WASHINGTON, DC—America’s beloved comedic legend is BACK! Steve Martin is looking great and making people laugh more than ever as he makes his triumphant return to the comedy stage. In an exclusive interview with AARP The Magazine (ATM), the banjo-playing, novel-writing star, now 71, opens up about his return to stand-up comedy after a decades-long hiatus. A master at reinvention, Martin shares his cyclical path from comedian to impresario to his current touring comedy show An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life with his longtime friend, Martin Short.
While lauded as a comedy genius and ranked among history’s greatest stand-up comedians, Steve Martin shares his personal anguish while building his career and how his new perspective on life has brought him back to his roots. Martin also discusses how he suffered from panic attacks and hypochondria, his difficult relationship with his father, and his thoughts on raising a child at 71 years of age.
The following are excerpts from the June/July issue of the ATM cover story featuring Steve Martin, available in homes starting June 1st and available online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
Selections from Steve Martin’s Cover Story in the June/July issue of AARP The Magazine
On his perspective of his life now:
Asked to describe his life now, Martin does not hesitate: “very, very happy. I mean, it’s actually the perfect shape of a life. Except for the hard parts in the beginning – the disharmony, panic, pain, with occasional moments of great affection and comedy success.”
He says it took him a while to figure out that fame doesn’t make you successful. Not as a human being, not in any real way. Since that lesson, he says, “it’s been a gentle up-hill slope to a real, real happiness.”
On performing with his friend Martin Short:
Crowds love not only the nostalgic jokes and characters but the new, sometimes improvised material that Martin and Short bring to the stage. It’s the first time in all these years, Martin says, that he has truly loved performing. He and his old friend have an understanding:
“We have very similar boundaries with each other, which are none.”
On performing in the clubs:
Performing was always stressful, he recalls. The memory of his stand-up days makes Martin cringe: “I was in clubs. And they’re seedy, and there’s cheap wine and talking and noise.”
On his biggest fear when he was younger:
Also, in his youth, he suffered from panic attacks and hypochondria. But in recent years, those feelings stopped. As he jokingly puts it, “I worried all these years that I was going to die, and I never did. So why waste all that worry?”
On becoming wiser with age:
Many of us become more anxious as we age. Martin has gone in the other direction. “And you know, you absolutely do become wiser – if you’re watching and listening,” he adds.
On his ascent to success:
Martin says his success came not from innate talent but from dogged effort, honing his material night after night. “I always divide the world up into people like Picasso or Oscar Wilde, who seemed to have been born with their gifts, and the rest of us, who work at what we do,” he says. “For me, it wasn’t a gift. It was working.”
On becoming a father:
Martin and [Anne] Stringfield married in 2007 and now have a 4-year-old daughter. Having a young child at 71 is “fantastic,” Martin says. “I think if I’d had a child earlier, I would have been a lousy father, because I would have misplaced my attention on my career.”
He is determined not to make the same mistakes his own father did, although the squishy language of parental love doesn’t come easily. “I am very forthcoming with her, and it’s great,” he says carefully. “She’s giving me way more than I’m giving her.”
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