Steve Martin

Why Do People Hate Steve Martin?

Steve Martin is widely regarded as one of the most popular and influential stand-up comedians of his era.

With his wild and crazy antics, clever writing, and commitment to comedy, Martin became a household name in the 1970s and continues to have success today. However, despite his many accolades, some people dislike Steve Martin or certain aspects of his comedy.

Early Comedy Persona

In the 1970s, Steve Martin adopted an over-the-top, almost slapstick persona that featured loud suits, props like arrows through his head, and lots of energetic jumping around on stage. This physical comedy and exaggerated character was extremely popular with mainstream audiences.

However, some critics and comedians considered Martin’s act to be little more than light-hearted buffoonery that lacked substance. They saw him as more of a prop comedian instead of someone using intelligent writing or observation.

Additionally, his mainstream success and accessibility to average comedy fans may have caused some comedy purists to dismiss Steve Martin as too low-brow or unsophisticated.

Perceived Arrogance

As Steve Martin’s fame grew enormously in the late 1970s, his public persona sometimes exhibited arrogance or self-importance. He made flippant remarks in interviews poking fun at his success, once saying “I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot.”

While likely meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek, some saw lines like this as pretentious or dismissive of the craft of entertainment. The smugness rubbed certain people the wrong way, making Steve Martin seem like less of a comedian and more of a smug star. The perception was that he had begun taking himself too seriously.

Range as a Performer

After the initial burst of his stand-up comedy stardom, Steve Martin wanted to stretch himself as a performer. He stepped away from stand-up in 1981, rarely performing over the next few decades as he focused on movies, writing, music, and other creative pursuits.

While still funny in films, some fans missed his unique brand of live comedy and felt disappointed he moved on so quickly from stand-up. They saw the switch to movies as severing his comedy roots rather than expanding his range.

Additionally, films like The Jerk, Pennies from Heaven, and L.A. Story revealed a more subtle, nuanced performer less reliant on slapstick, which didn’t appeal to all fans.

Too Much Success?

Steve Martin achieved so much success in the late 70s – selling out arena shows, hugely popular TV specials and appearances, and hit comedy albums – that overexposure was inevitable.

Martin was everywhere in American pop culture for several years. And with that level of fame comes critics and people who tire of that act simply being too popular.

Whether jealousy, hipster ethos, or genuine criticism of his style of humor, Steve Martin’s enormous mainstream popularity certainly bred contempt in some circles. The ubiquity lead to labels like “overrated” and “one-note hack” among detractors.

Perceptions of Aging

As Steve Martin moved on from his initial fame and entered middle-age and eventually his senior years, some fans found his work less satisfying.

Films like Bringing Down the House, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther, and It’s Complicated portrayed Martin as silly and slapstick driven, but in the body of man who seemed to old for such physical comedy.

While Martin has earned praise for films like Shopgirl and continues to write books, music, and stand-up into his 70s, he suffers from perceptions that he is clinging to old ideas of wild and crazy comedydespite his age.

The fact is that Steve Martin in his 70s can’t possibly replicate the manic energy of his youthful stand-up days, and for some this makes his current comedy unappealing.

Why Do Some People Enjoy Steve Martin’s Comedy?

Despite some detractors, Steve Martin remains widely popular decades after his initial rise. Many still enjoy his comedy and praise his multi-talented contributions to entertainment. Reasons why fans continue to like Steve Martin include:

Universally Appealing Humor

At its peak, Steve Martin’s slapstick-driven, high energy, prop-heavy comedy introduced a universally appealing style that conquered mainstream American audiences in the 1970s.

While not sophisticated, the broad physical comedy and exaggerated facial expressions broke through cultural and language barriers. This mass appeal laid the foundation for Martin’s continued success after his early stand-up burst.

Creative Renaissance Man

While stand-up eventually took a backseat, Steve Martin reinvented himself as a creative renaissance man in the decades that followed. Immersing himself into writing, film, theater, music and more, Martin displayed talents far beyond just physical comedy.

Books like Shopgirl and his autobiography Born Standing Up revealed his depth as a writer. His work developing sophisticated musical and dramatic theatrical productions earned immense respect. Martin’s creativity and versatility established him as far more than just a wild and crazy comic.

Timeless Influence

Most popular culture becomes outdated eventually. But over 40 years since his initial rise, Steve Martin’s influence remains evident in today’s comedy. Modern giants like Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, and Jimmy Fallon all exhibit shades of Martin’s absurd and exaggerated comedy style.

Martin brought a playful freedom to standup that informs comedy even today. Though his 70s persona feels dated, its echo presents a timeless influence.

Later-Years Reputation Repair

Aspects like arrogance and smugness that defined Steve Martin’s peak fame have faded gracefully in his later years. He developed a reputation as a kind, humble, generous person behind the scenes of entertainment.

Martin frequently hands small but memorable roles to up-and-coming young comedians looking for their first big break. He donates his time to charity causes and stays out of the tabloid limelight. After seeming larger-than-life in the 70s, the real Steve Martin turned out to be professional, humble and earnest.

Comedic Craftsmanship

While Martin’s stand-up employed props and physical comedy, his writing always demonstrated expert comedic craftsmanship with well-structured jokes featuring smart twist endings.

As a writer and comedian, Steve Martin nails joke construction like few others. Even when moving away from stand-up and focusing on acting, Martin displayed impeccable comedic timing and delivery revealing supreme comic talent. For those who appreciate the skill and nuance of comedy, Martin stands out as master craftsman.

Reasons Some Dislike Steve Martin

Over-the-top, slapstick early personaConsidered buffoonish and low-brow by some critics
Perceived arrogance at peak fameFlippant remarks rubbed some the wrong way
Departure from stand-up comedySome felt abandoned when he stopped performing live
Too much success too fastMassive mainstream popularity inevitable bred critics
Seems to old for physical comedy nowManic energy of his 20s impossible to replicate

Why Many Still Enjoy Steve Martin’s Comedy

Universally appealing humorBroad physical comedy transcended barriers
Creative renaissance manDisplayed immense talents far beyond just comedy
Timeless influenceModern comedy still exhibits his signature style
Reputation repair over timeDeveloped reputation as kind and humble person
Comedic craftsmanshipExpert joke construction and impeccable timing

What eras make up Steve Martin’s career?

Steve Martin’s long-ranging comedy career can be divided into a few distinct eras:

Early Career (Late 60s/Early 70s)

Martin started in comedy behind the scenes writing for TV shows before working his way up the stand-up circuit in Los Angeles and eventually breaking out as a mainstream sensation.

Peak Stand-Up Fame (Mid/Late 70s)

Martin exploded in popularity, selling out huge arena tours and making constant TV appearances and comedy albums at his peak before retiring from stand-up in 1981.

Movie Star Transition (Early 80s)

In the years after swearing off stand-up, Martin focused efforts on films and branching out creatively, earning mixed reviews as he tried to change his image.

Renaissance Man (Late 80s-onward)

Settling into new creative roles outside stand-up, Martin displayed versatility with projects in film, theater, writing, music and art, eventually circling back to stand-up periodically.

Did Steve Martin make the right choice leaving stand-up comedy?

Steve Martin’s decision to walk away from stand-up comedy in 1981 after only a decade performing was highly unusual for a star at the peak of his fame. While initially seen as perplexing, the choice enabled Martin’s evolution into a multifaceted renaissance man.

By swearing off the form that made him famous, Martin avoided stagnating creatively and expanded his talents into acting, writing, music, and art projects that earned immense respect. Though fans missed his unique live comedy, quitting stand-up was vital to the second creative life he has enjoyed in the decades since.

Steve Martin made the shrewd realization that his initial brand of physical comedy had a limited shelf life. As he slowed with age, that style would inevitably grow stale if he kept the same act for decades.

By trading the short-term laughter of live audiences for riskier challenges in other media, he traded quantity for quality in his later career. Not being boxed into just one comedic style let Steve Martin revealed new creative layers, avoiding stagnation.

Had Martin stubbornly stayed the stand-up course like contemporaries such as Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, he almost surely would have grown derivative of himself.


Steve Martin is mostly beloved four decades into his comedy career, but still certainly has his share of critics.

As with any famous entertainment figure who achieves the degree of success Martin found in his early stand-up days, some degree of contempt is inevitable – whether due to jealously over his stardom or legitimate analysis of his style of humor.

Martin’s particular brand of physical, slapstick comedy was undeniably crowdpleasing and accessible. But it lacked depth and sophistication according to observers who appreciated more nuanced approaches to stand-up.

Additionally, as a hugely famous young man, Martin’s arrogance rubbed many the wrong way. And upon walking turning his back so abruptly on live stand-up performance, some fans felt abandoned by an artist they helped rise.

However, despite these various controversies over the year, Steve Martin’s creative output and influence remains beloved on the whole. Martin evolved from the caricature wild and crazy stand-up persona into a man of diverse talents across artistic realms.

For those able to accept Martin on his own terms rather than hold him to unrealistic expectations rooted in nostalgia, an earnest talent crafted legendary comedy highlighted by expert joke structure and delivery.

Few celebrities in any era the entertainment landscape with the considerable width and depth as Steve Martin. The arc of his career has resembled less of a conventional stand-up comic and more akin to a legendary director like Woody Allen.

Both remained icons into old age by branching into colorful creative detours while staying grounded in the fundamentals of comedy.

More than any grumblings of supposed arrogance or sold-out stadiums, Steve Martin leaves a legacy of both accessibility and range – the man who brought wild spectacle to huge swaths of mainstream fans before revealing subtle talents to the more nuanced observers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did some not like Steve Martin’s early stand-up persona?

His over-the-top physical comedy and exaggerated character was considered like light comedy lacking substance by some critics who dismissed Martin as a prop comedian rather than an intelligent writer.

How did Steve Martin exhibit arrogance at his peak fame?

Flippant remarks in interviews, like saying entertainment can “become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot” implied smugness about his comedy to some critics.

Why did Martin moving away from stand-up upset some fans?

By focusing his efforts elsewhere after 1981 and rarely performing stand-up, some fans felt disappointed he severed ties with the unique live comedy that made him famous initially.

How has Steve Martin evolved in his later years?

Transitioning to creative roles in film, theater, writing and music, Steve Martin revealed talents far beyond physical comedy and developed a reputation as a kind mentor to younger comedians.

Does Steve Martin’s comedy influence still impact today?

Modern comedy stars in Steve Martin’s wild spirit like Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and Jimmy Fallon prove that his signature, playful comedic style remains influential over 40 years later.

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