I met Steve Martin when I was a kid. We were at a party, and I shadowed the poor guy all afternoon, waiting for him to crack me up, to slip into character. He never did.
Where was the Wild and Crazy Guy? Where was The Jerk? Where was King Tut?
Years later, he granted me an interview about his play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. In a dumb attempt to catch him off guard, to give my readers the Steve Martin I was sure they really wanted, I asked him if he preferred boxers or briefs. I don’t recall his good-sport answer — only that he uttered it earnestly, artlessly. It seems I’d finally located The Jerk; it was me.
It’s easy to forget that entertainers aren’t always entertaining, and that they’re deeper — and sometimes duller — than their onstage personas.
Though Martin once wore a gag arrow through his head, in real life he’s far more the reticent sophisticate of It’s Complicated than the inane pratfaller of The Pink Panther. But he’s more than those, too: He’s also a successful playwright, Grammy-winning banjo player, and avid art collector who just published a novel, An Object of Beauty, set amid New York’s high-brow art scene.