Steve Martin is one of the most popular comedians of all time. A hugely talented performer, Martin has worked as a successful writer, stand-up, actor and musician for several decades. He gained international prominence with his hilarious guest spots on Saturday Night Live, before going on to star in movies such as The Jerk and ¡Three Amigos!.
He has won an Emmy Award, Grammy Award and an American Comedy Award for his work over the years, and now spends his time performing with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. Martin has definitely lived a full life and to celebrate that fact, we’ve put together 10 fascinating facts about Steve Martin that every fan should know about. Enjoy!
25. His first ever job was at Disneyland
Working at Disneyland is definitely a fitting job for Martin, who is well known for his gags and magic tricks!
The comedian started off selling guidebooks at the theme park, and kept $0.02 for every book he sold.
Martin then moved on to the Magic Shop on Disneyland’s Main Street, where he started learning all the tricks(!) of his future trade, including the rope gags you see in ¡Three Amigos!.
What a great first job!
Martin learnt the cowboy rope tricks from a rope wrangler working in Frontierland.
24. He once appeared as a contestant on The Dating Game
Funnily enough, Martin once appeared on a 1968 episode of The Dating Game…and won!
He was working as a writer on The Smothers Brothers when he managed to get his childhood friend Morris Walker’s sister, Marsha, onto the show. The pair were supposed to be unaware of each other’s appearance on the series, but in fact they met up beforehand and came up with some hilarious potential answers and questions.
They ended up winning the contestant and were awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Tijuana, Mexico…to watch some bullfighting?!
Apparently things between Steve and Marsha took an amorous turn during the holiday, and Walker now believes that the Mexican bullfighting experience was a huge influence on ¡Three Amigos!.
23. His father absolutely despises Saturday Night Live and once wrote a review about Martin’s performances
After Martin made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live, you might expect that his parents were extremely proud of their son.
Not Glenn Martin (pictured below) though – he was the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors at the time, and wrote a scathing review of his son’s performance in the company’s newsletter!
Martin wrote: “His performance did nothing to further his career.” He also stated that “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.” Eek!
Steve Martin has since revealed that he grew up under the shadow of a stern father who wasn’t very emotionally available, leading them to have a strained relationship during Steve’s teenage years.
We understand now why he needed to develop a good sense of humour!
22. He is an avid art collector
Steve Martin has plenty of interests outside comedy, and one of his more costly hobbies is collecting famous works of art.
Martin currently owns pieces by David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Edward Hopper. However, the entertainer once fell victim to an art fraud when he spent $850,000 on what he believed to be a genuine work of art by the modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk.
Martin only found the painting was a forgery when he tried to sell it and was informed by experts that it was fake. Yikes!
The actor and comedian hasn’t let that experience stop him from buying and selling art though, and he often makes millions of dollars at the auction house thanks to his hobby.
21. He was a cheerleader in high school
Believe it or not, Martin was actually a cheerleader in high school!
He attended Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove, California and spent time as a cheerleader during this time.
Martin has since admitted that he was more of a ‘yell-leader’ than a cheerleader and got into trouble for coming up with silly or inappropriate cheers. Sounds like classic Martin!
Just for good measure, here’s another picture of Martin looking like quite the handsome guy back in his high school days:
20. He’s “responsible” for “air quotes”
If you’re a fan of air quoting, then you have Steve Martin to thank for popularising this universal gesture.
Martin is directly responsible for bringing this gesture to the masses after using it so much on his guest appearances on Saturday Night Live.
Since then, many prominent public figures have been known to use air quotes, including a certain President of the United States…
19. He became a father for the first time at 67 years old
Steve Martin has lived a full life. But at the age of 67 years old, he probably thought that fatherhood was something that simply hadn’t happened for him.
That all changed when he met New York journalist Anne Stringfield – the couple married in 2007 and six years later, Anne gave birth to a baby girl.
Martin and Stringfield are now currently raising their daughter – maybe Martin will get to be a Father of the Bride one day after all!
The pair are notoriously private and have kept their daughter’s identity a mystery, allowing her to grow up away from the limelight.
18. He taught himself to play banjo at the age of 17
Martin is a talented musician who learned to play the banjo when he was 17 years old.
The comedian became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with his high school friend John McEuen, and quickly picked up the instrument.
Since then, Martin has become an accomplished bluegrass performer and even won a Grammy award in 2010 for Best Bluegrass Album.
Nowadays, you can catch Martin live on stage performing with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.
17. He started off studying philosophy at college
Martin actually moved to California State University in Long Beach when he became romantically involved with Stormie Shrek.
He started off studying philosophy but later switched to theatre when he moved to UCLA. Martin eventually quit college at the age of 21 to pursue a full-time career in comedy.
16. He got his job on The Smothers Brothers thanks to an ex-girlfriend
Martin’s first ever writing job was on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
But he only managed to get the gig thanks to his girlfriend at the time, who had managed to get work as a dancer on the show.
Martin had no writing experience whatsoever, but quickly found himself sharing an office with Bob Einstein aka Marty Funkhauser from Curb Your Enthusiasm!
Martin won an Emmy Award for his writing in 1969 at the age of only 23 years old.
15. He was never actually a series regular on Saturday Night Live
Martin did so many guest spots on Saturday Night Live that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a regular cast member.
However, the star of The Jerk and Father of the Bride was never actually on the full-time staff, despite the fact that in the 70s and 80s, most people assumed he was!
Martin simply made so many appearances on Saturday Night Live that most people accepted he was working on the series the whole year round.
Martin has actually hosted SNL over 15 times, which is second only to Alec Baldwin. Furthermore, over the years he’s appeared on the comedy show a grand total of 27 times.
14. He retired from stand-up comedy in the early 80s
Martin launched his comedy career with stand up performances back in the 1960s.
His bizarre and eccentric stand-up routines helped to gain him notoriety and he will forever be remembered for some of his hilarious prop gags. However, Martin actually quit the world of stand-up in 1981.
The comedian explained his decision back in 2009: “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue. But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies.
“And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn’t up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”
13. He was in a relationship with one of his frequent co-stars
Steve Martin has proved himself to be quite the ladies man over the years.
He’s dated a string of different actresses, one of whom just so happened to be Bernadette Peters – a frequent co-star of his during the 70s and early 80s.
Peters appeared in The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven opposite Martin, and they quickly fell for each other after working on these projects together.
The pair dated for over four years and made several red carpet appearances together before eventually going their separate ways.
12. He began suffering from tinnitus after starring in ¡Three Amigos!
Most fans of the comedian and actor probably don’t realise that Martin has a niggling health problem.
Martin suffers from tinnitus, which is a condition affecting the ears – sufferers hear either a constant or intermittent ringing sound in their ears. This can also be a symptom of hearing loss.
Martin was once asked about how he copes with the condition, to which he humorously responded: “You just get used to it or you go insane.”
Rumour has it that he developed tinnitus after filming the shootout scene from Three Amigos – this classic comedy moment meant that Martin was surrounded by loud gunshot noises which may well have triggered the condition.
11. Pennies From Heaven was his first serious movie
Martin is best known for his comedy roles, but he does have a serious side too.
In fact, the early 80s witnessed Martin’s first foray into a more serious role. He wanted to avoid being typecast and decided to take on the character of music salesman Arthur Parker in Pennies From Heaven.
In order to prepare for the role, Martin took acting classes from director Herbert Ross, and even learned how to tap dance to perform in all of the musical numbers.
Sadly the movie was a flop and Martin later commented: “I don’t know what to blame, other than it’s me and not a comedy.”
10. He played a very obscure character in The Simpsons
Steve Martin must have one of the most diverse CVs in Hollywood today.
As well as banjo playing and directing short films, Martin has also found time to do some voice acting. One of his most famous appearances came in The Simpsons.
Martin voiced the character of Sanitation Commissioner Ray Patterson, who appeared in the 200th episode of The Simpsons entitled “Trash of the Titans.” The episode was aired on 26th April, 1998.
The environmental-themed episode became an instant classic, and it even helped The Simpsons win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program!
9. He arranged a surprise wedding ceremony for his third marriage to Anne Stringfield
Martin likes to remain relatively private when it comes to his family life.
And he and current wife Anne Stringfield decided to keep their nuptials completely under wrap from the press. They also managed to hide the bombshell from their close friends too!
Martin invited his friends to a party at his house, then surprised them all by informing them that they were actually attending his wedding to Anne, and not just a regular get together.
Some of the celebrity guests included Carl Reiner, Tom Hanks, Eugene Levy and Ricky Jay.
8. He created a prominent bluegrass music award
Steve Martin loves bluegrass and banjo so much that he decided to fund an award dedicated to those two very things!
In 2010, Martin created the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo to award up-and-coming bluegrass performers. The prize consists of $50,000, a bronze sculpture by artist Eric Fischl and the opportunity to perform with Martin on a late night talk show (such as Letterman).
Previous recipients of the award include Noam Pikelny, Sammy Shelor, Mark Johnson, Jens Kruger and Eddie Adcock.
Nobody can deny that Martin is dedicated to ensuring the next generation of bluegrass performers have all the support they need!
7. Martin’s father never found him funny
As Martin became a bigger and bigger star, his mother reportedly used to love seeing people try to catch a glimpse of her son.
One time they were driving through Beverly Hills when his mother said: “Get out and walk down the street so I can watch people look at you.” It’s safe to say that Martin’s father wasn’t quite as excited about his son’s success.
After attending the premier of The Jerk in 1979, Glenn Martin simply stated: “Well, he’s no Charlie Chaplin.” Talk about sour grapes! Glenn was a failed actor himself so this might help to explain why he wasn’t that impressed with his son’s rise to fame.
Martin did reveal that his father was proud of a play he wrote in the early 90s: “He was very proud of the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. If my father had always said, ‘Oh, everything you’re doing is just wonderful,’ would I have become an artist? Often when I’m standing onstage, I believe I’m trying to get my father’s attention.”
6. He met his current wife after she was asked to fact-check one of his articles
We’ve already seen that Martin and Anne like to keep things private.
But that doesn’t mean that the press haven’t managed to find out a few details about their relationship – including how they first met!
Apparently Anne was working as a fact checker at The New Yorker when she was asked to go through one of Martin’s comedy pieces. Martin said: “We talked on the phone for a year before we even met.”
People that know Anne have revealed that she is extremely shy, a trait which Martin has always used to define himself too. Despite being one of the world’s biggest comedians, Martin is an introvert and feels awkward talking to interviewers.
5. He used to suffer from panic attacks and hypochondria
Many comedians find themselves secretly struggling with mental health issues, and Steve Martin was no different.
As a young man just getting started in the world of comedy, Martin found himself suffering from panic attacks. He also developed hypochondria, becoming obsessively worried about his health.
However, those anxious thoughts have stopped later in life. Martin explained: “I worried all these years that I was going to die, and I never did. So why waste all that worry?”
Martin now enjoys spending time with his wife and helping to raise his daughter (in between bluegrass gigs of course).
4. He once won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording
Martin is such a talented guy that he earned himself two Grammy Awards back in the 1970s.
The actor and musician won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording for his two comedy albums “Let’s Get Small” in 1977 and “A Wild and Crazy Guy” in 1978. Nice!
3. He managed to coin a hugely popular catchphrase thanks to ‘Excuse Me’
Ever heard anyone in a sitcom or film say “Well excuuuuuuuse me!”? Of course you have! And it’s all down to Steve Martin, just like his famous air quotes.
This phrase featured in the track “Excuse Me” from his first album “Let’s Get Small” and it quickly became a popular catch phrase.
2. He wrote an Academy Award-nominated short film
In 1977, Steve Martin earned himself an Academy Award nomination for “Best Short Film Live Action” thanks to his work on The Absent Minded Waiter. Martin wrote and starred in the film himself.
Two years later, he co-wrote and starred in the movie The Jerk – which earned a whopping $100 million from a $4 million budget. Nice!
1. He’s widely considered to be one of the best actors not to win an Oscar
Some people still can’t quite believe that Martin has never won an Academy Award for his on-screen performances. But this wrong was finally righted in 2013 when the actor received an Honorary Award for his stellar career.
Justice was finally done!