Steve Martin at the Orpheum

Last night, courtesy of the Vancouver Comedy Festival, we watched George Strombopolous interview Steve Martin at the Orpheum Theatre. There was no particular framing around the evening–Martin wasn’t promoting a book or movie–just a reasonably informal chat in front of an adoring, apparently sold-out crowd.

I’m not a big fan of Strombopolous’s public persona, but he’s a reasonably capable interviewer. The conversation meandered through Martin’s youth, his stand-up career, his movies and other sundry pursuit–he’s a bit of a Renaissance Man.

Though I don’t consider myself a huge Steve Martin fan, I’ve actually consumed a ton of his work. I’ve seen most of his movies (excepting those made ‘for the whole family’) and at least one of his plays, and I’ve read both his novels and his autobiography. He writes charming, readable books, and his autobiography was a fascinating study of one artist’s mind.

Having read Martin’s autobiography, a number of his entertaining anecdotes were familiar to me. Still, it was a funny evening. After 35 or 40 years on-stage, he’s just an innately amusing performer. Looking dapper in a linen jacket and striped socks, he was kind of everyone’s funny uncle. Though I’ve never made this connection before, his physicality reminded me quite a bit of Alan Alda–skinny, white hair, all elbows and knees.

An Adoring Audience

And everyone else seemed to agree. I was surprised by the youthfulness of my fellow audience members. I wasn’t particularly scientific, but I’m pretty sure the majority of the audience was born after 1976, when Martin stopped regularly doing stand-up comedy. I saw a couple of my friends from the theatre community there, which seems natural, but I was, frankly, shocked at how many people paid $60 to $185 to watch Martin chat with Strombopolous and play a couple of bluegrass tunes on the banjo. And they were so smitten. They gave Martin a standing ovation when he walked out on stage.

Maybe it’s a supply and demand question: the opportunities to see him locally, in any guise, are pretty rare.

A significant chunk of the evening was given over to questions from the audience. As they always do, these ranged from the inane to the insightful, and people frequently started by gushing about how much they loved the comedian. I could have done without this. I’d rather watch a succinct, well-run 80 minute interview–I came to hear from Martin, not his fans.

My only technical complaint is that the sound seemed pretty poor. I was toward the back of the main floor of the house, but I often had to strain to hear what Martin and Strombopolous were saying. Strombopolous, in particular, is a bit of a mumbler. If that was the best the venue could do for amplification, they might have been better off not using microphones at all.

A few random quotes from the evening:

  • Martin described the movie poster for The Lonely Guy as “the worst movie poster ever made”. He’s right.
  • “3:00pm is the worst time for comedy.”
  • When asked, he admitted to occasionally reading the message boards on his website. He said, “if there was a discussion forum about you, wouldn’t you read it?”

Rebecca scored an interview with Canada’s boyfriend yesterday, in case you’re looking for more Strombopolousity.


  1. Thanks for the reminder re: his autobiography – you mentioned it to me once before, but it dropped off my brain radar.

    As for Martin, I think he’s charming and often funny, though I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. & I happen to find older, quirky, white-haired gentleman pretty hot, so obviously think the guy is pretty cute.

    Glad you enjoyed the evening.

    P.S. I often cringe at the Q&As at these things. At least 50% of the time it’s “Hi, my name is ______” Then an interminable intro about who they are and their work/struggle/pathos before finally getting to the question.

  2. Kind of wanted to go, but it doesn’t sound like I missed all that much–q & a’s with audience members are usually pretty inane, and it seems like if you read (or listened to, as I did) Born Standing Up there wouldn’t be any huge revelations. Also, I guess no one had the balls to ask about the pink panther remakes.

  3. Go with your instincts; they’re almost always correct. Strombopolous is terrible. He’s smug in that Toronto CBC ‘provincial’ style.

    Litmus test: “Would I be embarrassed if my American friends thought he [her / it] represented Canada”. For George, a I answer resounding “yes”.

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