THE ABSENT-MINDED WAITER (1977) – An early movie gem from Steve Martin

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Early on in his fame, Steve Martin gave massive credit to Jerry Lewis’ style of zaniness. The Absent-Minded Waiter is an obvious homage to Lewis’ wacko style, and a superb one at that.

Cynics will say it’s little more than an extended early-“Saturday Night Live” sketch –early-era “SNL” vet Buck Henry even has a major role — but for sheerly silly laughs, it can’t be beat. Martin plays the most moronic waiter ever hired for a restaurant. Henry plays a war-veteran of AMW’s shenanigans who brings his wife (Teri Garr) to the restaurant for a crash course.

Martin and co-writer Carl Gottlieb hit pay dirt a couple of years later with The Jerk, but this is an extremely funny warm-up for that feature. (In fact, Martin used it as a prologue for his live stand-up act for years.) It’s no-hold-barred craziness, and since it lasts only seven minutes, it’s just long enough to be hilarious and not unbearable.