25 November 2007

Memory dump 2: Before he was a wild and crazy guy...

Imagine being a 15-year-old standing in the high school hallway (sporting what looks like a strawberry-flavored Mickey Mouse mask because you didn't apply sunscreen before you donned ski goggles and hit the very sunny Colorado slopes over winter vacation, but that's beside the point) and telling people that the best part of your trip was going out to a club one night and seeing this breath-stoppingly hilarious comedian whose schtick involved playing the banjo while wearing a fake-arrow-through-the-head and ended with a poem about all the things he had done and seen, including the memorable line "I've put a telephone in my nose and called my mother."

Imagine the looks you would have gotten, even from people who usually got your offbeat sense of humor.

Of course, we all know now who that comedian was. In 1973, nobody in San Antonio did. What fun to remind my classmates years later that I discovered Steve Martin. At least, before they did.

The show was a benefit for the Aspen Free Clinic, and most of the talent had local connections, such as headliners John Denver and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and other, less famous acts. Albert Brooks presented his one-man performance of "Blue Moon" as the Albert Brooks Big Band, providing vocals, instrumentation and backup vocals -- all a capella. Then there was the guy with the banjo ...

Think about Steve Martin's old standup act. How do you explain his brand of performance -- usually punchline-free -- to someone who's never seen it? And how does a 15-year-old girl convey the hilarity of the line "I've done terrible things to my dog with a fork"?

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