Steve Martin

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Steve Martin : biography

August 14, 1945 –

Comedy

After high school graduation, Martin attended Santa Ana Junior College, taking classes in drama and English poetry. In his free time, he teamed up with friend and Garden Grove High School classmate Kathy Westmoreland to participate in comedies and other productions at the Bird Cage Theatre. He joined a comedy troupe at Knott’s Berry Farm. Later, he met budding actress Stormie Sherk, and they developed comedy routines and became romantically involved. Sherk’s influence caused Martin to apply to the California State University, Long Beach, for enrollment with a major in Philosophy. Stormie enrolled at UCLA, about an hour’s drive north, and the distance eventually caused them to lead separate lives.Martin (2007) p 65

Inspired by his philosophy classes, Martin considered becoming a professor instead of an actor-comedian. His time at college 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".Fong-Torres, Ben (1982) "Steve Martin Sings: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone February 18, 1982. Issue 363 Martin recalls wondering in a psychology class "What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation.". Retrieved August 14, 2010 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."

In 1967, Martin transferred to UCLA and switched his major to theater. While attending college, he appeared in an episode of The Dating Game. Martin began working local clubs at night, to mixed notices, and at twenty-one he dropped out of college.

Career

Early career – stand-up

In 1967, his former girlfriend Nina Goldblatt, a dancer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, helped Martin land a writing job with the show by submitting his work to head writer Mason Williams.Martin, (2007) p. 76 Williams initially paid Martin out of his own pocket. Along with the other writers for the show, Martin won an Emmy Award in 1969, aged 23. He also wrote for John Denver (a neighbor of his in Aspen, Colorado, at one point), The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Martin’s first TV appearance was on The Steve Allen Show in 1969. He says: "[I] appeared on The Virginia Graham Show, circa 1970. I looked grotesque. I had a hairdo like a helmet, which I blow-dried to a puffy bouffant, for reasons I no longer understand. I wore a frock coat and a silk shirt, and my delivery was mannered, slow and self-aware. I had absolutely no authority. After reviewing the show, I was depressed for a week." During these years his roommates included comedian Gary Mule Deer and singer/guitarist Michael Johnson.Martin, (2007) p. 77 Martin opened for groups such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Carpenters, and Toto. 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.