Comedy legend and banjo-playin’ badass Steve Martin doesn’t show up in the news as often as he should. Hence I am more than happy to report that the 70-year-old comedian went onto The Tonight Show on Monday to promote his and Edie Brickell’s new Broadway musical, Bright Star, and he did so with a show tune called, “I Don’t Want to Do This Show.”
The title says it all. After host Jimmy Fallon introduced Martin to the studio audience, the curtains opened to reveal nothing. Martin was nowhere to be found. Instead, per a prerecorded chunk of the three-minute song, Martin sulked in his dressing room while singing about the fact that he didn’t want to appear on The Tonight Show. He whined about using up all his material in his 40s, lied about being 52 years old, and worried that the show host might ask him about “that early affair with a man.”
Martin eventually made it out onto the stage for the final minute of the song, for which Fallon joined him and inexplicably showed him a picture of his wife and kid. And you know what? Fallon aside, it’s all classic Steve Martin. The same kind of awkward, self-deprecating comedy that characterized his stand-up 35 years ago, and still pops up in his musical performances with the Steep Canyon Rangers and one-off appearances on television.
Watching the man who brought us “King Tut” sing anything is a joy, but witnessing him do stand-up or listening to him talk about doing stand-up? Pure bliss. So, when he actually discussed opening for Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon Theatre with Fallon, not a damn soul in the studio said a word. In fact, I’m fairly certain no one in the audience was breathing.
“I did a little sample of stand-up with Jerry… Seinfeld? I think that’s how it’s pronounced… I actually do enjoy doing stand-up, especially now. Life is so busy and it’s so hectic, and with stand-up I can just go out and relax and enjoy the silence.”
For much of the conversation, Martin characteristically tried to deflect attention from the fact that he’d performed his first stage routine in 35 years with self-deprecating jokes. That being said, Fallon managed to coax him into saying a little more about the subject, especially when he told stories about seeing Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison perform live.
Martin doesn’t talk about his time as a stand-up comedian all that often. As he put it in his 2007 memoir, Born Standing Up, “My act was conceptual. Once the concept was stated, and everybody understood it, it was done.” He doesn’t really do stand-up anymore, and he prefers not to talk about it all that much. So, when Martin (a) performed for Seinfeld’s audience in February and (b) talked about it on The Tonight Show, everyone was listening.