by Cristy Meiners, producer
Where do I start with Steve Martin? For one thing, he might have the most descriptions/titles before his name of any guest that we’ve had on the show: actor, comedian, writer (essayist, novelist, memoirist), screenwriter, playwright, song writer, banjo master, producer, art expert… and I’m sure I’m missing a few others. In preparation for this interview, I read his excellent autobiography Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, which was so good that I actually missed a metro stop one morning because I was so engrossed in Martin’s writing. I can’t think of many other memoirs that explain the ups and downs of fame from an insider’s perspective— and by someone who understands better than anyone all of the complexities of that strange phenomenon. Steve Martin won millions of people over with his stand-up routines in the ’70s, then he went on to win over millions more as Navin Johnson in The Jerk, as Lucky Day in Three Amigos, as C.D. Bales in Roxanne, as Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels… again, I could go on. And if you’re not into Martin’s films? No problem. Just pick up on of his works of fiction, such as Shopgirl (2000) or An Object of Beauty (2010). But today, you’ll hear Martin talk with Bob not about his career as a comedian or writer, but about his most enduring passion and seemingly greatest love (apart from people and such). Steve Martin is a musician, and, perhaps surprisingly, a musician of great talent. Although he incorporated his banjo into his stand-up act for years, he always took the instrument seriously, so much so, that his first banjo album, The Crow, won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album of the year last year. This month, Martin just released Rare Bird Alert, 13 original songs, which he plays with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a wonderful bluegrass group in their own right. The Dixie Chicks and SIR Paul McCartney also make guest appearance on the album, as does Martin’s most famous hit single, straight from ancient Egypt, King Tut.
Here’s Steve playing Joe’s Pub in New York City the night after we interviewed him:
Steve Martin singing his original King Tut in 1979: