steve martin likes ladies with big instruments
a pretty warranted adulation alongside a pretty boneless observation
Only Murders in the Building just aired its first season finale, so I wanted to send out a quick dispatch on Steve Martin.
I love Steve Martin. I cannot believe Steve Martin gave one of the funniest physical comedy performances of his career *this year,* at 76 years old. I cannot believe how well Only Murders stuck the landing, and I cannot believe how much I’m going to miss its charm and style until it eventually returns.
I’m not here to spoil anything (go watch! Seriously!), or really do any cultural analysis (here’s a really great piece that reckons with the show’s relationship to true crime). I just want to talk about this Steve Martin writing quirk I noticed.
Steve Martin likes ladies with big instruments! And that is fine. He’s allowed! But I need to know what the deal is, and I need to understand how he’s gotten away with it three whole times (that I’m aware of! There may be more! I haven’t seen his entire oeuvre!). Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me THREE TIMES, maybe that’s a fetish? Which is also fine! It’s just a thing.
If you’ve never seen the really sweet scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin sings “Tonight You Belong To Me” on the beach with Bernadette Peters, you should watch it.
It’s adorable! Just straight up cute and sweet and romantic. And the visual gag of Bernadette pulling out the trumpet is priceless.
Right, so, Holly from The Office, not Jan from The Office — the chameleon Amy Ryan, who should win an Emmy for this — plays Jan on Only Murders. And Jan plays the bassoon. And Jan dates the Steve Martin character.
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu
There are some great scenes between Ryan and Martin, playing their instruments back and forth through their windows. It is, once again, very cute and sweet. It never occurred to me to think of it as anything else.
And then I watched L.A. Story.
L.A. Story is a very cute movie that doesn’t entirely hold up, and that’s also fine. A charismatic Steve Martin performance is enough to keep my attention through pretty much anything, and he’s at the height of his powers here.
In L.A. Story, Steve Martin dates Victoria Tennant, and Victoria Tennant plays the tuba. Specifically, she plays “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” over the phone while her mother plays the same song on the piano.
Let me say it one more time: there is nothing inherently sinister about this scene. It is, as with the others, very sweet and cute.
But once I put it together that this has happened three times in three separate Steve Martin properties, I couldn’t get it out of my brain. This is my latest “Why are there so many Kimberlys in Nora Ephron movies?” (I wrote about that for Bright Wall / Dark Room recently). What is it with Steve Martin, ladies, and big instruments? Why is that so funny to him? Is it erotic? Is it both? Are ladies with big instruments to Steve Martin what feet are to Quentin Tarantino? Steve Martin was dating Bernadette Peters when they made The Jerk, and he was married to Victoria Tennant when they made L.A. Story. Should we be looking out for Steve Martin/Amy Ryan tabloid stories? I’d love to be proven either right or wrong here.
I don’t have an answer to any of these questions, and I suspect you won’t have one either. But it has been driving me crazy. So I thought I’d share.
I just got a new gig as the culture writer for Jewish Women’s Archive, so stay tuned for a bunch of essays about Jewish woman things in media from me. I couldn’t be more excited.
I’m on Venmo if you want to give me money or support my very inappropriate investigation into Steve Martin’s psychosexual health. I’m on Twitter if you want to see more of my broken-brain thoughts.