1978:  Comedian Steve Martin poses for a portrait with a fish tucked in to his 3 piece suit and signed "Best Fishes, Steve Martin" to publicize the release of his album "Wild And Crazy Guy" in circa 1978. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Steve Martin's Name Wasn't Enough To Sell Paramount On The Jerk
According to a 2019 oral history of “The Jerk” on Consequence of Sound, Steve Martin was playing a sold-out show in 1977 that was attended by Paramount executive David Picker. The raucous response to his act from the crowd convinced Picker to offer Martin a two-picture deal at the studio.
Coming up with a concept for a film was one hurdle Martin and his co-writer Carl Gottlieb had to climb — the other was Martin's untested status as a movie actor. To that end, the duo put together a 7-minute short entitled “The Absent-Minded Waiter,” a film that would double as both a screen test and cinematic calling card for Martin.
“The Absent-Minded Waiter” exceeded everyone's expectations, proving that Martin was just as dynamic on screen as on stage. The writing duo finally worked up an idea for a feature film, which became “The Jerk,” but due to executive changes at Paramount, Martin wound up leaving and setting up shop at Universal, with Michael Elias as his co-writer.
Upon its release, “The Jerk” proved that Steve Martin was bound to become a legend himself. Though “the reviews were mixed,” as Elias recalled, the movie ultimately worked because it “was Steve's act in a way, which was also groundbreaking and anarchistic and bent all the rules and reflected on itself and parodied other things.”