Synopsis: Steve Martin remains one of the most beloved and creatively prolific talents in American comedy, but until now his body of work on television has been largely unavailable on DVD. That all changes here. From the stand-up act that made him a comedy rock star (of which only two complete performances were ever recorded, both included in this set) to his four joyfully twisted NBC sketch comedy specials, his Oscar®-nominated short film and a jewel box of additional comic bits, The Television Stuff finally delivers one of the most unique and treasured eras in Steve Martin’s celebrated career.
Spanning 1966–2005, a collection of television guest appearances, speeches and music videos. Featuring special guest appearances by Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Lauren Hutton, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Lynn Redgrave, Paul Simon, David Letterman, Carl Reiner, Eric Idle and Johnny Cash.
Steve Martin: Bits and Pieces 7.0
eyelights: the diversity of its clips.
eyesores: the relative thinness of the collection.
‘Bits and Bites’ is a 70-minute collection of select television appearances that Steve Martin did through the years. Released in 2012, as an exclusive part of ‘The Television Stuff’ 3DVD boxed set, it covers his first spot on the children’s show ‘Dusty’s Attic’ in 1966 all the way to an acceptance speech he did in 2005.
1. Steve’s Lifetime Achievement Acceptance Speech (2000): This 2-minute speech at ‘The American Comedy Awards’ finds Martin poking fun at acceptance speeches, its conventions, himself and the industry. It gets a bit repetitive at the end, but it’s still funny. 8.0
2. Steve Plays the Banjo (1966): This is Martin’s very first TV appearance. Since it’s on ‘Dusty’s Attic’, some low budget black and white kids’ show, it’s nothing to write home about: he’s dressed like a hick and exchanges lame one-liners with the other cast members before playing a banjo number. 5.0
3. Music Video: “What I Believe” (1981): Taken from ‘The Steve Martin Brothers Album’, this is basically a spoken word piece with Martin (dressed in a tux and with a huge American flag as a backdrop) listing the many things he believes in to sweeping strings – with inserts of what he’s describing to pepper the video. It’s called a “music video” because it’s from his album, but really, it’s just talk. And it’s quite funny. 8.0
4. Music Video: “Freddie’s Lilt” (1981): Also taken from ‘The Steve Martin Brothers Album’, this is an actual music piece featuring banjo, flute, guitar and violin. The video is also more elaborate than “What I believe”, being a goofy piece set in a mock western setting. 7.5 (but not for the music. eek.)
5. Las Vegas Act Parody (1974): This is a very brief routine that Martin did on ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’ on September 19, 1974, spoofing Vegas acts. Carson says it’s the best six minutes of comedy he’s seen in a long time, but we didn’t even get to see the whole thing – we only got half a minute. Urgh. 7.0
6. Jean-Pierre Louey: The French Johnny Cash (1978): I really didn’t get this one, taken from ‘The Johnny Cash Christmas Special’, which finds Martin pretending to be France’s greatest country singer, dressed like a slick and doing no country at all. Maybe it was meant to be ironic. Meh. 6.0
7. Steve Martin’s Holiday Wishes (1986): This short skit performed on ‘Saturday Night Live’ on December 16, 1986, finds Martin seated in a comfy chair in front of a Christmas tree, making a nice wish followed by a bunch of selfish ones, which gets a bit more amusing as he reorganizes said list. 7.0
8. Ode to a Loved One (1989): Taken from the March 20, 1989, episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’, this is a hilarious list of things that Martin loves about his beloved and that he needs her for – like, erm, picking lice out of his hair. 8.0
9. Steve’s Penis Beauty Creme (1994): Also from ‘SNL’ (this time from the September 24, 1994 episode) I think that it’s self-explanatory. 7.5
10. Steve’s Tribute to Gene Kelly (1985): At the ‘AFI Lifetime Achievement: A Tribute to Gene Kelly’, Martin took the floor for three minutes, recounted an amusing anecdote about having influenced the iconic scene in ‘Singing in the Rain’. I’m not sure why Martin paid tribute to Kelly. Well, why look a gift horse in the mouth? 8.0
11. Best Actor in a Comedy Acceptance Speech (1992): This a pre-recorded video made for the ‘People’s Choice Awards’. It’s not great, the best bit being when he awkwardly tries to fit his award on the narrow shelf. 6.5
12. The Great Flydini (1992): Martin was asked to perform his Flydini routine on ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’ on May 6, 1992 for one of legendary late night host’s final shows. Here Martin does a series of magic tricks (eggs, ribbons, smoking) from the zipper opening in his pants – without his hands. It’s really silly, and it left me wondering how he got all those tricks to work remotely like that. 8.0
13. Steve’s Paul Simon Tribute (2002): At ‘The Kennedy Center Honors’ did a few tepid jokes at Paul Simon’s expense and took shots at George W. Bush, who was in attendance. Simon looked old and sickly here. So weird. 7.5
14. The Making of the Steve Martin Appearance (1995): A “behind the scenes” look at the making of his appearance on ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’ on December 1, 1995. It’s ridiculous, with tons of preparation, rehearsal of the laughs, …etc. I loved that they argue over the way he grabs his drinking cup on Letterman’s desk. Not bad, if a bit long. 7.75
15. Dave and Steve’s Gay Vacation (1998): Also from ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’, but this time from his October 2, 1998 episode. It finds the pair on a resort vacation together. It’s silly, but not particularly inspired. 6.5
16. Steve’s Acceptance Speech (2005): Receiving the ‘Mark Twain Prize For American Humor’, Martin skewers the types of thank yous people do at these events. Not bad. 7.5
The “bits and bites” on this 72-minute set are not presented chronologically, are sometimes inexplicably edited down, and the DVD doesn’t even include all of Martin’s appearances, which would be innumerable (for example, he’s been on ‘Saturday Night Live’ well over 20 times, but only three skits are offered here).
But it’s as complete as it gets for now. Fans should definitely take a look, because this is as good a Steve Martin collection as there currently is. Plus which, as he did on the home video specials included in ‘The Television Stuff’, Martin comments on most of the clips included here. It’s not in-depth, but it can be insightful.
Between that and the laughs, it’s certainly worth it.
Dates of viewings: June 24+26, 2015