Steve Martin – Preparation

The Hollywood Reporter’s profile on Steve Martin:

In person, Martin appears tailored for five-star hotels. If he got the memo about suits not surviving the pandemic, he’s chosen to ignore it. He’s arrived early, in a crisp navy blue number, and offers a salutatory fist-bump, explaining that he’d been trying to liberate himself from handshakes for years. Taking a seat in a leather armchair and swinging his left leg across the right, he is sedate compared to the frenetic banana he’s been on so many stages and countless screens. But he isn’t stingy with punchlines, either. Martin seems keenly aware of what’s expected of him.

“One time Steve was visiting at Saturday Night Live, and I had seen him do [David] Letterman the night before,” says Tina Fey, who has forged a friendship with him over many projects — most recently as his true-crime podcasting foil on Only Murders. “I said, ‘You were so funny on Letterman last night.’ And he very matter-of-factly said, ‘Well, you have to kill every time.’ It was chilling to me, but it’s true. Comedy people can’t go on talk shows and blather like actors. We’re supposed to deliver. Steve always delivers.”

Delivering does not just happen, even for Martin. “He phoned me up once and said, ‘Do you have a minute to hear some jokes? I’m doing Jimmy Kimmel in two months,’ ” says Short. ” ‘And you’re already working on it?!‘ That’s why he’s Steve Martin. That’s why he’s still Steve Martin.” (Michaels, too, has gotten those calls and is quick to clarify: “Most people I know prepare on the drive to the show.”)

Martin takes an almost scientific approach to developing his material. The blueprint for this can be found in Born Standing Up, the 2007 memoir of his stand-up years — “I don’t know a comic who hasn’t read that book,” says Amy Schumer. “He’s in the comedy DNA of me and everyone I know” — in which he recounts the often surrealist routine he honed over the course of the 1970s.