Saturday, February 2, 2008

Medieval Barber

One more note on Steve Martin: He's very closely identified with Saturday Night Live, an institution he helped fuel and which fed off of Martn's own rising star in the late 1970s. Their comedic styles were obviously greatly sympathetic, and Martin did some of his best work on SNL - yet, on a personal level, the two meshed far less than you might think.

Part of it was just a simple age thing. When Martin hosted SNL for the first time on October 23, 1976, he was already 31, the same age as Lorne Michaels; John Belushi was 27, Dan Aykroyd 24, Bill Murray 26, Laraine Newman 25. Gilda had just turned 30.

But a bigger part, probably, was drugs. Drugs fueled the early SNL as surely as ignorance fuels the Rush Limbaugh radio show. Steve Martin wanted no part of that: In the late 1960s, he notes in Born Standing Up, one night after he had smoked some pot, he had a severe anxiety attack that lasted the remainder of the night and into the next day (Martin would continue to have anxiety attacks for some time). The incident made him swear off marijana and any other drugs for the rest of his life.

For a variety of reasons, then, Martin kept his distance, no matter how well he clicked with the cast onstage. Aykroyd and Belushi had bought a crummy downtown bar, the Blues Bar, for aftershow parties, where the cast (except Jane Curtin) would spend the remainder of Saturday night. "I ran into Dan early one afternoon, and he was sort of black and blue, and I said, 'What happened?' and he said, 'Oh, I got pushed out of a moving taxi,'" Martin says in Live From New York. "They were wild, Dan and John. I never went to their bar, the Blues Bar; I wasn't that kind of guy."

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