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Ten reasons to love Steve Martin that aren’t his movies

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6. The Stand-Up Arriveth

Steve Martin was the first stand-up comedian who became so insanely popular that he could not only play arenas, he could sell them out – something only rock stars could manage before that. He adopted a white suit look that became iconic, and the heights he reached were so spectacular that the pressure he put on himself to keep getting better conflicted with the need to do the same bits over and over to meet audience expectations. It’s part of what eventually led him to walk away from stand-up altogether. Of course, we love a lot of what he’s done since then, and one supposes it’s always better to leave at the top of your game than waiting until after the wave breaks and you come crashing down to earth.


7. Television Specials

Steve’s segue into movies began with The Jerk, of course, but the move away from stand-up also included a series of comedy specials on NBC, many of which have been mostly unavailable until now. They featured the sketch comedy talent honed on SNL along with short films intermingled, and they helped ease the loss of his talent from the stage. You couldn’t pull off a sketch with chimps and elephants in a solo act.


8. Author, Author

His talent wasn’t gone from that stage forever, though, because he complemented his film career with writing books like “Cruel Shoes,” “Pure Drivel,” “Shopgirl” and “An Object of Beauty,” among others, as well as a well-received play entitled “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” The latter told the story of a conversation between Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, comparing the creativity and talent required for science with those required for art – a longtime passion for Steve. More recently, he published “Born Standing Up,” a memoir of his rise to fame in stand-up – a subject he pretty well ignored for many years, until after the clamor for him to return had died away and we’d all grown to appreciate him the person into which he had matured. It’s a fascinating insight into where his mind was when he was making us all laugh.


9. Hosting the Oscars

When Steve did finally return to performing live, it took a prestige event like hosting the Academy Awards to bring him out of retirement. The man who took the stage in front of hundreds of millions of people was not the same comedian that played huge arenas 20 years prior. No arrow through the head, no balloon animals – just a reserved class act who knew his audience and poked holes in the pomp and circumstance around Hollywood self-congratulation without insulting the proceedings outright. He’s been back to host twice since, once with his SNL-hosting rival Alec Baldwin, and he’s always gotten a favorable reception for handling a very tough gig.


10. By the way, he’s damn good at the banjo

From the beginning of his stand-up career to the music albums like The Crow and Rare Bird Alert (with the Steep Canyon Rangers) he’s released in recent years, one amazing talent that’s always been with Steve is his stunning ability with the banjo. He started at age 17, with help from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and he applied his same obsessive knack for precision to learning it as he did in honing his stage show. He would show off with a little “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in the early days, while also providing his own theme song as a “Ramblin’ Guy” and claiming it’s impossible to feel sad when playing the banjo. He’s become quite the public enthusiast of late, having performed with the late, legendary Earl Scruggs, and he’s even started his own annual award for recognizing unheralded rising banjo players. He can play both the Scruggs style and the clawhammer style, and he’s only gotten better as the years have gone by. Comedy, drama, writing, fine art and music. A Renaissance Man indeed.


What is your favorite reason to love Steve Martin? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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

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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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Your Portlandia Personality Test

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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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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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