Growing up and well into my teens years, I became familiar with Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live and his movie career throughout the 1980s with such hits as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "The Jerk."
I knew he was a funny actor but had no idea how accomplished he was and how funny and unpredictable his comedy back in the day was. So after watching Shout Factory's 3-DVD set "Steve Martin: The Television Stuff" I can to the only logical conclusion -- Steve Martin is by far the most underrated comedian of his generation.
Did you know that Martin is an Emmy Winner (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour), a four-time Grammy winner, twice for a comedy album and twice for his banjo pickin' skills? I sure didn't. All I knew was he was the guy with an arrow through his head and from the sounds of it, he was one "wild and crazy guy." Truth be told, Martin is an amazing performer and this new set lets everyone know loud and clear.
The set kicks off with "On Location with Steve Martin," an hour-long stand up routine taped at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. That is followed by two sketch comedy specials titled "Steve Martin A Wild and Crazy Guy" and "Steve Martin: Comedy is Not Pretty."
While the two sketch specials are funny, the stand-up routine at he Troubadour had me rolling. Originally aired on HBO in 1976, it's Martin's unpredictability that steals the show. What is so amazing is the sense that even Martin doesn't know what he's going to do next. There's banjo playing, some magic and tons of hilarity.
The second disc is once again filled with sketch comedy TV specials "All Commercials" and "Steve Martin's Best Show Ever." The latter is filled with well-known guest stars such as Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gregory Hines, Bill Murray, Lauren Hutton and Monty Python's Eric Idle.
The disc concludes with "Homage to Steve," which contains the Oscar-nominated short "The Absent-Minded Waiter," "Comedians Segment" and "Concert Segment," which features moments from his performance at the Universal Amphitheater in 1979. The "Concert Segment" has lot of the same material as "On Location" but it's more polished and lacks the spontaneity of the first routine.
The set closes with "Bits and Pieces" and what you get is -- well, bits and pieces of routines, appearances and speeches that span Martin's career. In most cases this would be a throwaway disc, but with bits like "The Great Flydini," his 1974 stand-up routine on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and an appearance by Jean-Pierre Louey, it's a straight up keeper.
The set also has "Steve's Comments," a revealing interview that is cut into segments and placed throughout the three discs. It's amazing to see the striking difference between Martin's manic and unpredictable on stage persona and his mild, soft-spoken demeanor during the interview
Final Cut: If you count yourself as a Steve Martin fan, you need to own "Steve Martin: The Television Stuff" plain and simple. Martin is a performer who needs to be seen to be appreciated.
4.5 out of 5 Stars