Anytime you look at anything that’s considered artistic, there’s a commercial world around it: the ballet, opera, any kind of music. It can’t exist without it.
Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.
Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way.
I saw the movie, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and was surprised because I didn’t see any tigers or dragons. And then I realized why: they’re crouching and hidden.
The operation was a success, but I’m afraid the doctor is dead.
Nothing I do is done by popular demand.
Love is a promise delivered already broken.
It’s pain that changes our lives.
Comedy may be big business but it isn’t pretty.
I got a flue shot and now my chimney works perfectly.
Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.
I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.
Boy, those French: they have a different word for everything!
I realized that comedians of the day were operating on jokes and punch lines. The moment you say the punch line, the audience either laughs sincerely or they laugh automatically or they don’t laugh. The thing that bothered me was that automatic laugh. I said, that’s not real laughter.
I’m tired of wasting letters when punctuation will do, period.
A record isn’t like a movie – you can get it together pretty fast.
It’s a mystery to me the way that contemporary art galleries function.
When I was in college, I really liked poetry. I don’t read much anymore.
You want to be a bit compulsive in your art or craft or whatever you do.
I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t.
When I finally retire, I just want to go away so no one has to listen to me.
Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.
What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.
With comedy, you have no place to go but more comedy, so you’re never off the hook.
It’s so hard to believe in anything anymore. I mean, it’s like, religion, you really can’t take it seriously, because it seems so mythological, it seems so arbitrary…but, on the other hand, science is just pure empiricism, and by virtue of its method, it excludes metaphysics. I guess I wouldn’t believe in anything anymore if it weren’t for my lucky astrology mood watch.
The banjo is truly an American instrument, and it captures something about our past.
Dinosaurs did not walk with humans. The evolutionary record says different. They gambled.
Don’t have sex man. It leads to kissing and pretty soon you have to start talking to them.
I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.
I would assign every lie a color: yellow when they were innocent, pale blue when they sailed over you like the sky, red because I knew they drew blood. And then there was the black lie. That’s the worst of all. A black lie was when I told you the truth.
I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.
I love comedy. That’s what got me into the arts. I don’t even know how to categorize myself anymore.
I believe that Ronald Reagan will someday make this country what it once was… an arctic wilderness.
You want to be a bit compulsive in your art or craft or whatever you do. You want to be focused on it.
Most comedies are really hard to write, or to watch, because you kind of generally know what’s coming.
An apology? Bah! Disgusting! Cowardly! Beneath the dignity of any gentleman, however wrong he might be.
I actually credit Twitter with fine-tuning some joke-writing skills. I still feel like I’m working at it.
I really enjoy finding the right word, creating a good, flowing sentence. I enjoy the rhythm of the words.
I think there are people out there writing original bluegrass songs, but it’s hard to get them out on the air.
I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot.
There is one thing I would break up over, and that is if she caught me with another woman. I won’t stand for that.
I was not naturally talented. I didn’t sing, dance or act, though working around that minor detail made me inventive.
When your hobbies get in the way of your work – that’s OK; but when your hobbies get in the way of themselves… well.
I just believe that the interesting time in a career is pre-success, what shaped things, how did you get to this point.
Hosting the Oscars is much like making love to a woman. It’s something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town.
You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.
I never thought about success. I always thought about doing the job at hand. My goal was getting through the show that night.
What is a movie star? A movie star is many things. They can be tall, short, thin, or skinny. They can be Democrats… or skinny.
I thought ‘Borat’ was a breakthrough comedy, because it was really funny. It wasn’t some studio-produced script with 14 writers.
I’m for the Wall Street Occupiers. But will they accept me when they find out I sell packaged mortgage default instruments to children?
I never thought much about success early on. I only thought about being a comedian – or just being in show business, is really more accurate.
I don’t like to look back, and I’m always worried about the next thing rather than resting on the laurels or the degradations of the last thing.
In my banjo show with the Steep Canyon Rangers, I do do comedy during that show. It’d be absurd just to stand there mute and play 25 banjo songs.
Tweeting is really only good for one thing – it’s just good for tweeting… It is rewarding, because it’s just its own reward. It’s sort of like heaven.
I was always a huge fan of E. E. Cummings. He did a series of lectures at Harvard or Princeton, and they were recorded. And they were incredibly moving.
I like the idea that one thing leads to another. You can tweet something completely innocuous, and then find yourself going off on a tangent that’s inspired by a response.
I’ve always believed that there are funny people everywhere, but they’re just not comedians. In fact, some of my best comedic inspirations were not professional entertainers.
The bluegrass community… can be very strict. I didn’t know if I’d be welcomed into the bluegrass community or not, but I think they judge you very fairly… I felt really welcome.
The real joy is in constructing a sentence. But I see myself as an actor first because writing is what you do when you are ready and acting is what you do when someone else is ready.
I cringe at backstory. Because it never quite explains or gets into some psychological thing that is never quite right and never quite the truth and who knows why someone is some way.
I was very interested in vaudeville. It was the only sort of discipline that was a five-minute act on stage, which is what I really enjoyed and saw myself doing. And I bought books on it.
I’m enamored with the art world. Anytime you look at anything that’s considered artistic, there’s a commercial world around it: the ballet, opera, any kind of music. It can’t exist without it.
Theories, for me, are just about freeing your mind. It doesn’t mean the theory is going to work like a scientific theory works. It’s about freeing your mind and making you think a different way.
I like all kinds of music. I listen to Abigail Washburn, the Punch Brothers, and Marc Johnson, the great clawhammer player. I also listen a lot to Sirius Radio, there’s a lot of bluegrass there.
I just wanted to be in show business. I didn’t care if I was going to be an actor or a magician or what. Comedy was a point of the least resistance, really. And on the simplest level, I loved comedy.
I have thought about some kind of musical involving my music. That would be kind of interesting. I have thought of it in that way, as a creator of something, not so much a performer. So that’s in my head.
I love technology, and I love science. It’s just always all in the way you use it. So there’s no – you can’t really blame anything on the technology. It’s just the way people use it, and it always has been.
I first thought maybe I’d do a banjo presentation record, where I’d play a couple of songs and get a bunch of other players to do the rest. Then I realized I had enough of my own songs to do an album of them.
I feel good about being able to take bluegrass on to television like ‘Letterman’ and ‘The View,’ and I’ve heard nice things about being able to do that. I really haven’t felt any negativity toward me or my music.
I think when I was young, let’s call it high school, and even before that, I just loved comedy, and I loved comedians. I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy. That’s really a long time ago. I loved Jerry Lewis. I just loved comedians.
Well, today the Grammys is much much better than the Oscars. I think the differences in the shows are that the Grammys are much wilder. The Oscars is much more people in the industry. And people dress wilder, I think, at the Grammys.
There’s a lot of thought in art. People get to talk about important things. There’s a lot of sex, you know, in art. There’s a lot of naked women and men, and there’s intrigue, there’s fakery. It’s a real microcosm of the larger world.
Everything is fraught with danger. I love technology and I love science. It’s just always all in the way you use it. So there’s no – you can’t really blame anything on the technology. It’s just the way people use it, and it always has been.
When I was in college, I was debating to try my hand at show business, or to become a professor. I just thought of the risk of not going into show business and always wondering if I would’ve had a chance. Because that’s where my real heart was.
The thing about the banjo is, when you first hear it, it strikes many people as ‘What’s that?’ There’s something very compelling about it to certain people; that’s the way I was; that’s the way a lot of banjo players and people who love the banjo are.
L.A. is only where you live, because otherwise it’s just a sprawling mass of everything, and I think if you live in L.A., you get a little network of places you go, and people you see, and when you leave town, you do miss those places and your friends.
Bad psychoanalysis would say I enjoyed pleasing people, working really hard and pleasing people, which is probably related to my father in some way. But I really liked working hard. When I worked at Disneyland, I’d do 12 hours straight and go home thrilled.
I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct. The course was more plodding than heroic.
‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ is a good one because it not only turned out, I think, to be a really funny movie but it was also a delight to shoot. We were in the South of France, working with Glenne Headly and Michael Caine and Frank Oz the director – who were just fun.
I thought if I had a Twitter feed and say I had a following of a 100,000, that means 100,000 of them would be interested in my book. It was logical, but it didn’t turn out to be true. It turned out if I had a Twitter feed of a 100,000, four of them were interested in my book.
Throughout my whole life, as a performer, I’ve never played with a band. I’ve always played alone, so I was never required to stay in rhythm or anything. So it was a real different experience for me to start playing with a band. There were so many basic things for me to learn.
I loved to make people laugh in high school, and then I found I loved being on stage in front of people. I’m sure that’s some kind of ego trip or a way to overcome shyness. I was very kind of shy and reserved, so there’s a way to be on stage and be performing and balance your life out.
I think I meant that, given the circumstances of my childhood, I had the illusion that it’s easier to be alone. To have your relationships be casual and also to pose as a solitary person, because it was more romantic. You know, I was raised on the idea of the ramblin’ man and the loner.
What I mean is that none of my talents had a – what’s that great word – rubric. A singer, an actor, a dancer – there was nothing I could really say I was. The writing came much later. And, actually, thank God, because if I had said I’m a singer, I would really have just had one thing to do.
I was raised with ‘Laurel and Hardy’ and ‘I Love Lucy’ and Jerry Lewis, and I just loved it. And I had a friend in high school and we would just laugh all day and put on skits. You know, it’s the Andy Kaufman thing or the Marty Short thing where you’re performing in your bedroom for yourself.
I loved doing ‘Pennies from Heaven.’ Because you have to understand that I’d been doing comedy for 15 to 20 years, and suddenly along came the opportunity to do this beautiful film. It was so emotional to me. I loved it. I don’t think it was a good career move, but I have no regrets about doing it.
I would get records by Earl Scruggs… I would tune my banjo down and I’d pick out the songs note by note. Learned how to play that way. I persevered. There was a book written by Pete Seeger, who showed you some basic strumming and some basic picking… And I kind of worked out my own style of playing.
When I first started doing my comedy act, I just desperately needed material. So I took literally everything I knew how to do on stage with me, which was juggling, magic and banjo and my little comedy routines. I always felt the audience sorta tolerated the serious musical parts while I was doing my comedy.
I was reading an article in the ‘New York Times;’ it talked about being in the zone, and being in the zone you’re so focused that time ceases to exist. It’s when you think, ‘Oh, I’ve been doing this for five hours and didn’t even know it.’ It’s the difference between hard work and going, ’12 o’clock, not moving.’
I wish I could do a lot of things different. I’m not going to tell you what they are, but if I had a list of all my films right now, I’d go, ‘Okay, I’ll cross that one out and cross that one out and cross that one out and cross that one out.’ Really. But I’ve made over 40 films. How can I not have some losers in there?
I’ve run into people in my life who were so dramatic; people who are so extreme and so frustrating to be around that you end up thinking about them and talking about them for literally years after your experience with them is over. I’ve had that happen to me, and I’ve seen it happen to other people. I find it fascinating.
I don’t think anyone is ever writing so that you can throw it away. You’re always writing it to be something. Later, you decide whether it’ll ever see the light of day. But at the moment of its writing, it’s always meant to be something. So, to me, there’s no practicing; there’s only editing and publishing or not publishing.
No matter how many times people say it – ‘Oh, I’m just writing this for myself’ ‘Oh, I’m just doing this for myself’ – nobody’s doing it for themselves! You’re doing it for an audience. So whether I’m performing or writing a book or playing music, it’s definitely to be put out there and to be received in some way, definitely.
Movies always are open to being remade because times change so much, and the tempo of movies changes. I think of it like a James Bond. They can have different actors play the same role… I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘We want to remake ‘The Jerk’ with so and so.’ And I say, ‘Fine.’ It just doesn’t bother me. It’s an honor actually.
I knew I could only play Cyrano if he were Americanized. I had no intention of writing the script myself. I was afraid of it. You’re playing with fire when you tamper with a classic. So I went looking for a writer. But it was such a personal idea, and anyone I would give it to would make it his own. It’s hard to ask Neil Simon to write your idea.
Steve Martin Quotes From The Movie Jerk
Sniper: Die, you random son of a bitch.
[shoots at Navin but hits a display of oil cans]
Navin R. Johnson: He hates these cans!
[Stan Fox’s eyeglasses keep slipping off]
Stan Fox: Damn these glasses son.
Navin R. Johnson: Yes, sir.
[to the glasses]
Navin R. Johnson: I damn thee.
Mother: Navin, it’s your birthday, and it’s time you knew. You’re not our natural-born child.
Navin R. Johnson: I’m not? You mean I’m gonna STAY this color?
New Accounts Bank Manager: I will need two pieces of identification.
Navin R. Johnson: Ah yes. I have my temporary driver’s license – and – my astronaut application form… I didn’t pass that though, I failed everything but the date of birth.
Grandma Johnson: [reading a letter from Navin] My dear family, guess what? Today I found out what my special purpose is for. Gosh, what a great time I had. I wish the whole family could’ve been here with me. Maybe some other time as I intend to do this a lot. Every chance I get. I think next week I’ll be able to send more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty has promised me a blowjob. Your loving son, Navin.
Navin R. Johnson: I’m gonna bounce back and when I do I’m gonna buy you a diamond so big it’s gonna make you puke.
Marie: I don’t wanna puke.
Navin R. Johnson: Now be totally honest. You do have a boyfriend don’t you.
Marie: Kind of
Navin R. Johnson: I know this is our first date but do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend you could think of me?
Marie: Well I haven’t made love to him yet.
Navin R. Johnson: That’s too bad. Do you think its possible that someday you could make love with me and think of him?
Marie: Who knows maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.
Navin R. Johnson: I’d be happy to be in there somewhere.
Navin R. Johnson: First I get my name in the phone book and now I’m on your ass. You know, I’ll bet more people see that than the phone book.
[Speaking to Marie in bed while she sleeps]
Navin R. Johnson: I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.
Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!
Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.
Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 – Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.
[the Sniper points to Navin’s name in the phone book]
Sniper: Johnson, Navin R… sounds like a typical bastard.
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