Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician and composer.
Martin was born in Waco, Texas, and raised in Southern California, where his early influences were working at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and working magic and comedy acts at these and other smaller venues in the area. His ascent to fame picked up when he became a writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. Since the 1980s, having branched away from stand-up comedy, he has become a successful actor, playwright, pianist, banjo player, and juggler, eventually earning Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards.
Martin was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Mary Lee Martin and Glenn Vernon Martin, a real estate salesman and an aspiring actor.
Martin was raised in Inglewood, California and then later in Garden Grove, California, in a Baptist family. One of his earliest memories is of seeing his father, as an extra, serving drinks onstage at the Call Board Theatre on Melrose Place. During World War II, in England, Martin's father had appeared in a production of Our Town with Raymond Massey. Years later, he would write to Massey for help in Steve's fledgling career, but would receive no reply. Expressing his affection through gifts of cars, bikes, etc., Martin's father was stern, not emotionally open to his son. He was proud but critical, with Martin later recalling that in his teens his feelings for his father were mostly ones of hatred. In his authorised biography, close friend Morris Walker suggests that Martin could "be described most accurately as an agnostic [...] he rarely went to church and was never involved in organised religion of his own volition". Martin's first job was at Disneyland, selling guidebooks on weekends and full-time during the summer school break. That lasted for three years (1955–1958). During his free time he frequented the Main Street Magic shop, where tricks were demonstrated to potential customers. By 1960 he had mastered several of the tricks and illusions, and took a paying job there in August. There he perfected his talents for magic, juggling, and creating balloon animals frequently performing for tips.
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After high school graduation, Martin attended Santa Ana Junior College, taking classes in drama and English poetry. In his free time he teamed up with friend and Garden Grove High School classmate Kathy Westmoreland to participate in comedies and other productions at the Bird Cage Theatre. He joined a comedy troupe at Knott's Berry Farm.  Later, he met budding actress Stormie Sherk, and they developed comedy routines while becoming romantically involved. Stormie's influence caused Steve to apply to the California State University, Long Beach for enrollment with a major in Philosophy.Stormie enrolled at UCLA, about an hour's drive north, and the distance eventually caused them to lead separate lives.
Being inspired by his philosophy classes, for a short while he considered becoming a professor instead of an actor-comedian. His time at college changed his life. "It changed what I believe and what I think about everything. I majored in philosophy. Something about non -sequiturs appealed to me. In philosophy, I started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, 'Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!' Then it gets real easy to write this stuff, because all you have to do is twist everything hard—you twist the punch line, you twist the non sequitur so hard away from the things that set it up". In an article in Smithsonian magazine he recalled, "In a college psychology class, I had read a treatise on comedy explaining that a laugh was formed when the storyteller created tension, then, with the punch line, released it. I didn't quite get this concept, nor do I still [...]. What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. [...] My first reviews came in. One said, 'This so-called "comedian" should be told that jokes are supposed to have punch lines.' Another said I represented 'the most serious booking error in the history of Los Angeles music.' " Martin periodically spoofed his philosophy studies in his 1970s stand-up act, comparing philosophy with studying geology. "If you're studying geology, which is all facts, as soon as you get out of school you forget it all, but philosophy you remember just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life."
In 1967, Martin transferred to UCLA and switched his major to theater. While attending college, he appeared in an episode of The Dating Game. Martin began working local clubs at night, to mixed notices, and at twenty-one he dropped out of college.
Early career - stand-up
Steve Martin, circa 1977
In 1967, his former girlfriend Nina Goldblatt, a dancer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, helped Martin land a writing job with the show by submitting his work to head writer Mason Williams. Williams initially paid Martin out of his own pocket. Along with the other writers for the show, Martin won an Emmy Award in 1969, aged 23. He also wrote for John Denver (a neighbor of his in Aspen, Colorado, at one point), The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Martin's first TV appearance was on The Steve Allen Show in 1969. He says: "[I] appeared on The Virginia Graham Show, circa 1970. I looked grotesque. I had a hairdo like a helmet, which I blow-dried to a puffy bouffant, for reasons I no longer understand. I wore a frock coat and a silk shirt, and my delivery was mannered, slow and self-aware. I had absolutely no authority. After reviewing the show, I was depressed for a week." During these years his roommates included comedian Gary Mule Deer and singer/guitarist Michael Johnson. Martin opened for groups such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Carpenters, and Toto. He appeared at San Francisco's The Boarding House, among other venues. He continued to write, earning an Emmy nomination for his work on Van Dyke and Company in 1976.
In the mid-1970s, Martin made frequent appearances as a stand-up comedian on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. That exposure, together with The Gong Show, HBO's On Location and NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL). SNL's audience jumped by a million viewers when he made guest appearances, though despite a common misconception, he was never a cast member. Martin has guest-hosted Saturday Night Live 15 times, as of January 2009, tied in numbers of presentations, with host Alec Baldwin. On the show, Martin popularized the air quotes gesture, which uses four fingers to make double quote marks in the air. While on the show Martin became close with several of the cast members, including Gilda Radner. On the day Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989, Martin was to host SNL. Martin, deeply moved, featured footage of himself and Radner together in a 1978 sketch.
His TV appearances in the '70s led to the release of comedy albums that would go platinum. The track "Excuse Me" on his first album, Let's Get Small, helped establish a national catch phrase. His next album, A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978), was an even bigger success, reaching the #2 spot on the US sales chart, selling over a million copies. "Just a wild and crazy guy" became another of Martin's known catch phrases. The album featured a character based on a series of Saturday Night Live sketches where Martin and Dan Aykroyd played "Georgi" and "Yortuk" the Festrunk Brothers, a couple of bumbling Czechoslovak would-be playboys. The album ends with the song "King Tut", sung and written by Martin and backed by the "Toot Uncommons", members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It was later released as a single, reaching #17 on the US charts in 1978 and selling over a million copies. The song came out during the King Tut craze that accompanied the popular traveling exhibit of the Egyptian king's tomb artefacts. Both albums won Grammys for Best Comedy Recording in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Martin performed "King Tut" on the April 22, 1978, edition of SNL.
On his comedy albums, Martin's stand-up is self-referential and sometimes self-mocking. It mixes philosophical riffs with sudden spurts of "happy feet", banjo playing with balloon depictions of concepts like venereal disease, and the controversial kitten juggling (he is a master juggler). His style is off-kilter and ironic, and sometimes pokes fun at stand-up comedy traditions, such as Martin opening his act (from A Wild and Crazy Guy) by saying, "I think there's nothing better for a person to come up and do the same thing over and over for two weeks. This is what I enjoy, so I'm going to do the same thing over and over and over [...] I'm going to do the same joke over and over in the same show, it'll be like a new thing." Or: "Hello, I'm Steve Martin, and I'll be out here in a minute." In one comedy routine, used on the Comedy Is Not Pretty!, Martin claimed that his real name was "Gern Blanston". The riff took on a life of its own. There is a Gern Blanston website, and for a time a rock band took the moniker as their name. He stopped stand-up in 1981 to concentrate on movies and never went back.
Acting career - film
Martin in 1982
By the end of the 1970s, Martin had acquired the kind of following normally reserved for rock stars, with his tour appearances typically occurring at sold-out arenas filled with tens of thousands of screaming fans. But unknown to his audience, stand-up comedy was "just an accident" for him; his real goal was to get into film.
Martin's first film was a short, The Absent-Minded Waiter (1977). The seven-minute long film, also featuring Buck Henry and Teri Garr, was written by and starred Martin. The film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Film, Live Action. He made his first feature film appearance in the musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, where he sang The Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". In 1979, Martin co-wrote and starred in his first full-length movie, The Jerk, directed by Carl Reiner. The movie was a huge success, grossing over $100 million on a budget of approximately $4 million.
Stanley Kubrick met with him to discuss the possibility of Martin starring in a screwball comedy version of Traumnovelle (Kubrick later changed his approach to the material, the result of which was 1999's Eyes Wide Shut). Martin was executive producer for Domestic Life, a prime-time television series starring friend Martin Mull, and a late-night series called Twilight Theater. It emboldened Martin to try his hand at his first serious film, Pennies From Heaven, a movie he was anxious to perform in because of his desire to avoid being typecast. To prepare for that film, Martin took acting lessons from director Herbert Ross, and spent months learning how to tap dance. The film was a financial failure; Martin's comment at the time was "I don't know what to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy."
Martin was in three more Reiner-directed comedies after The Jerk: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid in 1982, The Man with Two Brains in 1983 and All of Me in 1984, possibly his most critically acclaimed comic performance to date. In 1986, Martin joined fellow Saturday Night Live veterans Martin Short and Chevy Chase in ¡Three Amigos!, directed by John Landis, and written by Martin, Lorne Michaels, and singer-songwriter Randy Newman. It was originally entitled The Three Caballeros and Martin was to be teamed with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. In 1986, Martin was in the movie musical film version of the hit off-Broadway play Little Shop of Horrors (based on a famous B-movie), playing the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello. The film was the first of three films teaming Martin with Rick Moranis. In 1987, Martin joined comedian John Candy in the John Hughes movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles. That same year, Roxanne, the film adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac which Martin co-wrote, won him a Writers Guild of America, East award. It also garnered recognition from Hollywood and the public that he was more than a comedian. In 1988, he performed in the Frank Oz comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels alongside Michael Caine.
Martin starred in the Ron Howard film Parenthood, with Moranis in 1989. He later met with Moranis to make the Mafia comedy My Blue Heaven in 1990. In 1991, Martin starred in and wrote L.A. Story, a romantic comedy, in which the female lead was played by his then-wife Victoria Tennant). Martin also appeared in Grand Canyon, in which he played the tightly-wound Hollywood film producer, Davies, who was recovering from a traumatic robbery that left him injured, which was a more serious role for him. Martin also appeared in a remake of the comedy Father of the Bride in 1991 (followed by a sequel in 1995). He starred in the 1992 comedy HouseSitter, with Goldie Hawn and Dana Delany.
In David Mamet's 1997 thriller, The Spanish Prisoner, Martin played a darker role as a wealthy stranger who takes a suspicious interest in the work of a young businessman (Campbell Scott). He went on to star with Eddie Murphy in the 1999 comedy Bowfinger. He appeared in a version of Waiting for Godot as Vladimir, with Robin Williams as Estragon and Bill Irwin as Lucky. In 1998, Martin guest starred with U2 in the 200th episode of The Simpsons titled "Trash of the Titans", providing the voice for sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson. In 1999, Martin and Hawn starred in a remake of the 1970 Neil Simon comedy, The Out-of-Towners. By 2003, Martin ranked 4th on the box office stars list, after starring in Bringing Down The House and Cheaper By The Dozen, each of which earned over $130 million at U.S. theaters.
Martin wrote and starred in Shopgirl (2005), based on his own novella (2000), and starred in Cheaper by the Dozen 2. He also starred in the box office hit The Pink Panther in 2006, standing in Peter Sellers's shoes as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, a role which he reprised in 2009's The Pink Panther 2. In Baby Mama (2008), he played the founder of a health food company, and in It's Complicated (2009), he played opposite Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. He will next co-star alongside Jack Black and Owen Wilson in The Big Year, a comedy about three men who engage in a competitive rare bird watching contest. In 2009, an article in The Guardian listed Martin as one of the best actors never to receive an Oscar nomination.
In 1993, Martin wrote his first full length play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The first reading of the play took place in Beverly Hills, California at Steve Martin's home, with Tom Hanks reading the role of Pablo Picasso and Chris Sarandon reading the role of Albert Einstein. Following this, the play opened at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, and played from October 1993 to May 1994, then went on to run successfully in Los Angeles, California, New York City and several other US cities. In 2009, the La Grande, Oregon school board refused to allow the play to be performed after several parents complained about the content. In an open letter in the local Observer newspaper, Martin wrote "I have heard that some in your community have characterized the play as 'people drinking in bars, and treating women as sex objects.' With apologies to William Shakespeare, this is like calling Hamlet a play about a castle [...] I will finance a non-profit, off-high school campus production [...] so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States can determine whether they will or will not see the play".
Throughout the 1990s, Martin wrote various pieces for The New Yorker. In 2002, he adapted the Carl Sternheim play The Underpants, which ran Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company and in 2008, co-wrote and produced Traitor, starring Don Cheadle. He has also written the novellas, Shopgirl (2000), and The Pleasure of My Company (2003), both more wry in tone than raucous.  A story of a 28-year-old woman behind the glove counter at the Neiman Marcus department store in Beverly Hills, Shopgirl was made into a film starring Martin and Clare Danes. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2005 and was featured at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival before going into limited release in the US. In 2007, he published a memoir, Born Standing Up, which Time magazine named as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2007, ranking it at #6, and praising it as "a funny, moving, surprisingly frank memoir."
Martin hosted Academy Awards solo in 2001 and 2003 and with Alec Baldwin in 2010. In 2005, Martin co-hosted Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, marking the company's anniversary. Disney continued to run the show until March 2009.
Steve Martin playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers in Seattle
The banjo was a staple of Martin's 1970s stand-up career and he periodically poked fun at his love for the instrument.  On the Comedy Is Not Pretty! album he included an all-instrumental jam, titled "Drop Thumb Medley," and played the track on his 1979 concert tour.
In 2001, he played banjo on Earl Scruggs' remake of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". The recording was the winner of the Best Country Instrumental Performance category at the following year's Grammys. In 2008, Martin appeared with the metalcore band, In the Minds of the Living, during a show in Myrtle Beach. In 2009, Martin released his first all-music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo with appearances from stars such as Dolly Parton. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2010.
Martin made his first appearance on The Grand Ole Opry on May 30, 2009. In the American Idol Season 8 Finals, he performed alongside Michael Sarver and Megan Joy in the song "Pretty Flowers". In June, Martin played banjo along with the Steep Canyon Rangers on A Prairie Home Companion, and began a two-month U.S. tour with the Rangers in September, including an appearances at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, Carnegie Hall and Benaroya Hall in Seattle. In November, they went on to play at the Royal Festival Hall in London with support from Mary Black. In 2010, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers appeared at the New Orleans Jazzfest, Merlefest Bluegrass Festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, at Bonnaroo Music Festival, at Red Butte Garden Concert series and on the BBC's Later... with Jools Holland.
Martin was romantically involved with actress and singer Bernadette Peters, his costar in the films The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven, during the 1970s and early 1980s. He married actress Victoria Tennant on November 20, 1986, and the union lasted until 1994. On July 28, 2007, after three years together, Martin married Anne Stringfield, a writer and former staffer for The New Yorker magazine. Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey presided over the ceremony at Martin's Los Angeles home. Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live, was best man. Several of the guests, including close friends Tom Hanks, Eugene Levy, comedian Carl Reiner, and magician/actor Ricky Jay were not informed that a wedding ceremony would take place. Instead, they were told they were invited to a party, and were surprised by the nuptials. Martin has no children.
Awards and honors
* 1969 Emmy Award - The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (with other writers)
* 1978 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album - Let's Get Small
* 1979 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album - A Wild and Crazy Guy.
* 1989 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from California State University Long Beach
* 2001 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance with Earl Scruggs (and others) - banjo performance of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".
* 2005 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
* 2005 Disney Legend award
* 2007 30th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
* 2009 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for his album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.
Written works by Martin
* The Jerk (1979) (Written with Carl Gottlieb)
* Cruel Shoes (1979) (Essays)
* Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays: Picasso at the Lapin Agile, the Zig-Zag Woman, Patter for the Floating Lady, WASP (1996) (Play)
* L.A. Story and Roxanne: Two Screenplays (published together in 1997) (Screenplays)
* Pure Drivel (1998) (Stories)
* Eric Fischl : 1970–2000 (2000) (Afterword)
* Modern Library Humor and Wit Series (2000) (Introduction and Series Editor)
* Shopgirl (2000) (Novella)
* Kindly Lent Their Owner: The Private Collection of Steve Martin (2001) (Art)
* The Underpants: A Play (2002) (Play)
* The Pleasure of My Company (2003) (Novel)
* The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z (2007) (Children's Books illustrated by Roz Chast)
* Born Standing Up (2007) (Memoir)
* An Object of Beauty (2010) (Novel)
* Late For School (2010) (Children's book)
Released stand-up shows
* Steve Martin-Live! (1986, VHS)
* Saturday Night Live: The Best Of Steve Martin (1998, DVD)