10 Funny Facts About Steve Martin
Would you believe your favorite wild and crazy guy—who is, by all accounts, neither wild nor crazy—is turning 71 years old today? In honor of the momentous occasion, check out a few facts about the comedian/actor/writer/musician/magician/art enthusiast. (Seriously, is there anything this guy doesn't do?)
1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.
As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.
2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.
Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.
3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.
Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.
4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.
While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game.
Spoiler alert: He wins.
5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the ‘70s and ‘80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't.
6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.
After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”
7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.
If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.
8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.
Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”
9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.
As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.
10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.
Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. They make delightful videos: