Last night, in a small dingy comedy club in uptown Manhattan unbeknownst to anyone in the audience, a monumental moment occurred. With no warning or fanfare, Steve Martin returned to the stage to perform stand up comedy.
Why is that monumental? Because twenty-five years ago, at the height of his popularity, without telling a soul, he dropped the mic, walked off stage and never returned.
In 1981, Steve Martin was the biggest stand-up comedian in the country. He was arguably the biggest stand-up comedian ever up until that point, regularly selling out amphitheaters when other top names were still playing clubs. And then one day he just stopped. He played a show and after the show he decided not to do stand-up anymore.
"My act was conceptual. Once the concept was stated, and everybody understood it, it was done," Martin wrote in his classic 2007 memoir Born Standing Up. "It was about coming to the end of the road. There was no way to live on in that persona. You know, I didn't announce that I was stopping. I just stopped."
Honestly, I miss "Stand-up Steve." I miss his irreverent humor and slightly off color humor. I miss my dad and I always saying "WELLLL EEEXXCCUUSSSEE MEEEE" in our best Martin voice. Or "We are ... two WILD AND CRAAAZYYY GUYS!" I miss my dad waking us up behind our mother's back to watch him sing King Tut on Saturday Night Live. Maybe I miss Steve because I miss my dad.
It makes me sad that the audiences of today never saw the Steve Martin I knew. It makes me sad that they only see Steve as an actor in the same way it makes me sad that the same audiences only know Don't Stop Believing because of GLEE! I don't begrudge Steve Martin for leaving. I just miss him.
Like Steve, we all have second (and third) acts in our lives, and we should! I don't think we are meant to be and do the same thing day after day, year after year. But if we are not mindful, that is what this profession can lull us into doing. It forces many of us to be one thing, one act, one person for far too long. I suspect this is a big part of the reason so many people burn out and leave this incredible profession; they feel that they have simply "outgrown it."
Last night, Steve Martin reminded me that you can never give up who you are. And, no matter how hard you try, what you do is not just a part of who you are, but sometimes the best part. His return to stand up reminds me that sometimes you don't choose your profession, it chooses you!
Since leaving the live stage, Steve Martin has been met with unrivaled success as an actor, writer, artist, composer, and musician, but to me, he will always be just a "wild and crazy guy."
I left the classroom long ago and now most everyone I know now only knows me as Scott Lang Leadership; however, a part of me, and perhaps the best part, is the part that few remember as Scott Lang, the band director.
I miss him a little bit too.
Thanks for listening... just wanted to share.