When you corner funny guy extraordinaire Steve Martin for a little press interrogation, be prepared for punchlines rather than answers in response to questions.
Current Renaissance guy Martin, who is poised right now for the release of his Inspector Clouseau screen followup, Pink Panther 2, along with the debut of his new album, dropped all sorts of weird one-liners during this gab session. Including revelations about his Clouseau evil twin, honeymoon safety gadgets, investigative clues concerning his inner Charlie Chaplin, and promises about on-the-job trade secrets he must have a hunch a nosy reporter can never keep.
This is a wild movie.
STEVE MARTIN: Thanks…Where were you for the last one!
Funny! There’s a famous quote from your father, that says you’re no Charlie Chaplin. But are you by any chance channeling Chaplin in this movie, and with a dash of Harold Lloyd?
SM: Um, may I have your name!
Ha! So, please explain.
SM: Well, I was just watching Charlie Chaplin the other night and I felt, what a pretender I am. But it’s just something I do. I didn’t really study up on anything. But I do appreciate those films. Sorry if I’m long-winded!
Why is Clouseau such a beloved character?
SM: Because I’m playing him!
You take jabs at the media in the movie too. How sick of us are you!
SM: Well, we did use a Norman Mailer line. It’s when he said, ‘if I made a comment after I said ‘no comment,’ I’d look like an ass, wouldn’t I!’ But I don’t have a problem with the press. I have a problem with negative press. You know, we’re all sensitive. But I know you would never do that!
Do you think getting the girl at the end of the movie, is going to change Clouseau in some fundamental way?
SM: Ha! I have to tell you, that every movie I’ve done that ends with me at a wedding or holding a baby, has been a hit! But I think it’s a great thing to use. It’s happy and nice. And if we ever do a third, it would obviously open with our honeymoon. You know, I try to take her across the threshold, and she’s wearing arm pads and a helmet!
Your scenes with Lily Tomlin were hilarious. What’s it like to get together again, after being away from her for so long?
SM: It’s like you’re finishing a sentence you started twenty years ago. You know, life is like that. So it was very easy to work with her.
Was it all improvised?
SM: It was written, and then improvised around.
Talk about the male bonding thing between you and Jean Reno’s wimpy character.
SM: These are two lonely guys in Paris and they’re like, let’s go out on the town. But then they end up staying home and washing each other’s hair!
With all those impressive stunts you were up to, do you think action movies are in your future?
SM: Ha! You know, I’ve always dreamed of doing an action movie, because I imagine they’d be shooting a car chase for days while I’d be sitting at home relaxing. Then I’d come in and get behind the wheel, and go, what?! Then I’d go home and have dinner and go to plays, and come back two days later to say, I told you so! It doesn’t work out that way, actually. But the hardest thing for me in this movie, was acting like you’re running when you’re really running in place on a board attached to that moving car. But don’t tell anybody!
Promise. What about walking on that giant globe, how hard was that doing it in a harness?
SM: They’ve improved harnesses over the years!
Did you get hurt at all?
SM: I only got hurt emotionally!
Speaking of which, what was it like to be in that love triangle in the movie, with those two gorgeous women?
SM: Well, Emily Mortimer is such a delight. She’s real…candy! And she’s also funny in life, she has a great sense of humor. And, Aishwarya Rai, I didn’t know when I came in, that she’s a big star in India who can’t walk down the street. Which I’m jealous of!
What was your worst experience as a musical performer?
SM: We opened up in Greenwich Village in NY, and nobody came! And I told the owner, you don’t have to pay me. He said, no, no. Let’s try another night. And the next night, nobody came either.
SM: And…I left!
What was the challenge of writing an autobiography?
SM: The biggest challenge was remembering!
Will you write another volume for your autobiography?
SM: No! By now, it’s all just anecdotal, and there’s no story. And you could replace my name, with anybody else’s in the movie business.
You seem so humble for a big star.
SM: Comedy makes you humble. Because there are so many opportunities to miss, and strike out.
What’s the big thrill of comedy?
SM: In any other profession, you end up wearing a suit and sitting behind a desk. But you make it in show business, you end up in a clown suit riding on an elephant!
Do you think there’s something about acting that keeps you young?
SM: Yeah, acting keeps me alert to people, and life. I don’t know, there’s something about going to work early in the morning, and having to stay alert and concentrated. Maybe that keeps your mind alive. And of course, there’s makeup!
You’re such a popular entertainer. But what entertains you?
SM: Obviously I like to listen to a lot of banjo music. But I joke with my wife, because the shows we fall asleep to on TV are like, Forensic Files. You know, ‘the head was cut off and buried.’ But the guy has such a soothing voice, that he puts you to sleep!
At what point did you decide to put out this album?
SM: It was when I realized I had enough songs. I had fifteen songs, and that’s enough for a record. And I thought, if I don’t do it now, my fingers might slow down. And I might forget the songs. So we quickly got some people together to do the record. It was really fun.
Steve, you’re hosting Saturday Night Live again. Are you now the official record holder for hosting SNL the most times?
So is it old hat for you by now?
SM: No, it’s still live. So it never gets to be old hat. You know, there’s still that surge of energy before you go out there.
What’s the worst part of being famous?
SM: I want celebrity when I want it, and I don’t want celebrity when I don’t want it. It’s absolutely true.
And that should have been funny!
SM: That’s it? That was brief!