Appellate Judge Dave Ryan is (wait for it...wait for it...) a wild and crazy guy!
"He gave his life…for tourism."
Although he eventually launched a long and successful movie career, Steve Martin was originally known for his stand-up act and his frequent appearances on NBC's Saturday Night Live. In the early days of the show, Martin could almost have been considered a part-time cast member, so frequently did he host the show. Today, he holds the distinction of hosting SNL more times—14—than anyone else (although Alec Baldwin, with 13 hosting appearances, threatens to pass him soon).
Given Martin's baker's-dozen-plus appearances on the show, it should be ridiculously easy to assemble a "best of" reel for him, right? Well…yes. Yes, it is ridiculously easy. Saturday Night Live: The Best of Steve Martin is my nominee for the All-Time Simplest Job for a DVD Production Company award. This is actually a re-release of a Steve Martin collection originally released back in 2000, updated to include Martin's post-1994 SNL appearances as well. Accordingly, it's substantially longer than the original, clocking in at 108 minutes. It appears that some, if not all, of the "extra" sketches on the original release have been incorporated into the main feature here, too.
There are 24 sketches in the main feature, some of which are excerpts from Martin's stand-up monologues. Here's the complete list:
• "Viagra Cold Open"
There really isn't a clunker in the bunch here; even the newer sketches are pretty funny. Okay, the "Penis Cream" sketch is pretty weak, to be honest—but even it has its moments. Martin is extremely well suited to the SNL sketch comedy format—his energy and impeccable comedic timing can turn an okay sketch into a great one. The monologue excerpts from the Seventies—which really were just segments of Martin's old stand-up act—were the highlight for me, though. It's difficult to find Martin's old television specials on VHS or DVD these days, and his comic albums just don't fully capture the greatness of his stand-up. In his day, Martin was unparalleled as a stand-up comic; these all-too-brief clips help to illustrate why. (He's a damn fine banjo player, too, in case you didn't know.)
Picture and sound are, on the whole, good—but, of course, the quality varies based on how old a given sketch is. The earlier stuff is grainy and in mono; the 2000-era sketches are in (non-anamorphic) widescreen and Dolby Surround. Although the old sketches look old, they don't look terrible. For footage that hasn't gone the full-on restoration route, it's actually not that bad.
I haven't been thrilled with the manner in which Saturday Night Live material is being released. These "best of" collections work fine as in-season fill-in episodes between original SNL broadcasts, but their proliferation on DVD (we have 21 SNL reviews posted as of this writing) strikes me as excessive overkill. Is "The Best of Cheri Oteri" really the best way to leverage 30 years of SNL material? Thankfully, it appears that the Powers That Be (that would be Lorne, I assume) are moving towards a more value-added approach to SNL DVD releases. Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season is a step in the right direction, as was the SNL musical performance collection. And there certainly are some SNL notables who absolutely deserve "Best Of" treatment. Steve Martin definitely falls into that category. Saturday Night Live: The Best of Steve Martin is a great collection of Martin 's SNL work; I wouldn't be surprised if a second volume were eventually released as well.If you want my advice (as someone who's watched the show since 1977), if you want to get the best of SNL on the cheap, I'd suggest picking up the following "Best Of" collections (not necessarily in this order):
• This one
That will cost you about $110 or so (less if you find any of these discs used), and will get you about 14 hours of terrific comedy. You could also augment it with the Belushi disc if you so desire. I'm just not on the JB bandwagon, personally. Terrific talent, but a mixed bag in the SNL context.
But I digress. Steve Martin is an SNL legend; this disc befits a legend. It's a great value for your DVD purchasing dollar if you're a fan of Martin.
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Scales of Justice
• Two Extra Sketches: "Women, Art & Change" and "Alec & Steve Backstage"
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