Steve Martin, part 2

By the time he appeared on SNL, Steve Martin had been around for a while. For example, in 1968, as one of the writers for The Smothers Brothers Show, he had occasionally shown up on TV doing his own material. But back then the world wasn’t quite ready for him yet.

So he had eight more years to hone and perfect his act. By the time he burst on the scene on SNL in 1976, seemingly fully formed, the world itself had changed.

People were tired of the constant culture wars, and they needed a break. What Martin did in that moment was so pioneering that our culture largely lives in the world that he created.

His act essentially deconstructed the very idea of a comedy act, turning in upon itself. He used the absurdity of a performer being up on stage creating a “persona” as his very source material.

And the important part is that he made it fun. We are now so used to accepting this sort of meta-awareness in performance that it can be hard to remember that someone actually had to invent it.

And in doing so, he gave all of us grownups permission to act like silly little kids again. And for that, we should be eternally grateful.

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