Steve Martin has been popping up a lot in my life in the last few weeks. For Christmas I got his memoir about stand-up comedy, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. It was good! Here's what I wrote on Goodreads (where I am trying to review the books I read so I can hone my opinion-having skills).
I liked this, but it went by too quickly (it's 207 pages with largish type and lots of white space). Steve Martin says that writing about his stand-up...mI liked this, but it went by too quickly (it's 207 pages with largish type and lots of white space). Steve Martin says that writing about his stand-up years is like writing a biography of someone else--that's how completely he stepped away from and closed off that part of his life when he quit stand-up comedy. This is a lot about his philosophy of comedy, his interest in magic, plus somewhat interesting assessments of his motivations and of showbiz in general. He seems truly uncomfortable with his then level of fame, perhaps only recently dealing with his famousness well. Where there are glimpses of his routines they seem pretty funny; from one: "I've learned in comedy never to alienate the audience. Otherwise, I would be like Dimitri in La Condition Humaine...."Then I watched most of The Jerk on instant Netflix (a movie I have seen many times before), which is SO funny. Also my family watched a Season 3 Muppet Show hosted by Steve, but I fell asleep at 7:30 that night and missed it. Also I've been catching up on 30 Rock (Netflix is MAGIC!) and last night was the "Gavin Volure" episode guest-starring... OMG Steve Martin!
One more Steve Martin thing that has given me pause for thought is the recent "conversation" he had at the 92nd street Y in New York, for which the Y offered refunds to audience members because Martin's talk was too boring. Apparently he'd written a book about art and was proceeding to talk about art, but it was also a live feed and viewers were sending in negative comments while the conversation was taking place. (I like to think they were like "why doesn't he have an arrow threw his head LOLz>!") I have been thinking about this because it's yet another example of my belief that the world of quality, edited content is ending. Because I am a writer I refer to this phenomenon as "the apocalypse." When anybody can comment on anything (just about), and often does, we get the content we want from the author, but also have to endure the unsolicited opinions of random Vinnie Boombatz commenters.
I was going to rant next about how many comments are just stupid or degrading, and they demean me when I read them, and they bring down the whole piece, whatever it is, by their existence. For example, on Thursday I read a nymag.com thing about Helen Hunt called "Helen Hunt on How Age and Parenting Have Transformed Her Career." It's an interview where she somewhat thoughtfully considers her career, her directing, death, birth. Then the first comment was two words: "What career?" I guess the commenter is either being catty, funny or a total troll, but jeez.
I was also going to write about Emily Gould and Tracy Gaughran-Perez, who I think are fantastic writers and who I also think have endured unnecessary slagging in the form of dumb comments. I worry that mean comments about Emily Gould have had a chilling effect on what Emily Gould is willing to write, and that's a shame. (Her famous Exposed cover story in the NYT Magazine currently has 1216 comments.) What kind of wonderfulness would we be reading from her if she hadn't had to deal with and process everybody's opinions about her? (She said on her blog she has turned off Google alerts about herself, but just in case: I love you Emily!) As for Tracy Gaughran-Perez, who I also admire, she has written about struggling with mean commenters on her personal blog. Like, what is the point of that? If she's writing about her own personal life of her own free will, you either read it and like it or you go somewhere else. Don't read it and then be mean, that is so playground! Commenters gotta follow the Thumper rule: "If you can't say somethin nice, don't say nothin at all" (Don't get me started on comments that just say "First!")
I might have also complained about some other stuff like this that has been bugging me. But as I kept thinking about this rant, I realized I am having a bout of "Why Wasn't I Consulted?" According to Paul Ford on ftrain.com, this is the whole problem (or the whole beauty) of the Web. Everybody is encouraged to have an opinion about everything, and to SHARE that opinion. The problem is that clearly MY opinion is the best, but nobody knows that. In fact everybody else believes THEIR opinion is best. I must tell them otherwise! I must comment! So the Web is a cacophonous free-for-all of thumbs up/down and like buttons and facebook sharing and screen names and witticisms and stupidities and rarely, gems. I am frustrated by comments I don't agree with. I am frustrated about commenting in general. And really, why wasn't I consulted on this? Some things shouldn't be commented on. Unless I feel like commenting on them, of course. Because my comments are the best!
Back to Steve Martin. It is a damn shame that we can't even let a public event evolve naturally without trying to tweet it into submission. However I would like to give a thumbs up to the cute ukulele duet from The Jerk, called "You Belong to Me." My favorite part is when Bernadette Peters randomly pulls out a trumpet near the end and plays a solo. In his book Steve Martin complains that at the premiere, people walked out during this scene to buy more popcorn. But judging by the number of covers and tributes and ukulele how-tos on Youtube, this song impressed a lot of folks over the years. Good job, Steve.