This drawing is from my Comics of Comedy, a series of portraits of comedians I appreciate. It’s a drawing of one of my comedy heroes, a versatile, modern renaissance man. But it wasn’t the first drawing I did of Steve Martin.
You see, I was a teenage comedy geek.
I was in high school in Queensbury, New York when I drew this pencil portrait of the man who made “Excuuuse ME!,” white suits, and banjo music hilarious. My portrait was based on a promo photo of Steve posing with a large fish peeking out from his suit coat. The photo was signed “Best Fishes, Steve Martin.”
In the summer before my senior year at Queensbury High School, I saw Steve Martin perform at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The man who recorded “Let’s Get Small” had gotten so big he was doing arena shows. Before that evening’s show, I found my way to the stage’s loading area. A stage hand pointed out the stage manager; I got his attention and asked for his assistance. I’d brought two drawings, this one and a caricature I had done of Steve. I asked if the stage manager might be able to give Steve the caricature and ask him to sign the pencil drawing for me. He was dubious, but said I should come back after the show.
Truthfully, I don’t remember much of the show itself. I do recall it started with the a short film called “The Dumb Waiter” with Steve in the title role. The encore was Steve Martin’s hit single King Tut. “Coulda won a Grammy. Buried in his jammies.”
When the show ended, the backstage area was mobbed with fans waiting to see Steve as he left. I weaseled to the front of that crowd, and I was spotted by the stage manager who waved to security to let me pass. I should mention, I was dressed as Steve on the cover of his recently released book of absurd poetry “Cruel Shoes.” That outfit included a Panama hat and sunglasses. I’m pretty sure it was my costume that made me stand out in that crowd. See? Teenage comedy geek.
I rushed to the stage manager and he handed me this drawing. I think I thanked him, stuffed it in my bag, and made my way out of that crowd.
Steve Martin had signed my drawing and added the bunny ears.
The signature matches the one on the Best Fishes photo, so I’m fairly certain it’s authentic. Also authentic are the linseed oil stain, yellowed paper, and those discolored edges from a bad matte job. Remember young artists, use archival paper. Unless you’re expecting the vintage look in 40+ years.
I would see Steve Martin in person once more, decades later. It was at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills in January 2008. Martin was to be interviewed about his memoir “Born Standing Up.” The interviewer was another comedy legend, Carol Burnett. Ms Burnett seemed to have been misinformed about the topic for the evening’s discussion. Instead it turned into swapping tales from their days in television comedy, with Steve carrying most of the interviewer role. Still it was a joy seeing these two very different performers play at one-upping each other.
See more of the Comics of Comedy at XK9.com.
Ticket photo by fellow attendee and fellow comedy geek, Jordan Beck.