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The 10 essential Steve Martin comedies

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Steve Martin is a marvelously unique talent, in that he cut his teeth on wacky prop comedy, hit the big time with brilliantly stupid movies, and has aged into being a fiercely astute intellectual who can run the gamut between smart and dumb humor with relaxed ease. Lately, some of his movie choices have been somewhat less than well-received, but they help fund his art collection and his ability to spend a lot of time out on tour playing his banjo with various musical outfits. He’s won Emmys and Grammys. He’s truly one of a kind, and we shouldn’t ever forget the fantastically funny movies he’s made in the light of the Sgt. Bilkos.

Here’s a rundown of ten essential Steve Martin comedies that should help you understand how great the man is – and this doesn’t include his interesting dramas like “Shopgirl” and “The Spanish Prisoner,” or his surprising cameos in “The Muppet Movie” or “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” As an addendum, if you can track down the VHS copy of Steve Martin Live!, you can see him at the peak of his brilliant stand-up career – although it’ll be much easier to find his albums – Let’s Get Small and Wild and Crazy Guy.


1. “The Jerk” (1979)

The breakthrough film he wrote remains one of the best film comedies of all time, constantly managing to be intelligent and dopey at the same time. The meandering saga of the dim-witted but good-hearted Navin R. Johnson, born a poor black child, as he wanders the country never stops being absurdly hilarious. Working for Jackie Mason at a gas station, becoming the target of a deranged M. Emmett Walsh, becoming carnival personnel, falling for Bernadette Peters whose young nephew wears a t-shirt that says “Bull Shit” on it, stumbling into unimaginable riches, being brought low by Iron Balls McGinty… every moment has something sublimely ridiculous about it. Despite being able to hire his own personal disco dancers, this comedy remains ageless.


2. “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (1982)

This was a concept that wouldn’t work in lesser hands, but Carl Reiner had proven how well he understood Steve with “The Jerk,” and thus, splicing a bunch of old film noir flicks together around him to craft a ridiculous soft-boiled detective story works hilariously well. The adventures of Rigby Reardon and his mysterious and stunning bullet-sucking femme fatale Rachel Ward also include appearances by Humphrey Bogart, Vincent Price, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and every star from the 1930s you could think of, and it’s a pitch-perfect satire of all those beloved tropes. One of the best lines in the narration that exemplifies that: “Carlotta was the kind of town where they spell trouble T-R-U-B-I-L, and if you try to correct them, they kill you.”


3. “All Of Me” (1984)

Steve Martin’s gift for physical comedy is on full display in this fantasy comedy wherein he’s an attorney who has to share half of his body with the spirit of a rotten, eccentric malcontent played by Lily Tomlin. Arguing with himself in public, the right half of his body walking like a dignified woman and the left as his normal self – it’s got plenty of the zaniness that made him famous, but the deeper relationship between the two people in one body also marks the beginning of his maturation into more intelligent, realistic character work. Yes, even though he’s half-possessed by a ghost.


4. “Three Amigos” (1986)

While it was initially greeted with mixed reviews, the undeniable goofiness of this team-up of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase has endured as a beloved favorite. Three washed up cowboys from the silent film era journey to Mexico to work with the infamous (that means “more than famous!”) El Guapo, not realizing they have actually been called upon to save the innocent town of Santa Poco from the nefarious shenanigans of a criminal they believe to be a showman, and the result is funny hijinks with a bit less of a manic tone than some of Martin’s earlier comedies. Still, the plethora of weirdness is wonderful, such as when Chevy Chase’s Dusty Bottoms accidentally kills the Invisible Swordsman.


5. “Roxanne” (1987)

The maturation continues with a contemporized adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, featuring Steve playing C.D. Bales, a fireman somewhere in the Pacific Northwest who’s charming, smart, tough, quick-witted and eloquent, and yet sports a nose so cartoonishly large that it hinders his confidence with women – Daryl Hannah in particular – despite the fact that everyone in town loves the guy (and knows better than to bring up the schnoz). However, he woos her through a handsome and friendly, yet dopey fellow fireman passing the words off as his own. It’s romantic comedy with a much less obnoxious feel than much of what falls in this genre, showing just how well Martin can step into the shoes of a leading man without being boring.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
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Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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