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Steve Martin - Biography


Comedian Steve Martin
Photo by Glulio Marcocchi/Getty Images


August 14, 1945

Steve Martin Overview:

Comedian and actor Steve Martin is one of the original pioneers of absurdist stand-up. Appearing on stage in his trademark white suit and arrow through his head, Martin created comedy out of bizarre one-liners, non-sequiters and a deconstruction of what stand-up could be. As a result, he became the first comic to achieve rock-star status (Andrew Dice Clay and Dane Cook would follow in his footsteps). Though he eventually abandoned comedy for a stream of hit movies as well as writing plays and novels, Martin remains one of the biggest and most important names in comedy of all time. He's a true comic genius.

Quick Steve Martin Facts:

  • Steve Martin was born in Waco, Texas, and raised in Southern California.
  • He began performing comedy in 1967 while attending college at UCLA.
  • In 1967, he was hired as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which he won an Emmy award in 1969.
  • Martin released his first stand-up album, Let's Get Small, in 1977. It won the Grammy Award for Outstanding Comedy Album.
  • His breakthrough film role came in 1979 with the release of The Jerk, which Martin also co-wrote.
  • In addition to being a best-selling comedian and movie star, Martin is also an accomplished author, playwright and musician.

Steve Martin Discography:

  • Let's Get Small (1977)
  • A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978)
  • Comedy is Not Pretty! (1979)
  • The Steve Martin Brothers (1981)
  • The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo (2009)

Steve Martin Early Life:

Comedian Steve Martin was born the son of a would-be actor and housewife mother in Waco, Texas, in 1945. Relocating to Southern California while he was young, Martin eventually got a job working at Disneyland in the mid-to-late 1950s. While working there, he spent a great deal of time in the magic shop and eventually got hired there, becoming an amateur magician and getting his first taste of public performance. While attending high school, Martin became involved in theater and comedy productions at Knott's Berry Farm before moving on to study philosophy at California State University and eventually UCLA.

Steve Martin, Comedian:

In 1967, Martin began performing comedy in nightclubs around California. Dropping out of college at age 21, Martin got his first TV job as a writer and occasional performer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. By the mid-'70s, Martin had established himself as a popular stand-up, first as an opening act for successful bands (such as the Carpenters) and then with frequent appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live. His first stand-up album, Let's Get Small, was a huge success, winning the Comedy Album Grammy and launching Martin into rock-star status as a comic.

Through the rest of the 1970s and early '80s, Martin continued to sell out stadiums and theaters and became one of the most successful stand-up comedians of all time. In 1979, he crossed over into movie stardom with his role in The Jerk. His second album, A Wild and Crazy Guy (named for his catchphrase as one of the Czech brothers on SNL) also won the Comedy Album Grammy. He released two more comedy albums, Comedy is Not Pretty! in 1979 and The Steve Martin Brothers in 1981; deciding he had accomplished what he wanted (and feeling boxed in by success), Martin walked away from stand-up in the early 1980s.

Steve Martin, Movie Star:

Throughout the 1980s, Martin continued to headline films including The Man With Two Brains, Three Amigos! (co-written by him, SNL creator Lorne Michaels and musician Randy Newman), Parenthood, All of Me, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Roxanne, for which he wrote the screenplay.

Martin continued to act in the 1990s, branching out into dramas like Grand Canyon (1991) and The Spanish Prisoner (1998). He began starring in "family" comedies like the Father of the Bride and Cheaper by the Dozen series, as well as had two more screenplays turned into films: L.A. Story (1991) and Bowfinger (1999).

Steve Martin, Writer:

In the early 1990s, The New Yorker began publishing a series of essays by Martin, which were eventually collected in Pure Drivel in 1993. He also began writing plays at this time, and in 1993 wrote his first, Picasso at the Lapine Agile. He would later adapt and write The Underpants in 2002.

Martin would also go on to publish two novellas: Shopgirl in 2000 (which was later turned into a film in 2005, which Martin wrote and starred in) and The Pleasure of My Company in 2003. In 2008, Martin published Born Standing Up, a memoir about his days as a hugely successful stand-up comedian.

Additional Steve Martin Facts:

  • Steve Martin has hosted Saturday Night Live more than anyone else. His appearance during SNL's 34th season was his 15th time hosting the sketch show.
  • Martin has been host of the Academy Awards three times: in 2001, 2003 and in 2010 alongside co-host Alec Baldwin.
  • In 2005, Martin was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
  • He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007.
  • An accomplished banjo player (which used to make appearances in his stand-up act) and bluegrass musician, Steve Martin published his first bluegrass album, The Crow, in 2009.
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