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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.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…