The following is my first of two entries in my See You in the ‘Fall’ Blogathon, taking place at this blog from Sept. 20-23, 2015. Click on the above banner, and read entertaining entries from a variety of blogs about priceless moments of physical comedy from TV and movies!
A comedian pulls objects out of the zippered “private” section of his pants. Does anything sound tackier? In the, er, gifted hands of Steve Martin, it turns into a breathtakingly brilliant six minutes of silent comedy right up there with Chaplin and Keaton.
Amazingly, I can’t find one article in that vast virtual encyclopedia known as the Internet that tells anything about the history of this “act.” At the time that Martin was performing it (at a magic club in L.A. and, as you can see if you look hard enough on the Web, on TV in England), I remember reading a piece about it, I think in The New Yorker. It sounded weird but tantalizing, and I figured I’d probably never be lucky enough to see a performance of it.
But in the final month of Johnny Carson’s tenure as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Carson — I suspect — coerced Martin into doing the act on his show as a personal favor (the two of them were friends off-stage). And so, happily, we have a recording of it.
What this recording proves above all is that Martin was born far off in the wrong era. When television made it big in the 1950’s, veteran stage performers complained that in vaudeville, you could make a career out of one routine, but once you performed that routine one time on TV, it was dead after that. If Steve Martin could have conceived “The Great Flydini” when vaudeville was thriving, it’s likely he could have made a career solely out of that one act.
Stripping the routine to its essentials, the act still amazes. Even when you figure out how Martin actually gets the objects to emerge from his fly (I won’t spoil the fun here), you’re left to wonder: How does he work all of that stuff in his pants, while still maintaining his comic timing? It’s uncanny.
So sit back and marvel at Steve Martin as “The Great Flydini.” One word of warning: Carson introduces Martin anonymously as just another magic act, and then Martin spends the first 30 seconds or so milking the audience’s shock that it’s Steve Martin in front of them. So you’re led to believe that it’s just going to be Steve Martin doing another of his put-ons at the expense of his captive audience. Don’t believe it for a second. He has thought out every moment of this act, to our everlasting delight.
(If you liked this blog entry, click here to read my second blog entry about the Three Stooges short subject Gents Without Cents.)