Comedian Steve Martin has a couple of new books out, and the New York Times tracked him down for an interview. One may learn a lot from these interviews. In this case, we learn how far is the reach of Pete Seeger’s banjo, and the reach of instruction:
His [Steve Martin’s] early acts were a hodgepodge — some juggling, some magic, some balloon tricks, some banjo-playing — and to a great extent his style remained eclectic, with the crucial addition of irony; the act became in some ways the parody of an act, with no punch lines, and audiences found it even funnier.
“It was a great discovery,” Mr. Martin said. “There I was making fun of what I was doing, and yet I was still getting to do it.”
The only relic Mr. Martin keeps from those days is his banjo, which he taught himself to play as a teenager from a Pete Seeger instruction book, practicing alone in his car with windows rolled up even on hot summer nights. Waiting for the knock on the trailer door, and the summons to don his epaulets and marry again, he picked up the banjo and played a bluegrass song he had been learning. “When I play music, it’s like an alternate form of living,” he said.