A Beginner's Guide to Steve Martin's Eclectic, Groundbreaking Career

You can see Steve Martin's influence in almost every notable comedy of the past 30 years. Below are our 5 Steve Martin essential works, but head to The A.V. Club for an immersive look at the career of the multi-talented icon http://avc.lu/1V7x7gU Feel free to share your Steve Martin essentials in the comments!
  1. The Jerk (1979)
    Martin's first major movie is not only one of his best, but one of the funniest and most influential comedies ever to come out of Hollywood. While a lot of the jokes are beyond dumb, the intellect needed to devise gags of this sublime inanity is abundantly clear. A good way to tell whether someone had a sense of humor is to quote, "He hates these cans!" And gauge their reaction.
  2. Born Standing Up (2007)
    Self-awareness is not a trait associated with many celebrities, but Martin's honest memoir is starting lay forthright about not just what he did onstage and why, but how he felt about his eventual success. Beyond the insights, his gifts as a writer of simple and heartfelt prose are on full display.
  3. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)
    A masterpiece of balanced tones and comedic escalation. Rare is the movie that can makes audiences weep with laughter, then make them weep out of empathy a minute later. Martin - a consummate nice-guy actor - was never a part of a nicer movie.
  4. Let's Get Small (1977) / A Wild And Crazy Guy (1978)
    Even if conceptual stand-up was still a major force in comedy, it'd be hard to imagine anyone topping these legendary works, which one their own would be enough to assure Martin's place in cultural history.
  5. Picasso At The Lapin Agile (1993)
    Martin's lovely play is an ode to all types of creative processes, in awe of the ability of geniuses to see new truth and express them in forms of beauty. It's well worth reading even if you can't see a revival; if there's a single work that sums up Martin's worldview in all its warmth and complexity, this is it.