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Steve Martin

Full / Real Name: Stephen Glenn Martin
Born: 14 August 1945 (78 years old)
Gender: Male

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Bio

Steve Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician and composer best known for his roles in comedy films such as ¡Three Amigos! (1986), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Roxanne (1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Father of the Bride (1991), Leap of Faith (1992) and Bowfinger (1999).

Early Years

Martin was born in Waco, Texas to Glenn Vernon Martin, a real estate salesman and aspiring actor and Mary Lee Stewart, a housewife. Martin was raised in Garden Grove, California and is of English, Scottish and Irish descent.

As a teenager, Martin started out working at the Magic Shop at Disneyland, where he developed his talents for magic, juggling, playing the banjo and creating balloon animals.

He teamed up with friend and Garden Grove High School classmate Kathy Westmoreland to do a musical comedy routine, performing at local coffee houses and at the Bird Cage Theatre in Knott's Berry Farm.

Martin majored in philosophy at California State University at Long Beach, and for a while, considered becoming a philosophy professor instead of an actor-comedian.

In 1967, he transferred to UCLA and switched his major to theatre. Martin soon began working local clubs at night, to mixed notices. At the age of 21, he dropped out of college for good.

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."

While attending college, he appeared in an episode of The Dating Game. His time there 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, that it's easy... and it's thrilling."

Martin's girlfriend in 1967 was a dancer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She 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.

Martin also wrote for John Denver (a neighbour of his in Aspen, Colorado at one point), The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. He also appeared on these shows and several others, in various comedy skits.

Martin also performed his own material, sometimes as an opening act for groups such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Carpenters. 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 early seventies, Martin embarked on an ill-advised comedy tour where he was often booked into seedy venues in the Midwest as either a solo act or an opener for down and out musical groups.

His father compiled an account of these awful bookings and frequently alluded to his son's difficulties in his monthly letter to his real estate clients.

Occasionally Steve would be booked with other comedians, most of them very bad with ineffectual gimmicks such as ventriloquism dummies, balloons, chaotic animal acts, and musical instruments. Martin borrowed heavily from these unpleasant experiences in many of his future routines.

He states that his biggest influence has been British Television, in particular the comedies, but he was also inspired by British science fiction and its dramas.

Fame

In the mid-1970s, Martin made frequent appearances as a stand-up comedian on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. That exposure, together with appearances on HBO's On Location and NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) (on which, despite a common misconception, he was never a cast member) led to his first of three comedy albums, Let's Get Small.

The album was a huge success; one of its tracks, Excuse Me, helped establish a national catch phrase.

His next album, A Wild and Crazy Guy, was an even bigger success, reaching the #2 spot on the sales chart in the U.S. and featured another catch phrase (the album's title), this time based on a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Martin and Dan Aykroyd played a couple of bumbling Czechoslovakian would-be playboys, the Festrunk Brothers.

The album ended with a song "King Tut", sung and written by Martin and released as a 45 RPM single during the King Tut craze that accompanied the extremely popular travelling exhibit of the Egyptian king's tomb artifacts; the single reached the top 20 (#17) in 1978.

The song was backed by the "Toot Uncommons" (they were actually members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).

Both albums won Grammys for Best Comedy Recording in 1977 and 1978, respectively.

In his comedy albums, Martin's stand-up comedy was clearly 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.

His style is off-kilter and ironic, and sometimes pokes fun at stand-up comedy traditions. A typical gag might be interrupted for a sip from a glass of water and just as he was about to speak again, he forcefully spits the water onto the floor.

Movie Career

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.

His first feature film appearance was in the musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, where he sang The Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".

In 1979, Martin wrote and starred in his first full-length movie, The Jerk, directed by Carl Reiner. The movie was a huge success, grossing over $73-million on a budget of far less than that amount.

The success of The Jerk opened more doors for Martin. 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 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 do because of the 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.

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 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 musical film version of the hit off-Broadway play Little Shop of Horrors (based on a famous B-movie), as a sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello. The film also marked the first of three films teaming Martin with actor Rick Moranis.

In 1987, Martin joined comedian John Candy in the John Hughes movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles. That same year, the Cyrano de Bergerac adaptation Roxanne, a film Martin co-wrote, won him a Writers Guild of America award and more importantly, the 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 and was a member of the ensemble existentialist tragedy Grand Canyon that were both about life in Los Angeles. In a serious role, Martin played a tightly wound Hollywood film producer trying to recover from a traumatic robbery that left him injured.

In contrast to the serious tone of Grand Canyon, Martin also appeared in a remake of the comedy Father of the Bride in 1991 (followed by a sequel in 1995).

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).

In 1999, Martin and Goldie 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 co-starring in Bringing Down The House and starring in Cheaper By The Dozen, each of which earned over $130-million at U.S. theatres. Both were family comedies.

In 2005, Martin wrote and starred in Shopgirl, based on his own novella. Martin played a wealthy businessman who strikes up a romance with a Saks 5th Avenue counter girl (Claire Danes). He also starred in Cheaper by the Dozen 2 that year.

Martin's last work to date was the 2006 instalment of The Pink Panther, standing in Peter Sellers shoes as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. In 2007, he announced on his website that he would likely be starting work on the sequel later in the year.

Other Work

Throughout the 1990s, after Tina Brown took over The New Yorker, Martin wrote various pieces for the magazine. They later appeared in the collection Pure Drivel.

He appeared in a version of Waiting for Godot as Vladimir (with Robin Williams as Estragon) and in 1993 wrote the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which had a successful run in several American cities.

In 1998, Martin guest starred with U2 in the 200th episode of The Simpsons titled Trash of the Titans. Martin provided the voice for sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson. In 2001, Martin hosted the 73rd Annual Academy Awards.

Also in 2001, he played banjo on Earl Scruggs' remake of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Martin called fellow comedian and banjo player Billy Connolly to tell him, prompting the cry of "you lucky bugger!!"

Connolly's wife thought he was referring to Martin being chosen as the Oscar's host. The recording was the winner of the Best Country Instrumental Performance category at the following year's Grammys.

In 2002, Martin adapted the Carl Sternheim play The Underpants, which ran Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company. In 2003, Martin hosted the Academy Awards for the second time.

In 2005, Martin hosted a film along with Donald Duck, Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, which was intended to show at Disneyland until the end of Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration in September 2006, but it is continuing to run indefinitely.

Martin was also honoured in 2005 with a Disney Legend award, acknowledging his early career at Disneyland and connections with The Walt Disney Company throughout his career.

Martin has guest-hosted Saturday Night Live 14 times, as of his February 2006 hosting (musical guest: Prince featuring Tamar), breaking his previous record of 13 (now held by fellow frequent host Alec Baldwin) and retaining his title as SNL's most frequent host.

Coincidentally, Martin was supposed to host with Prince as the musical guest on the first episode of SNL's 30th season, but both he and Prince backed out at the last minute and were replaced by Ben Affleck and Nelly.

Martin has also written two novellas, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. Shopgirl was later turned into a film (see above).

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, Martin was voted one of the top 15 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. On October 23, 2005, Martin was presented with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Early in Martin's career he developed a character entitled "The Great Flydini". This magician would produce eggs and light candles from his open zipper found on his dress slacks. Even an opera singing hand puppet would make an appearance.

Much of Steve Martin's comedy styling would be influenced by the actor, comedian, magician Carl Ballantine. Carl performed at the opening of Disneyland and young Steve Martin would watch his performances closely.

Marriages

On July 28, 2007, Steve married his girlfriend, Anne Stringfield, 34, at his Los Angeles home. Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey presided over the ceremony. Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live, was his 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.

Steve was previously married to actress Victoria Tennant for eight years until 1994. Before that, he was involved with singer/actress Bernadette Peters and actress Anne Heche.


Television Roles

Show

Character

Gavin Volure

Orin Scrivello, DDS

Host - Himself

Host - Himself

Host - Himself


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