What to see, read and listen to in September
HO-HO STEVE MARTIN
• Standup: The white suits, the cheap props—on paper, Martin’s early stage shows wouldn’t look like much. What made them work was his gangly swagger and maniacal charm. The only comedian ever, perhaps, to generate laughs with a fake arrow through the head.
• Skits: Anyone who saw Martin’s “Billie Jean” parody will recall him stamping on malfunctioning paving stones, trying to get them to light up. His “Wild and Crazy Guy” persona, meanwhile, set the stage for the cringe comedy of today.
• One-Liners: “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders,” Martin once said. “I hate necks.” In a New Yorker piece on how to operate a sledgehammer, he wrote, “Many people are surprised to find out that the sledgehammer has only one moving part: it.”
SO-SO STEVE MARTIN
• Books: When he started writing fiction, Martin suppressed his mirth. The New York Times described his 2000 novella Shopgirl, about a lonely shop assistant, as “desolatingly sad.” Most quoted line: “It’s pain that changes our lives.”
• Films: Martin has made some hilarious movies— and a few un-hilarious ones. At times, this has been by design (The Spanish Prisoner), but the most depressing examples are the so-called comedies that came up short (The Pink Panther).
• Stage: Perhaps the low point of Martin’s comedic career came in late 2010, when an onstage conversation with a New York journalist was deemed so boring that the venue actually offered refunds. SEPT. 18
“A MOMENT LATER, [PHIL] VILLAPIANO PULLED HIS HELMET BACK ON. THERE, BETTER. KNOCKING HIS FOREHEAD AGAINST THE WALL HAD MADE HIS HEAD SWELL A LITTLE. NOW THE HELMET FIT.” —From The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless ’70s, by award-winning sportswriter Kevin Cook. SEPT. 3