Some people love him, some people immediately change the channel. There doesn’t seem to be a third way to feel about Steve Martin. He’s one of the most polarizing comedians out there. Not because of edgy material, but because of his material nonetheless. He either rubs you the right or the wrong way. I must admit, I, for one, change the channel. However, Jerry Seinfeld has proven more than once, that his internet road trip series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, tends to change one’s perspective 180 degrees about people. Jerry totally strips his guests from their ‘comedy veil’, and almost every time, a very likeable human being surfaces.
But first: the car. It isn’t called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for nothing. Jerry has borrowed a shiny red 1954 Siata. An Italian car, with beautiful lines, beautiful details, but one that doesn’t actually move. It breaks down every chance it gets. Not to mention what happens if you’re touching the gorgeous silver switches; they just spontaneously break off. Needless to say, before they know it, Jerry and Steve are standing by the side of the road, while the production team performs CPR on the car.
They’ve managed to shoot a decent amount of material while driving, though. Jerry’s mostly interested in the days when Steve started out, back in the seventies. We see several clips from his one man show Live from the Universal Amphitheatre (1979). It may have been a different time, when standup wasn’t about actually telling jokes. It may have been about giving the audience certain looks, making big gestures on stage, which involved a lot of walking around with his mouth wide open, which was considered funny, then. I haven’t seen the whole thing, however, if you’re going to use footage, it’d be a good idea to use funny footage. Unless there isn’t any, of course.
That said, Steve explains what it was like in the old days and does so without trying to be funny, thankfully. The humor comes from Jerry. His oneliners make the stories easy to digest. The best thing about their conversations is Jerry giving Steve advice. How to tell a joke. Which words to use and leave out. It’s like watching the master teaching the man who’d never be able to hit it big, how it’s done. But of course, Steve did hit it big at one time. His own theory of why, is it was the perfect time for absurd humor, which people seemed to be craving after the Vietnam war.
The Wheelchair Anecdote
The only funny anecdote in Steve’s vocabulary, is about a guy in the audience who threw a glass of wine in his face, saying: ‘See if you think this is funny’. Throughout the episode, Jerry keeps referring to a story Steve had heard about another comedian, who’d worked as a standup on a cruise ship. Apparently, he bombed on stage, but it wasn’t solely his fault. A man in a wheelchair had just committed suicide, by rolling off the ship. While the comedian was doing his set, a crane lifted the wheelchair out of the water behind him. I believe this is how it was told to Steve, but I don’t believe for a second this actually happened. Anyway, Jerry can’t seem to get enough of the absurdity of it.
After the coffee-drinking, the Siata is done. Luckily, Jerry’s got a 1966 Ford Mustang – also a red one – in his back pocket. While riding off into the sunset, Steve does try to be funny.
He shouldn’t do that.