Friday, April 22, 2016

Child: Steve Martin's A Holiday Wish


From the beginning, what made Steve Martin great was the way he turned expectations on its head. Martin first burst into public consciousness at a time when comedians were moving away from the buttoned-up look to a more 60s counterculture appearance. Yet, he was known for performing in white suits, virtually the dictionary definition of “uncool.” His routines were based on unexpected juxtapositions, and ironic goofiness, like putting a fake arrow through his head. Or interrupting his set with some banjo playing. He is a true comic genius, and isn’t bad as an actor, playwright, musician, author, and art collector.

For some reason, despite the huge number of possible songs that I could have written about, this routine from the 1986 holiday episode of Saturday Night Live immediately jumped into my head. It is a classic example of Martin’s way of twisting expectations. It starts off with Martin, in a stereotypical “sincere television” Christmas setting, with soft music playing behind him, stating that if he had one holiday wish, “it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.” A beautiful sentiment, but not particularly funny, and we know that SNL at least tries to be funny.

Of course, Martin actually has other wishes, and by the end, “the crap about the kids” gets shunted behind what people would really want for the holiday, even if they wouldn’t ever admit it, and certainly not as part of a sappy ‘holiday wish” TV segment, including a month-long orgasm, unlimited power over every living being in the universe, $30 million a month, and that his enemies “should die like pigs in Hell!”

Then, of course, the children joining hands and singing.

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