My brain feels much better this week, thanks for asking. Not because I've finally invested in some pipe cleaners, but because I cleansed the Tucker Max from my mind with some good, decent reading. First with J. Maaaaaaaaaarten Troooooooost's "The Sex Lives of Cannibals," which is not about sex, or really about cannibals, but is about being a weird Dutch guy living on some tiny island in the South Pacific. You wouldn't think a book about swimming in tides of shit and running over dogs with your car would be uplifting and interesting and funny, but you'd be wrong. So wrong. Are you ok with living a life that is so wrong, and so incorrect? I feel badly for you, being wrong and all.
After that I read Steve Martin's teeny book of New Yorker Essays, "Pure Drivel." I'm a snobby, elitist prick, which you know from reading this blog. This is further reinforced by my love for the New Yorker, despite my deep, committed hatred for that particular city and many of its inhabitants. Because I'm a snobby elitist prick I quite enjoy the humor essays, and chuckle at their wit and whimsy.
So I was shocked (shocked!) when I realized, halfway through Steve Martin's book, that I hadn't laughed out loud. I laugh out loud at anything I think is funny, whether I'm watching TV, a movie, or even thinking funny thoughts all by myself in my office (note to office-working folk: if you laugh randomly, loud enough for people outside to hear you, they will start to fear you, and HR will begin keeping a file. Something to think about). So not laughing, at Steve Martin, of all people, was a concern. Not for myself, but for Steve Martin.
And why is it not Steve, or Martin? Why must it be "Steve Martin," always and forever? Discuss, and let me know your thoughts.
But I digress.
I realized - and this is something I should have realized long ago - that Steve Martin, star of the Jerk, the Man with Two Brains, L.A. Story, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, All of Me, and one of the greatest standup comedians of all time (up there with Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and St. Thomas Aquinas) is not funny anymore.
And this isn't a recent development. He hasn't been funny since sometime in the 90's. It's like he decided to take his legacy and drag it outside by its hair, beat it to death with a rusty shovel, and leave it broken and empty in a ditch along the highway.
This was the experience I felt reading his book: here was I, looking to Steve Martin for funny and weirdness. I bounced in my chair, breathless with anticipation. And there was Steve Martin, reclining in a chaise lounge, one leg crossed tightly over the other. He had on a cardigan, khakis, and very expensive shoes. While he looked around the room for someone more interesting to talk to, he would let random sentences slip out of his mouth, like he was doing me a favor by acknowledging my existence. And this is what he said:
"I don't know if you know this, but I'm Steve Martin. Yes. THAT Steve Martin."
"So I was in Cheaper by the Dozen, and Cheaper by the Dozen 2, if that means anything to you. They were brilliant comedies. I know because I was in them. Me - Steve Martin. Prematurely white hair and all."
"I've written these...well they're trifles, really. I wrote them while sitting upon the toilet. Shitting, as it were. They're hilarious. The very fact of your not laughing proves you're an imbecile."
"That last bit? With the words writing the words? That's a metaliterary concept I adapted from Michel Foucault, who was jealous of my brilliance, and laughed always at my quips."
"I won't talk about standup comedy. I deconstructed it, rebuilt it, and ruined it for everyone else. Now all you have are my high- and lowbrows, what with the New Yorker bits, and the Pink Panther reboots.
"Could you get me another gin fizz? I'm Steve Martin, and I'm not quite inebriated. I like to be inebriated when I mix with the rabble."
"Do you have any young women I could deflower? I'm Steve Martin, and I don't date ladies over the age of 18 years, six months, and a week or so. I like to have my way with them in unspeakable ways, and have them thank me. 'Thank you, Steve Martin, and your lush coiffe of no-longer-prematurely-white hair.'"
"Yes, I am quite wealthy, thanks for asking. But that won't prevent me from making Pink Panther 3 - that's the one where I'll exhume Peter Sellers' corpse and eat it on film. They've offered me $20 million. I'm holding out for more. But I've written these - they're not comic manifestos, per se, but they will redefine the humorous arts for generations to come."