How could anyone living in the modern era possibly be as diversely brilliant as Steve Martin? In an age of increasing specialization—one doctor who does hands, another who does wrists, another on forearms—and, I should also note, vastly more mediocrity everywhere than I seem to remember from my childhood—how does one man excel at so many different things? It would seem impossible.
A brief catalog of his genius: legendary stand-up comedy; absolutely charming acting; writing for both stage and screen with wit and intelligence; a track record of lovely little novels, finely-observed comic essays, and humorous experimental non-fiction, as well as one terrific autobiography and a series of children’s books; expert wailing on the banjo; and a critically-acclaimed art collection. I believe I’ve even seen him dance with more than modest skill, too. If you happen to follow him on Twitter, furthermore, you’ve seen how well he’s taken to that form, too. He could probably also sculpt and build websites and whittle, too.
If I didn’t love him, the old saying goes, I’d hate him. But I do love him. He has been part of my life for as long as he’s been part of the national consciousness. I still own his seminal LPs—Let’s Get Small and Comedy Is Not Pretty. I have just finished reading his newest novel, An Object of Beauty. I expect to go on consuming whatever art he creates for as long as he continues to create it.
All of which leaves me, at the moment, in awe. He’s managed to help the country have a good time, recognize its own strangeness, and feel more human through so many different political and social eras. I am immensely grateful.