In one of the most famous Saturday Night Live sketches to air, Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd sashay into a room as two culturally inept Czechoslavakian brothers, obnoxiously approaching women while donning clashing patterned outfits, spouting their catchphrase, “We are two wild and crazy guys!” In reality, Steve Martin is a reserved, introverted man who tries to live his life away from the bright lights — but the absurd persona on display in Steve Martin movies and TV shows is always a joy to watch.
An avid art collector and recipient of many awards, the 78-year-old comedian, actor, writer, producer and musician has won five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy and was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2013. His stand-up comedy albums, SNL appearances and movies have led him to have a long and successful career, and he continues to make us crack up in roles in some of our favorite movies and TV shows to date.
Steve Martin got his start at Disneyland
Raised in Southern California, Martin’s first job was at the age 10 selling guidebooks on weekends at Disneyland. Between school and work, Martin frequented the Main Street Magic Shop and by 1960, he had mastered several magic tricks and illusions that garnered him a paying job in Fantasyland. Martin went on to attend California State University in Long Beach and later transferred to UCLA, switching his philosophy major to theater.
The funny guy makes a name for himself
Martin came to recognition as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which he won a Emmy Award in 1969, when he was just 23. Throughout the 1970s, Martin took his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines into sold-out theaters on national tours (One of his most beloved bits being the classic “arrow in the head” routine). But in 1981, Martin abruptly quit stand-up comedy. He had considered his stand-up career as “just an accident,” because his real goal was to get into movies. Luckily for the huge fan base he had built, he became a movie star with serious staying power.
Martin got so successful by being genuinely multitalented (who else can be as funny as him and play the banjo?) and genuinely hardworking. He’s shared his workaholic ways with AARP, saying “I always divide the world up into people like Picasso or Oscar Wilde, who seemed to have been born with their gifts, and the rest of us who work at what we do. For me, it wasn’t a gift. It was working.” His hard work definitely paid off!
A jack of all trades
In addition to acting and comedy, Martin is actually an accomplished musician. He started playing the banjo at the age of 17 and since then, has put the skill to use in countless ways. In 2009, Martin released his first all-music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5 String Banjo, with Dolly Parton as a guest artist. The album went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. His banjo playing has even been featured in places you probably would never realize, like Kelly Clarkson’s song, “I Hate Love” and Earl Scruggs’ remake of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
Steve Martin movies and TV shows
Between movies, comedy albums, stand-up and writing, Martin has led a busy life with many creative outlets. He’s a true renaissance man, and he’s been been a source of comedy gold for over 40 years. Here’s a look at just some of our favorite Steve Martin movies and TV shows.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1968)
Bet you’re not used to seeing Steve with dark hair! The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour gave Martin his first television appearance. Many more appearances on comedy shows would follow.
The Jerk (1979)
The Jerk was Martin’s first starring role in a feature, and it remains one of his most popular films. The broad comedy, which Martin also co-wrote featured many memorable gags, and introduced Martin to Bernadette Peters, who would go on to date for four years. The movie was directed by famed comedy filmmaker Carl Reiner, who worked with Martin multiple times, in other comedy classics like Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man With Two Brains (1983) and All of Me (1984),
Pennies from Heaven (1981)
Martin shared the screen with Peters again in this stylized 1981 musical. Martin was anxious to try out his first serious film and avoid being typecast, but the film faltered at the box office.
The Man With Two Brains (1983)
This science fiction comedy stars Martin as neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr. And yes, Steve Martin playing a brain surgeon with that name is just as absurd as it sounds!
Three Amigos (1986)
This 1986 comedy brought together Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase as three down-on-their-luck cowboy movie stars who take on the gig of a lifetime. Now that’s a truly excellent comedy trio!
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Martin played the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, who liked a little giggle gas before his procedures, in this cult-favorite musical adaptation.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Steve Martin starred alongside John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, a movie about two very different men trying to get home for Thanksgiving. Written and directed by ’80s icon John Hughes, the movie soon became a holiday classic.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
This 1988 classic starred Steve Martin and the great British actor Michael Caine as two conmen on the French Riviera. The comic interplay between the two stars is truly delightful.
Steve Martin starred with some of Hollywood’s biggest names in Parenthood. The cast included Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen and Dianne Wiest.
Father of the Bride (1991)
In this remake of the 1950 film, Steve Martin plays the overprotective father of a soon-to-be-bride. Martin’s wife was played by Diane Keaton, and his frequent co-star Martin Short had a hilarious turn as a pretentious wedding planner. The movie was so popular, a sequel came out in 1995.
Sgt. Bilko (1996)
This military comedy put Steve Martin back alongside Dan Aykroyd. Another SNL alum, the late, great Phil Hartman, also starred.
The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
In this neo-noir suspense film from famed playwright David Mamet, Martin played a darker role as a wealthy stranger. The intense plot will definitely keep you guessing!
The Out-of-Towners (1999)
This 1999 comedy, a remake of a 1970 movie written by Neil Simon, cast Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin as a married couple who escape to New York together, only to be met by a series of unfortunate events — turning it into the trip of a lifetime.
(See these incredible retro photos of Goldie Hawn!)
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
This remake of a 1950 comedy starred Martin as the patriarch of a family with 12 children, showcasing their hectic hijinks of this large bunch.
The Pink Panther (2006)
Only Steve Martin could be fit to take on a role created by a comedy legend like Peter Sellers. In the The Pink Panther remake he played the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, the character Sellers originated in the ’60s.
Only Murders in the Building (2021)
When Steve Martin and Martin Short share the screen, laughs are guaranteed. This Hulu series pairs the beloved comedy duo with Selena Gomez, for a series that’s an irresistible blend of intergenerational comedy and quirky murder mystery. The show has won three Emmy Awards, thanks in large part to the charismatic cast.
Steve Martin has been one of our favorite comedy stars since the ’70s, and decades later, he still gets major laughs, with a wholly unique comic sensibility that speaks to many generations of devoted fans.
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