There are few people who can list stand up comedian, The Dating Game contestant, Emmy winner, opening act to Toto, high school cheerleader, SNL alum, Disneyland employee, art collector, TV & film star, philosophy major, New Yorker contributor, banjo player, playwright, and Grammy winner as past accomplishments. Steve Martin is the one man that can.

The son of an Orange County, CA realtor, Steve grew up without much guidance. After landing a job selling guide books at Disneyland, he transitioned to selling magic tricks and gained his first taste of performance from demonstrating the wares to easily distracted children. He soon grew jaded towards the service industry, but it was enough to encourage him to move to nearby Knott’s Berry Farm and perform in a “serious” play four times a day and develop his performance chops.

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A young Steve during his time at Disneyland.

It is here where he fell in love with a woman who encouraged him to pursue a life of intellectualism. He quickly enrolled at Long Beach State and studied existentialism and advanced logic. While in the midst of his studies, Steve came to the ultimate conclusion that nothing had meaning. It was a thought that was freeing for him and planted the seed for the absurdist and self-aware comedy he would come to be known for. He transferred to the theatre department. He developed a fictional world called Bananaland where “all the chairs are green and no chairs are green.” At one university show he led the audience of 300 people to a nearby McDonalds, only to order one french fry. He wrote and starred in The Jerk, a movie where he plays the son of African-American sharecroppers and is somehow unaware that he is adopted. He told jokes like: "I'm depressed! I'm thinking about my old girlfriend, that's what it is. We were together for three years, we went every place together and — I shouldn't even talk about this, but … well, she's not living anymore, and… … and I guess I blame myself for her death. We were at a party one night, and we were arguing. And she started drinking quite heavily. Finally we had this big screaming argument, and she went out to the car; and she asked me to drive her home, and I refused. I didn't realize how much she'd been drinking. She asked me again, she said, 'Please drive me home!' I didn't want to … so I shot her."

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Jim Belushi, Bill Murray, Steve Martin.

You might think that a man like this, coming up in the comedy scene in the 70s alongside people like Jim Belushi, frequented nightclubs and partook in the seedier sides of the city. But, alas, Steve doesn’t do drugs, drink, smoke, or even eat meat. Instead of crack, smack, or dope, he picked up… collecting art. Over time he developed a particular taste for Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. He has since gone on to purchase works by him and curate a show in an attempt to lift Harris beyond the label of regionalist painter and into the company of other internationally celebrated Modernist painters.

Pink Suit Steve Martin - Adsum

Steve has remained relatively quiet recently, having been a few decades away from the days of selling out stadiums and appearing regularly on the silver screen. If you have heard his name recently, it was most likely attached to the Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band from North Carolina that he often collaborates with. Not just a famous face, Steve demonstrates some real banjo chops—enough to be awarded the Grammy for best Bluegrass album in 2012. Given all his accomplishments and his age, it was safe to assume that Steve might ride this banjo thing out. Understandable, but disappointing to fans of his comedy. However, a few weeks ago, fans were gifted the announcement that he will be releasing a comedy special with longtime friend Martin short this summer called An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. Hopefully, this isn’t the last surprise we get from Steve. Judging by his track record, it’s probably not.

Some career highlights:

  1. King Tut - Saturday Night Live — A joke song that went gold in the US, reaching number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  2. The Jerk - What’s a matter with these cans? — Pure Steve. A dumb joke that he fully commits to.
  3. NPR Tiny Desk Performance — Watch the first minute to see that the banjo isn’t just a one off thing for this guy.