Let's Get Small

Steve Martin

Warner Brothers, 1977


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Who knew Steve Martin used to be so funny?

I was not familiar with the man's work before Bowfinger, and I've only seen him in a few bit parts ( Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Novocaine and Cheaper By The Dozen. Or maybe it was Bringing Down The House.)

On a chance, I came across the novelty '70s Martin single "King Tut" and borrowed a copy of A Wild And Crazy Guy from a friend. What greeted my ears was a wry, ironic, postmodern comedian who was intellectual, goofy and entertaining, all while mocking the conventions of show business.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That was his second relase; Let's Get Small is his debut and best release. I'm a fan of musical comedy, and Martin doesn't disappoint here, throwing in the occasional banjo song and solo and creating some of the album's funniest parts in the process. The musical highlight, aside from the ludicrous singalong "Grandmother's Song," is a snippet in the 15-minute title track where Martin plays an upbeat tune and tells the crowd it's impossible to be in a bad mood when you're playing the banjo.

"I always thought the banjo was the one thing that could have saved Nixon," he says.

The non-musical bits are equally as funny, drawing on wry observations, drug humor and some jokes. Martin doesn't have a shtick, which makes everything unpredictable; the first minute, he's parodying the Vegas lounge acts where an entire hour-long act is condensed into ten minutes, and then the next minute he's naming off the things he's bought with money from the show. (Sample items: a fur sink, a $300 pair of socks and a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater. And some dumb stuff, too.)

Some bits from the movie The Jerk make their debut here, such as Martin's assertion that he was born a small black child but, after hearing his first Mantovani record, has his cock shortened and becomes white. There is also a bit about "getting small," a drug reference, and the absurdities of San Francisco life (a couple asked Martin before the show if he was bi; "I studied a little Spanish in high school," he replied.)

Other bits include how to evade a mugger (throw up on your money), what to say to someone who asks "Mind if I smoke?" (answer: "Mind if I fart?"), and one of his most famous bits, a rant at the ineptitude of the spotlight operator that ends with an exaggerated "Excuuuuuse Me!"

Overall, Let's Get Small is an overlooked comedy gem. At times Martin is too insular for his own good, and his constant "Ok, let's get started" asides get old, but fans of intellectual and absurd comedy a la Dennis Miller will get a big kick out of this. Banjo fans will as well.

Rating: B+

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