Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Martin worked at the Bird Cage Theater in Knott's Berry Farm and at the Magic Shop at Disneyland as a teenager, where he developed his talents for magic, juggling, playing the banjo and creating balloon animals.
- "It changed what I believe and what I think about everything. I majored in philosophy. Something about non sequiturs appealed to me. In philosophy, I started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, "Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!" Then it gets real easy to write this stuff, because all you have to do is twist everything hard — you twist the punch line, you twist the non sequitur so hard away from the things that set I up, that it's easy... and it's thrilling."
A girlfriend helped him get his first real job in 1967, as a comedy writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the show she was on as a dancer. Martin, along with the other writers for that show, won an Emmy Award in 1969. Martin also wrote for John Denver (a neighbor of his in Aspen, Colorado at one point) and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
He then started performing his own material, sometimes as an opening act for groups such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Carpenters. He then began writing for such variety shows as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. He also appeared on these shows, and numerous others, in numerous comedy skits.
Becoming a household name
In the mid-1970s he made frequent appearances as a stand-up comedian on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. That exposure, together with appearances on NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL), led to his first of four comedy albums, Let's Get Small. The album was a huge success; one of its tracks, Excuse Me, helped establish a national catch phrase.
His next album, A Wild and Crazy Guy , was an even bigger success reaching the number two spot on the chart, and spawning another catch phrase, this time based on an SNL skit where Martin and Dan Aykroyd played a couple of bumbling Czechoslovakian playboys. A top 40 hit King Tut, from the album, released in 1978, was backed by the Toot Uncommons (better known as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). Both were million sellers.
Both albums won Grammys for Best Comedy Recording in 1977 and 1978.
In these and his two other albums, Martin's stand-up comedy was self-referential, sometimes self-mocking. It mixes philosophical riffs with sudden spurts of "happy feet", deft banjo playing with balloon depictions of concepts like venereal disease. His style is off kilter and ironic, and sometimes makes fun of stand-up comedy traditions. A typical gag might be interrupted for a sip from a glass of water, and just as he was about to speak again, he forcefully spits the water onto the floor.
By the end of the 1970s, he had acquired the kind of following normally reserved for rock stars, with his tour appearances typically occurring at sold-out arenas filled with tens of thousands of screaming fans. But unknown to his audience, stand-up comedy was "just an accident" for him. His real goal was to get into film.
Martin's first film was a short, The Absent-Minded Waiter (1977). The seven-minute long film, also featuring Buck Henry and Teri Garr, was written by and starred Martin. The film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Film, Live Action.
In 1979, Martin wrote and starred in his first full-length movie, The Jerk, directed by Carl Reiner. The movie was a huge success, grossing $100 million on a budget less than a twentieth of that amount.
The success of The Jerk opened more doors for him. Stanley Kubrick met with him to discuss him starring in an early, screwball comedy version of Traumnovelle (Kubrick later changed his approach to the material). He was executive producer for a prime-time TV series starring Martin Mull and a late-night series called Twilight Theater. It emboldened him to try his hand at his first serious film, Pennies From Heaven, a movie he was anxious to do because of the desire to avoid being typecast. To prepare for that film, he took acting lessons from the director, Herbert Ross, and spent months learning how to tap dance. The film was a financial failure; Martin's comment at the time was "I don't know what to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy."
In 1986, Martin joined fellow Saturday Night Live veterans Martin Short and Chevy Chase in ¡Three Amigos!, which was directed by John Landis, and written by Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman. It was originally entitled The Three Caballeros and Martin was to be teamed with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
In 1987, Martin joined comedian John Candy in the John Hughes film, Planes, Trains & Automobiles. That same year, Roxanne, a film he cowrote, won him a Writers Guild of America award and more importantly, the recognition from Hollywood and the public that he was more than a comedian.
Throughout the 90s, after Tina Brown took over The New Yorker, Martin wrote various pieces for the magazine. They later appeared in the collection Pure Drivel .
Martin is also an avid art collector, particularly modern American art, and a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Martin's personal collection has at one time included the art of O'Keeffe, Twachtman, Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Kline, Twombly, Frankenthaler, Hopper, Hockney, Lichtenstein, and Picasso.
On February 8, 2005 The Huntington Library in San Marino, California announced that Martin had pledged $1 million over five years for the museum's American art collection.  Three-quarters of the gift will be used for exhibitions, and the remaining $250,000 will go toward acquisitions. Before he made his pledge, Martin loaned paintings to the museum, helped it acquire a sculpture by John Gregory , and sponsored an exhibition of "sugar paintings" by 19th century American artist Eastman Johnson. Jessica Todd Smith , the museum's American art curator, said Martin became an "enthusiastic" supporter of The Huntington after he visited the museum in 2002 while filming a movie nearby. 
Associations and memberships
Martin is a member of Mensa International.
- Cruel Shoes (1979)
- Pure Drivel (1998)
- Shopgirl (2001)
- The Pleasure of My Company (2003)
- Let's Get Small (1977)
- A Wild and Crazy Guy , (1978)
- Comedy is Not Pretty! (1979)
- The Steve Martin Brothers (1981)
- The Absent-Minded Waiter (1977) (short subject) (also writer)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
- The Muppet Movie (1979) (Cameo)
- The Kids Are Alright (1979) (documentary)
- The Jerk (1979) (also writer)
- Pennies from Heaven (1981)
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) (also writer)
- The Man with Two Brains (1983) (also writer)
- The Lonely Guy (1984)
- All of Me (1984)
- Movers & Shakers (1985)
- Three Amigos! (1986) (also executive producer and writer)
- Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
- Roxanne (1987) (also executive producer and writer)
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
- Parenthood (1989)
- My Blue Heaven (1990)
- L.A. Story (1991) (also executive producer and writer)
- Father of the Bride (1991)
- Grand Canyon (1991)
- HouseSitter (1992)
- Leap of Faith (1992)
- A Simple Twist of Fate (1994) (also executive producer and writer)
- Mixed Nuts (1994)
- Father of the Bride Part II (1995)
- Sgt. Bilko (1996)
- The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
- The Prince of Egypt (1998) (voice)
- The Out-of-Towners (1999)
- Bowfinger (1999) (also writer)
- The Venice Project (1999) (Cameo)
- Fantasia/2000 (1999)
- Thin Ice (2000)
- Joe Gould's Secret (2000)
- Novocaine (2001)
- Bringing Down the House (2003)
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
- Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
- Jiminy Glick in La La Wood (2004) (Cameo)
- Shopgirl (2005) (also producer and writer)
- The Pink Panther (2005) (currently in pre-production)
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