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Apple TV+ is releasing a 2-part documentary about one of the greatest comedians of all time

Published Mar 25th, 2024 9:29PM EDT
Steve Martin on Apple TV+
Image: Apple TV+

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There’s always been something about Steve Martin that you can’t quite put your finger on. He’s funny, and he comes off as a warm and approachable guy, but you can’t totally articulate why. A banjo-playing goof with a corny sense of humor, he’s also revered by fellow comedians (per Jerry Seinfeld, “He’s the most idolized comedian ever”) and adored by audiences who see in him an entertainer that makes performing look effortless and easy.

Morgan Neville’s new Apple TV+ documentary about the man will attempt to make sense of all that when it debuts later this week. The title is a bit of a mouthful — STEVE! (Martin) a documentary in 2 pieces — but what it showcases, among other things, is a level of thoughtfulness and profundity that lives beneath the surface of Martin’s happy-go-lucky schtick. His is a thinking man’s approach to the craft that Martin always brings to even his silliest routines and roles, and at one point in the new film, Martin even muses aloud about his profession that it can feel, at times, like trying to “solve something grand.”

“My whole life is backwards,” Martin says in the documentary, which hits Apple TV+ on March 29. “How did I go from riddled with anxiety in my 30s — to 75 and really happy? How did this happen?”

Call it the Tao of Steve. One of the most fascinating parts of the documentary (the title of which you’ll forgive me for shortening to just STEVE!) is the way Martin, who majored in philosophy in college, walks you through the kind of philosophical, Socratic approach he brings to comedy. He questions the most basic, atomic units of jokes and routines: Why does this have to be like that, which parts can be shuffled, and where could a more innovative approach to the humor be tried instead?

Martin talks about this sort of thing especially when he explains the purpose of “indicators,” moments in his comedy routines that instinctively gear an audience up for the laughs that he wants. “So I had this theory,” Martin explains. “What if I took out the indicators but just kept going? I was after that quality that is indefinable where you say, ‘I don’t know why it was funny, but it was.’”

The Apple TV+ documentary about him is an enjoyable watch and an especially engrossing portrait of a singular figure in entertainment. Importantly, it’s also split into two parts. Per Apple, “‘Then’ chronicles Martin’s early struggles and meteoric rise to revolutionize stand-up before walking away at 35. ‘Now’ focuses on the present day, with Martin in the golden years of his career, retracing the transformation that led to happiness in his art and personal life.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.