Comedy Isn’t Always Pretty

Janet Maslin in the New York Times Book Review:

Stevemartin190In his lean, incisive new book about the trajectory of his life in comedy, Steve Martin describes some of the danger signs that made him realize his career in stand-up had peaked. In 1979 he was booked solid for the next two years and playing auditoriums too large for his sly, intimate stage act to be understood. And the critical backlash had begun: he had gone from being a wild and crazy guy, in his own phrase, to “a mild and lazy guy” in the none-too-original minds of reviewers.

When he went to a hospital in the midst of one of the panic attacks he had begun suffering, a nurse asked him to autograph a printout of his EKG. When he spoke with friends, conversations “often degenerated into deadening nephew autograph requests.” He was perceived to be so funny that he might get a laugh simply by asking, “What time does the movie start?” And he could take a woman to dinner and discover that yes, she had a boyfriend — and the boyfriend liked the idea of her dating a comedy star.

By 1981, he writes, “my act was like an overly plumed bird whose next evolutionary step was extinction.”

More here.