As I left the house today, I turned on Talk of the Nation on NPR. It’s a show I listen to most days.
There seem to be two types of public radio – classical and other ‘non-mainstream’ music and non-confrontational talk (which separates it from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and too many others to mention).
In this area, the ‘talking’ NPR is heard on two stations with very poor signals. One is on Long Island, far southeast of me. The other is very low powered though closer. I have buttons set for both and punch back and forth as the signals fade and distort.
On my way home from work I listen to BBC World Service news on these stations. Except for their Euro-centric sports coverage, I enjoy it and learn a lot about what’s going on in the world.
Back to this afternoon.
I turned on Talk of the Nation and heard a familiar voice speaking with the host, Neal Conan. I couldn’t place it. He was answering a question about how he describes himself and offered up his tax return (which he doesn’t personally prepare) probably says actor.
Who the heck was it?
The conversation continued and then I realized: Steve Martin. He was promoting the paperback release of his latest novella.
I find Steve Martin a very interesting person. His career has taken an unorthodox route to where it is now – yet at every point, I have found him incredibly entertaining. As he has gotten older (me too) I have found him to be intellectually interesting.
Today, on Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan played a few seconds of a cut from an earlier comedy album. I could feel Martin squirming in his seat – trying to get away from what was being played. It was the same when a caller asked when he would tour again. “Never.”
I understand how he feels. He is a different person from that “wild and crazy guy” He is not the banjo player who used to appear with an prank arrow through his head.
On the other hand, that is how we learned to like him. That is how we were originally attracted to his work. I know he’s changed. There’s no reason to run away from it.
A few years ago, in Las Vegas, we went to an exhibition of his art collection at the Bellagio Hotel. It didn’t take much to realize he’s well rounded and thoughtful.
I have seen a few of his movies. Helaine and I are both very big fans of “LA Story,” a movie which is to Los Angeles and Woody Allen’s Manhattan is to New York City. I guess after writing this, I should go out and get one of his novellas.
There’s one other part of Steve Martin that really impresses me, and I almost forgot to add it. Whenever he appears with Letterman, he prepares material. I’m not talking about re-hashing a stand-up routine, he writes absolutely fresh material. Sometimes it’s done live, sometimes it’s on tape, but it shows effort and a dedication to his craft. It’s always very funny – though that is secondary. I’m impressed with the effort, which shows a true respect for his audience and craft.
Today’s interview with Steve Martin is available on the Talk of the Nation website.