Tag Archives: Steve Martin

FROM WACO TO WACKO

14 Aug

66 years ago today, on Tuesday, August 14, 1945 actor/writer/producer/comedian Steve Martin was born in Waco, Texas.

Steve Martin autograph signed on October 23, 1976

He began performing while still in his teens and by the time he was 22 he was writing comedy for network TV shows. Between 1967 and 1973 Steve Martin worked as a writer on half a dozen comedy variety series including “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Summer Brothers Smothers Show,” “Pat Paulsen’s Half a Comedy Hour,” “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” “The Ken Berry ‘Wow’ Show,” and “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” He was also a featured performer on several of those shows, as well as on “The Ray Stevens Show” in the summer of 1970.

I still remember the first time I saw Steve Martin on TV. It was on NBC on a Saturday night at 11:30pm, but I wasn’t watching “Saturday Night Live.” In fact, that show hadn’t even been created yet. I was watching the program that “SNL” replaced: reruns of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

It was that first appearance on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” in 1973 that brought Martin some national attention. His first appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live” in 1976 sealed the deal and made him a comedy “rock star.” I was in the audience for that show. In fact, I got his autograph earlier that day, on the back of my admission slip for the PSAT exam.

What's on the other side of Steve Martin's autograph? The date on my admission slip for the PSAT exam, which was administered that morning.

So, while many people were introduced to Steve Martin on October 23, 1976, I was already a fan.

But in addition to lots of laughs, I also remember a very touching moment provided by Steve Martin on the day Gilda Radner died (May 20, 1989). Martin was hosting “Saturday Night Live” that night and I was in the audience. When he introduced a clip of he and Gilda dancing in an old sketch it was quite moving. Martin, and most of the audience, seemed to be holding in some emotions.

Although Martin has never starred in his own series his career is a product of TV. From his roots as a writer… to his TV specials and guest appearances… to his hosting the Academy Awards broadcast… Steve Martin is a TV star.

He has now hosted “Saturday Night Live” a record 15 times (tied with Alec Baldwin) and prior to abandoning standup he starred in four network comedy specials for NBC: “Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy” in 1978, “Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty” and “All Commercials–A Steve Martin Special” both in 1980, and 1981’s “Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever.”

Happy Birthday to Steve Martin, the TV star (and movie star, playwright, musician, novelist, and art collector). Thanks for everything.

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<THIS DATE IN TV HISTORY

23 Oct

Steve Martin autograph written on October 23, 1976

34 years ago on Saturday, October 23, 1976 comedian Steve Martin hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the first time. It was a partnership that would flourish and, to this day, Martin is closely associated with the show. The autograph seen above was signed by Steve Martin on that day at the NBC studio in Brooklyn, where that week’s show was originating. Below you can what’s on the other side of the paper Steve autographed: The date, written on my admission slip to the PSAT exam. (I went straight from the exam to the studio).

What's on the other side of Steve Martin's autograph? The date on my admission slip for the PSAT exam, which was administered that morning.

In fact, for three weeks that October, SNL (then called “NBC’s Saturday Night”) for the first time, performed the show away from Studio 8H at 30 Rock. Why? NBC News had turned 8H into “Election Headquarters” for the upcoming Presidential election, so SNL had to find another temporary home. In addition to Martin’s debut the other SNL episodes done in Brooklyn were on October 16, hosted by Karen Black, and on October 30, with host Buck Henry.

Also on this date in TV history

Johnny Carson, circa 1960

85 years ago on Friday, October 23, 1925 Johnny Carson, the “King of Late Night,” was born in Corning, Iowa. Carson was born to Homer and Ruth, and he would go on to leave a giant imprint on the world of television.

Although born in Corning, Iowa the Carson family moved quite a bit due to Homer’s job with a utility company. After several stops in other Iowa towns, the family settled for good in Norfolk, Nebraska, where Johnny grew up. It was in this classic version of small-town America that the future star began performing. After learning magic young Johnny appeared around town as The Great Carsoni and built the foundation for his career.

Unused ticket for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" for April 9, 1992.

Johnny Carson went on to host “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992, almost 30 full years, and turned “The Tonight Show” into an institution. It became a nightly “must-see” for many and Carson himself became a barometer of public opinion.

Offices for "The Tonight Show" at NBC Burbank, 1979.

Sometimes Carson affected public opinion as well. His influence was never more evident than one night in the 1970’s when Carson turned a small news item into a national story. He mentioned reading an article about a possible toilet paper shortage. (His joke was that this would be a problem that would “touch every American.”) Within days Carson had actually created a nationwide toilet paper shortage as Americans raced to stock up so they wouldn’t be left empty-handed.

Johnny Carson's name on the marquee at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, June 1979.

Carson left “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and pretty much retired from public life. He died on January 23, 2005 due to emphysema.

Johnny Carson, one of television’s biggest stars ever  — a man who donated millions of dollars to his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska — was born 85 years ago on this date in TV history.

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