Steve Martin Pauline Kael - Essay

Pauline Kael

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A comic's naked desire to make us laugh can be an embarrassment, especially if we feel that he's hanging on that laugh—that he's experiencing our reaction as a life-or-death matter. Steve Martin is naked, but he isn't desperate. (He's too anomic to be desperate.) Some performers can't work up a physical charge if the audience doesn't respond to them, but Steve Martin doesn't come out on a TV stage cold, hoping to get a rhythm going with the people in the studio. He's wired up and tingling, like a junk-food addict; he's like a man who's being electrocuted and getting a dirty thrill out of it. Steve Martin doesn't feed off the audience's energy—he instills energy in the audience. And he does it by drawing us into a...

(The entire section is 662 words.)