as proof that he still does comedy (and music, which was also a big part of his early career), here is is earlier this year performing “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” with the Steep Canyon Rangers:…

    1. I saw that and thought it was pretty awesome! Didn’t know he could play the banjo.

      1. Didn’t know he could play the banjo.

        [Looks around confused]Im guessing d wasnt alive in the 70s.

  15. More proof of the startling coarsening of the American dialogue. Two people versed in the arts want to discuss the arts, and the increasingly tea-party informed American’s want him to walk around like a retard a la “The Jerk.” No wonder Sarah Palin is so popular at this website. You ‘tarditarians wouldn’t know culture if you were swimming in it (which you’re not.)

  16. somewhat OT: Conan in jeggings: did you puke? I did.

  17. I don’t really see this as a knock on Steve Martin. He wrote a book about art, it’s a strong interest of his, and felt it was topical to discuss at a supposed ‘intellectual’ gathering.

    The issue here is the middlebrow tastes of the yuppie middle class. Like the Bravo channel, there’s a lot of social posturing about ‘high culture’, but really they’re as crass and stupid as the poles they dump on. Just slightly tarted up.

    Maybe Steve Martin is full of crap about art, I don’t know. But given his recent work and the venue, discussing something more substantial than his favorite tidbits from the making of ‘Father of the Bride’ seems kind of expected.

  18. God forbid the guy does what he wants.

  19. Was Nick trying to employ the meta-comic sensibilities of 1970s Steve Martin…you know, a hypercritical post about Steve Martin that was actual supportive of Steve Martin?

    Because if it wasn’t, I want to know exactly what he intended.

  20. Comedians used to be okay with just being very good at comedy. Now they have a need to be great actors, musicians, politicians, political commentators, and I guess art critics. But what made someone a great comedian doesn’t necessarily translate to those other skills

    1. Martin was actually a philosophy major.

      1. That explains so very, very much, especially about why Steve Martin was never funny to begin with. I mean, I’ll give you The Jerk, but only to remind everyone that accidents do happen; the first and last time he was funny, and it was at least as much Carl Reiner’s doing as it was his.

        Now Bill Murray? He may be batshit crazy, but I’d gladly pay $50 to see and hear him discuss anything, anything at all.

        1. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Now that was funny.

          1. Okay, I forgot about that one. So he’s been funny twice, but again, Carl Reiner deserves at least as much credit as Martin. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it has the stunning Rachel Ward when she was in her prime. Just sayin’.

            1. Even as a child, I was struck by those bullet-sucking scenes.

        2. All of his comedy records were brilliant. Even The Jerk was a step down from that. He really never had any chance of topping his early career.

  21. Steve Martin is as funny as he wants to be.

  22. Or maybe he and the interviewer were just boring. There is no subject in the world that cannot be made boring by the right combination of people discussing it.

    Am I missing something? Has there never been a boring discussion of art in the history of the world until this moment? Just because Steve Martin is an art collector doesn’t mean listening to him talk about art has to be fascinating.

    1. Martin has admitted that he is a bad interviewee.


  23. Steve Martin has reinvented himself as, primarily, a musician (banjo mostly) and tours as such.

    To defend his comedic past I give you the old Saturday Night Live and especially “King Tut” which, while not so funny today, was fresh back then.

    1. Yeah, unless your name is Bela Fleck, you have no business touring as a banjo player.

    2. “Reinvented himself as a musician”?? He was a musician before he became a comedian. Steve Martin is in fact many things, of quality – comedian and musician being just two of them. What did these Y/audience morons want, that he should show up for an art discussion with the old fake arrow through his head? Idiots.

  24. A refund is outrageous! If the audience expected Steve Martin, at this point in his career, to be funny — especially when interviewed by someone who writes for The New York Times Magazine! — then they’re suckers who obviously haven’t paid attention to Steve Martin, or The New York Times Magazine, for the last 20 years!

    You know, unless the audience members thought they were going to see a lecture by intrepid Japan-based American reporter and Godzilla witness Steve Martin. I often make that mistake.

  25. In the late ’90s I went to see the Steve Miller Band. Miller had just come out with a new album, featuring some excellent guitar work and his ensemble included some great musicians. The first act of the show was entirely from the new album. Slowly throughout the evening you could see people leaving the venue (Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State).

    These folks had come expecting to hear him play the “Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits” album. Just to stick it to the folks who had left early (IMHO), the band played the entire greatest hits album in sequence during the second act.

    My point being, if you go to see an entertainer, at least brush up on what they’re doing _now_, don’t expect them to be who they were when you first liked them.

    I agree, Steve Martin no longer is funny in general, but I would rather he spend his time in public talking about art than politics.

    Oh, and he was great in The Spanish Prisoner.

    1. I thought that was standard. Play the new stuff first set and the old stuff 2nd set.

      It works in other settings too, when for example a band with a cult following suddenly ends up with a popular album. They play it the first set, the kiddies all leave and the old school fans get the good stuff in set 2.

  26. This event CLEARLY wasn’t billed as Steve Martin does comedy (it was clearly billed as Steve Martin bores people about art) so WTF is a refund about? If you go to a Henry Rollins “spoken word event” well, that’s what you paid for – so no whining and refund-seeking if it sucks and you didn’t get a Rollins Band/Black Flag greatest hits concert.

    OTOH, if you’re an artist interested in repeat business and you’ve amassed enough fans to pack a venue, maybe you should at least intermingle what THEY paid to hear you play with what YOU want to play for your audience.

    I went to a Depeche Mode concert that was billed as a tour in support of “Playing the Angel” with a heavy dose of their hits. Instead, it was “all the Depeche Mode songs no one’s ever heard of.” I actually fell asleep in my seat, it was that dull. That’s just plain wrong to do to your paying customers, much less your devoted fans.

    Granted I went because of a girl, but she wasn’t happy after the event, which meant I paid to take her to a concert that decreased my chances with her. (Thanks a lot, Dedouche Mode!)

  27. It would be one thing if he came there to do comedy and was boring. But I can’t see how talking about art could be anything but. Hard to blame Steve for that.

    1. Art is boring. Talking about art is even more boring.

      1. But talking about talking about art is hilarious.

  28. I’m sure if Steve Martin wants to make audiences laugh, he can.

    His series from 14 years ago, The George Burns Comedy Week, is now available in off-air bootleg form on DVD.

    1. His acceptance speech when he received the Mark Twain award was funny. It was like his old standup routine.

  29. News Flash: Intellectual discussions about art are going to be boring.

    1. You gotta have pitchers to go along with the gabbing.

  30. ith Steve Martin did not meet the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from 92nd St. Y. We planned for a more comprehensive discussion and we, too, we

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