Steve Martin, part 1

The 1960s were a time when everything in America meant something, including comedy. Behind every ostensibly silly act of comedy lurked serious intent.

By the early 1970s the American culture was aflame with heated culture wars over Vietnam, civil rights, Nixon and more. In the resulting general air of mistrust, comedy was suffused with undertones of rebellion against the Establishment.

Young people looked toward comics who spoke to this general feeling of wary malaise, from Lenny Bruce through George Carlin. Even comedy of the absurd, such as Firesign Theater, conveyed an underlying spirit of rebellion.

And then, on October 23, 1976, Steve Martin showed up on Saturday Night Live. More tomorrow.

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