DID YOU READ

Steve Martin Versus An Angry Audience

Steve Martin Versus An Angry Audience (photo)

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See, I thought I was the only guy who watches Steve Martin plucking away on his banjo on Letterman and thinks to himself, “What I wouldn’t give to see that man get back to comedy.” Apparently, a whole lot of people at the 92 Street Y in Manhattan agreed with me, and they let Martin know about it. In the middle of an interview!

On Monday night, Martin appeared at 92Y at a public interview conducted by The New York Times Magazine‘s Deborah Solomon. Martin has just published a new novel called “An Object of Beauty,” and it — and its subject, the art world — dominated the conversation, much to the chagrin of the assembled audience, who apparently were expecting something more along the lines of an arrow through the head gag. According to the New York Times article about the event:

“Midway through the conversation, a Y representative handed Ms. Solomon a note asking her to talk more about Mr. Martin’s career…according to Mr. Martin, viewers watching the interview by closed-circuit television from across the country sent e-mails to the Y complaining “that the evening was not going the way they wished, meaning we were discussing art.” It was, he said, “a little like an actor responding in Act III to an audience’s texts to ‘shorten the soliloquies.’ ” The audience cheered when Ms. Solomon read aloud the note.”

It wasn’t just the customers who were displeased either. The Y emailed the 900 people who bought tickets offering $50 gift certificates (the price of a seat) along with a letter stating they “were disappointed with the evening.” Jeez, how boring was this thing? Did someone die of acute understimulation?

My first reaction to all of this was to wonder how the event was billed by the 92nd Street Y. Was it “An Evening of Laughs With Steve Martin” or “Steve Martin Conquers the Art World?” The official listing at the Y’s website calls it “Steve Martin with Deborah Solomon.” It namechecks “An Object of Beauty,” but it also mentions “Father of the Bride,” “Bowfinger,” and other movies. The description doesn’t specify the exact nature of the event, and in the Times piece, Solomon claims the Y offered her no direction about the content of the conversation. So broadly this sounds like a case of miscommunication that led to a misunderstanding.

But regardless it brings up another subject, and forgive me because I’m about to talk about art and I know how that can bore some people. Who should control Steve Martin’s — or any artist’s — career: the artist or the audience? Should he walk out on stage and introduce himself by saying “I was born a poor black child” just because we like “The Jerk?” Obviously Steve Martin would have one answer; it seems many of the people in his audience might have another.

Basically, the artist can’t win. If he makes something we like and then challenges himself to do something different — say he’s Woody Allen and he makes “Interiors” after “Annie Hall” — we complain that he’s gotten away from what we loved about him. If he makes something we like and then repeats it with more of the same — say he’s Michael Cera and he follows up “Superbad” with “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” — we call him a one trick pony. So we want range, but only so far. We say one thing and mean another. We expect the impossible: haute cuisine and comfort food all rolled into one.

I can understand the 92Y’s frustration to a point. Who knows, maybe the problem was not the fact that it was a conversation about art but rather a boring conversation about art. Still, it’s hard not to see the audience’s reaction as a pretty horrifying example of our instant gratification culture’s dark side. Instead of giving their customers $50 gift certificates, maybe the 92 Street Y could have stoked further discussion on the subject by giving everyone gift bags of relevant movies like Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” and D.A. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back.” I’m sure Bob Dylan feels Steven Martin’s pain.

Personally, I don’t think an artist should spoon-feed. I don’t want my movies to look like the cultural equivalent of baby food. Don’t chew it for me; I’ll chew it myself. In order for that to happen, artists have to be allowed to follow their curiosities. Even if that means playing the banjo once in a while.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.

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Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.