Before he became one of America's top comic actors, Steve Martin was one of the biggest phenoms stand-up has ever seen. During the 1970s, the prematurely grey comedian and longtime television writer scored million-selling records, sold out arenas, and hosted numerous network specials. In 1978, Martin even scored a hit record, cracking the Billboard top 20 with "King Tut," his novelty ode to the mummy fad sweeping the nation. While he played up his zany arrow-through-the-head persona, his wider appeal rested on a subtle, yet ever-present intellectualism. Martin studied philosophy in college, and an existential sense of the absurd ran through his oddball observations. In the `80s, the original wild and crazy guy officially announced his permanent retirement from stand-up.
DISC 1 for Let's Get Small (CD) Album
By Steve Martin
1 Ramblin Man / Theme From Ramblin' Man (LP Version)
Martin's got the audience in the palm of his hand on this mid-'70s recording of a show at The Boarding House in San Francisco. The comedian and his crowd are on the same wavelength; everyone in the room seems to share a California post-hippie sense of absurdism. Occasionally punctuated by banjo playing, Martin's almost cocky performance somehow manages to ramble with a sense of purpose. He certainly doesn't have to worry about losing the crowd; every tossed-off remark and gesture is readily gobbled up. Some of Martin's material verges on the surreal, and not surprisingly, drug references abound. One subtext of the album is the tension between conventional show biz and the hipper brand of comedy that Martin saw himself as embodying. But the comic doesn't really play favorites: both alternative and mainstream culture are targets for his funny jabs. --Fred Cisterna
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