AT LAST! HOW TO BE STEVE MARTIN!

by Eric Hoffman on December 11, 2013

in BOOKS, COMEDY

Novelty

HOW TO BE STEVE MARTIN!

By Prof. Eric Hoffman and Dr. Gary Rudoren©

(From the book Comedy By The Numbers©, a how-to manual explaining the secrets of humor and popularity!  Published by McSweeney’s and available here.  Now in its historic 2nd printing.)

The 1st EVER step-by-step breakdown of a career that will last a lifetime!

SEE how a master did it!

LEARN why “the banjo” and “white hair” were “good ideas”!

HEAR that sound?  It’s MONEY!!

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“Would’ve beens” at the ends of their lives are always grousing about how “if only someone had shown me how,” they too could’ve had a glittering career in comedy.  Well this page is that “someone.”

As anyone in COMEDY will tell you, Steve Martin’s is the one career that EVERY comedian WISHES he had!  Well, now you CAN have his career – by mimicking it!  You too can take an incredible journey, as Steve did, into the comedy history books!  And COMEDY BY THE NUMBERS© will be right there beside you!

Please keep in mind that this is a process of DETAILS.  Minutiae!  ANY deviation from the following easy-to-read steps will lead to failure for your “Steve Martin career.”  Which is not to say you couldn’t have the career of, say, Charlie Callas – fine in its own way, certainly.  But we’re not here to coddle you.  Indeed, we’re not your mommas.  If you’re going to do it, then this is how you will have to do it!  Okay?  Okay!  Now, enter!

HERE ARE SOME COMEDY NUMBERS© A “STEVE MARTIN CAREER” HAS BEEN KNOWN TO USE:

#14 -CATCHPHRASES

#108 -PROP COMEDY

#34 -DRUGGIE HUMOR

#125 -SOMEONE WHERE THEY SHOULDN’T BE

And of course #61 -INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR

(GET THE COMPLETE LIST OF 169 NUMBERS HERE!)

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PRELUDE:  CAREER TIMING

Yes, even your entry to comedy requires diamond-precision accuracy.  Mr. Martin has implied on several occasions that his initial triumph as the “Wild and Crazy Guy” was the result of cold-hearted planning.  There are no flukes!  …You see, in the 1970s the country was inundated with overwhelming seriousness (Viet Nam, Watergate, rock star deaths).  There were a lot of things to be mad about, and the comedians of the day reflected that anger in their acts (“Don’tcha hate Viet Nam?”).  Steve looked around and figured what the grizzled citizenry needed was an “antidote” of good old American silliness.  And he was right.  (Also explains disco and the pet rock.)  Folks couldn’t “get enough” of goofy bits like Happy Feet and Cat Juggling.  It seemed like everyone was “getting small.”  It was the perfect relief from what we were watching on the evening news (napalm, murder, blood, political dissent).  …It seems so simple, doesn’t it?  That’s because IT IS.

So what’s the mood of the U.S. right now, as you read this?  Is there anger because of robot wars?  Is it a Utopia due to Red and Blue working together as Purple?  Is everything in pill form?  Whatever society’s tone, look for the opposite (or “Opposite Factor”) and run with it.

 

STEP ONE:  BUILDING STEVE MARTIN

Sure, we all know about the catchphrases (“Excuse me”).  But Steve Martin didn’t just have jokes – and neither should you.  The S.M. “experience” covered all the angles.  ALL of the following individual elements accomplished two important things simultaneously:

1.)  acceptance by the general public

2.)  a “cool” factor

 

A)  YOUR LOOKS

The White Hair:  In your pursuit of “universal appeal,” please save everyone a lot of time and make sure you presently look like a bland everyman – with ONE sly variation.  Something that sets you apart from the herd, but is also accepted by all.  Steve’s one variation was “white hair.”  Unlike the goatee or pencil moustache, white hair was something the older set could trust and the youth thought was just weird enough to be cool.  Also, your haircut should be 100% normal.  No corn-rows or gangsta inscriptions, please.  Once perfection is attained, never change your look (see below).

The White Suit:  We now know that the White Suit was a ballsy re-invention of the classic “suit comedian” look.  Never before had a color and an article of clothing been so successfully merged.  Except maybe in the medical profession.

       From the same school:

          Rodney Dangerfield  /  red tie

          Pee Wee Herman  /  red bow-tie, white shoes

          Robin Williams  /  rainbow suspenders

          Jerry Seinfeld  /  blue jeans and white “kicks”

          Victor Borge  /  black tuxedo

DoubleTake

B)  THE BANJO  &  THE ROCK AND ROLL CONNECTION

     Rock and Roll is how we communicate with our counter-culture, and is therefore an important ally in the early stages of a “Steve Martin-like” career.  Hanging out with and dating rock stars is a good foundation, but playing the banjo is what sealed the deal for Steve.  Why?  Well, first of all, the Youth actually liked the banjo, because it was very similar to the electrical guitar, which their favorite Guitar Gods were then playing.  As an added bonus, the Old like the banjo because of its down-home sound, which reminded them of the “good old banjo days.”  And was there an underlying connection with Deliverance?

     We’re not sure what the modern equivalent would be, but let us at least discourage you from trying the following instruments:

          Drums:  because alone, it’s just noise

          Bass:  not in limelight enough

          Wind instruments:  too homoerotic

          Keyboards:  too “artsy”

          Fiddle:  too jaunty

          Triangle:  triangle  =  no sex

_

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C)  SNL FACTOR

     Okay, so you have Steve’s looks, material, and, because of a banjo-like instrument, the ability to appeal to the youth market.  Now you must “do your thing” on a hip TV comedy show.  Steve’s appearances on Saturday Night Live were nothing less than super-important.  Here, in the presence of other comedy gods, he was treated as an equal.  A peer.  And the adoring counter-culture showered him with money.  (Also note: There will exist at this time a great temptation for you to make a movie with one of your lovable SNL characters, like It’s Pat!  Steve could have easily made a movie starring the sexual Festrunk Brothers, but he declined, and is respected all the more for it.)

     For you today however, it’s a very different world.  SNL (as you should refer to it) is no longer apt to feature an up-and-comer as host.  Now, you must already be famous to enjoy this honor.  A Buck Henry would not be asked to host in this day and age, because he’s old, not a superstar, and is thought to be funny by most people.

STEVE MARTIN CAREER STATUS: Steve Martin was now fast becoming a household name as a stand-up comedian.  Throw in several fantastic appearances on Carson and a series of hilarious comedy albums, and you’ve got a comic who’s clearly made it.  Drink it up!  Enjoy yourself!  But you SHOULD be thinking about “the future!”  And Step Two!

_

STEP TWO:  THE INTRODUCTION OF DIVERSITY

     Here’s where the geniuses branch off from the also-rans, for here is where the seeds of career longevity are planted.  While Steve was riding high on catchphrases (“Excuse me”), he published a best-selling book (Cruel Shoes) and released a successful movie (The Jerk).  And had a hit novelty record (King Tut).  He ALSO made a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award (The Absent-minded Waiter).  The public now considered him a writer, movie star, chart-buster, and viable award-winner AS WELL AS a proven television celebrity – all of which can lengthen a career by years!  But stay within the boundaries of what is considered “within your bounds.”  If you’re white, please don’t record a rap album.  And never ever do anything that includes the words “rock” and “opera” together.

STEVE MARTIN CAREER STATUS:  You’re now at the highest peak of your initial success.  But here’s the question that is currently on the minds of your adoring public:  What do you give the man who’s done everything?  Answer:  you ignore him.

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STEP THREE:  THE DRY PERIOD

     Now that you’ve hit the highs, there’s nowhere to go but down, right?  Right.  Steve made a series of movie flops (The Lonely Guy; Pennies From Heaven), SNL disbanded, and he was no longer interested in stand-up and comedy records – persuading a fickle public to look elsewhere for yuks.  All the white hair in the world won’t help you now.  This is called a “dry period,” and you should have saved enough money to get you through it.  (Steve secured the necessary funds by avoiding the typical insane-celebrity expenditures, ie, gold made of gold, imported oxygen.)

     The Dry Period is when most entertainers freak out and make the kinds of mistakes that will render it impossible for the public to ever accept them back again.  The public can sense career nervousness, and once you’ve lost their respect you’ll never regain it.  The biggest error?  Changing your look.  This is not the time to experiment with fads – the movies you make during this period will be embarrassing enough.  If your appearance is as Steve Martin’s, it is a timeless look, and it will carry you safely through any fly-by-night trends.

        Comedians who blew it:

          Joe Piscopo  /  became muscle-bound

          The Unknown Comic  /  started performing without the bag

          Any comedian from the 1950s  /  grew long sideburns to “fit in” in the late 1960s

          Bobcat Goldthwait  /  stopped screaming

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BananaPeel

STEP FOUR:  BACK FROM THE GRAVE

        Here’s how you get it all back:

          1.  Team up with another comic legend (Lily Tomlin in All Of  Me).

          2.  Write/star in romantic classic (Roxanne).

          3.  Write articles for prestigious publication (The New Yorker).

          4.  Write plays (Picasso at the Lapin Agile).

          5.  Keep doing all of these things until you retire/”die.”

Remember that book you wrote in Step Two?  Because of that little gem you can now find work as an author.  But take the “high road” when selecting a publication to represent, like The New Yorker.  In comparison, I think we all agree that a regular column in Punch F*ck magazine is not the same thing.

STEVE MARTIN CAREER STATUS:  Movie-wise, Steve is now in the enviable position of flipping from critic’s-darling masterpieces (Shop Girl) to “Joe Lunchpail” money-printers (Cheaper By The Dozen 1 & 2).  Don’t you wish you had Steve Martin’s career?  Well now you HAVE, providing you’ve followed all steps to the letter!

     And take time to help others!  If you see someone in the middle of a Step Three and they’re about to commit some folly (eyelid piercing, penis splitting), take them aside and gently ask, “What Would Steve Do?”

“Excuse us,”

Prof. Hoffman & Dr. Rudoren

CBTNxmas201351

Bob Odenkirk on Twitter: “I recommend this book as an Xmas gift to the oddball in your group who wants to succeed in comedy. God help the fool.”

Check out a series of promo films for the book, directed by Bob Odenkirk.

Or find them on Facebook.

Eric Hoffman

Eric Hoffman was a writer/performer on HBO's Mr. Show with Bob and David. He is the co-author of the McSweeney's humor bible "Comedy By The Numbers." He is currently producing the podcast mini-series "Brainwarp: The Baby Eater" at feralaudio.com.  

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