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Let's Get Small

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 24, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

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Martin's got the audience in the palm of his hand on this mid-'70s recording of a show at The Boarding House in San Francisco. The comedian and his crowd are on the same wavelength; everyone in the room seems to share a California post-hippie sense of absurdism. Occasionally punctuated by banjo playing, Martin's almost cocky performance somehow manages to ramble with a sense of purpose. He certainly doesn't have to worry about losing the crowd; every tossed-off remark and gesture is readily gobbled up. Some of Martin's material verges on the surreal, and not surprisingly, drug references abound. One subtext of the album is the tension between conventional show biz and the hipper brand of comedy that Martin saw himself as embodying. But the comic doesn't really play favorites: both alternative and mainstream culture are targets for his funny jabs. --Fred Cisterna
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 24, 1995)
  • Original Release Date: 1977
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Off Roster
  • ASIN: B000002MSY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,879 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Too many of the reviews here are not judging this album on its own merits, but on everything they know about Steve Martin following the appearance of this album in 1977. The fact is that this album was so successful that it catapulted Steve Martin into the national spotlight, but before this album he was virtually unknown. At a time when most comedians were basing more and more of their humor on their capacity to get progressively vulgar, Martin brought forth a brand of humor that depended less on profanity than conceptual humor. He could get obscene as well, but because most of his act was "clean," the few times he would get bawdy had far more impact than with other major comedians.

I remember reading once that before turning to comedy Martin was in college a philosophy student, especially the linguistic philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Certainly Martin is more conceptual than any contemporary comedian (though Steven Wright has since developed a comparable conceptual approach, though his presentation is considerably different), delighting in toying with words, combining ideas that clash unexpectedly with one another. And although the humor was always completely planned, there was an almost stream of consciousness touch to his routine at times. It was almost he never ceased being a philosopher, almost engaging in a deconstruction of normal humor.

What I find amazing today is that this album, released in the hey day of the age of disco, seems as fresh today as it was when it first came out. Even if you've heard the stuff before, his changes of pace and shifts are perennially original and unexpected. He really was cutting edge, but pretty soon he made cutting edge popular.
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Format: Audio CD
Anyone who can use "Obsequious, Purple and Clairvoyant" in a sentence, and make you laugh at the same time, is a comical genius! This album makes you wish that you had a 'wayback machine' set to 1977. You would gladly pay your four dollar admission to the Boarding House, and spend the next hour or so laughing with/at Mr. Steve Martin.
Since much of the humor is in the delivery, you'll have to listen for yourself to appreciate this masterpiece of comedy! You won't be dissappointed!
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Format: Audio CD
In interviews in the early eighties, Steve Martin claimed that he hated performing standup: he said it frightened him. But he sure showed audiences a good time. He once led an audience - several hundred of them - outside to a local fast food joint and tried to order fries for everybody; another story he tells had him leading an audience out for a walk into the nearby neighborhood where they found an empty swimming pool. He had them all get in and he swam across the top of them - years before that became a commonplace of rock concerts.
Here he is with his banjo (he is a wonderful, mostly self-taught banjo player), trying and failing to sing sad songs with banjo accompaniment. ("You just can't sing a sad song with a banjo.... 'Oh death...and grief....and sorrow...and murder....'") He talks mockingly of seventies pot culture, improvises, dreams, and rambles with an ease and mastery that surpasses all of his subsequent albums. Highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I had this album on vinyl, but haven't actually listened to it since some time in the 1980s. I realized that my wife had never heard any Steve Martin, and I knew I had to get the cds. It was interesting getting the reaction of a totally new listener and comparing it to my own sepia-toned nostalgia.

The good: My wife laughed quite a bit more than I expected her to, honestly. There is a lot in this album that still holds up. Martin is great at building expectation and then taking a sharp left turn that makes you laugh out loud. The story about his girlfriend is still a classic.

On a personal note it was also great finally being able to share the source of so many of my own sayings, lines, and bits. I'd forgotten just how much of my own comedy comes from Steve Martin's early years, and I think this gave my wife an insight into my formative years.

The bad: I hate to criticize one of the true greats, but listening to this today I can clearly see that it was recorded and edited on the cheap. The sound quality isn't always very good, jokes from multiple shows run together in sometimes confusing ways, there is a little too much "filler" in some places and not quite enough in others, etc. If the original recordings of these shows still exist (fat chance, I know) I'd love to see someone recut them into a new album.

Also, as with almost all comedy albums, there are some bits that are a little hard to follow without the visuals. It's a shame, too, because the audience seems highly amused. But as I said, that's a problem with almost every comedy album ever made, so it's not a criticism. It's just too bad that videos of Steve's early shows aren't more readily available.

In short: this is still a great album, even so many years later.
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Format: Audio CD
Steve Martin engages in one of his best nightclub performances in the Bill McEuen-produced recording of his act at The Boarding House in San Francisco in '77.
Steve opens with the engaging Ramblin' Guy, goading the audience to join in the singing - a trait he repeats later in Grandmother's Song when he makes the audience repeat his hilariously demented lyrics such as, "Be obsequious, purple, and clairvoyant."
Steve's banjo figures prominently in the lengthy title skit. Getting Small is a drug parody that takes up very little of the roughly fifteen minutes of the skit. Steve fills out the time with a joke aimed at plumbers supposedly attending the show (the laughs come from Steve's use of arcane plumbing jargon), a bogus story about how he was born "a poor black child" (the basis for the movie The Jerk), and a long banjo riff that includes a fantastic bout of Foggy Mountain Breakdown amid a cheerful riff with deliberately inane negative lyrics.
Smoking is a skit that is funnier than it has any right to be; it uses flatulence in a roaringly funny satire of smoking in a restaurant.
Steve's tradmark catchphrase is brought forward in a sham fight with the nightclub's backstage crew after they ignore his request for a blue spotlight to create a mellow mood. It is great as he calmly gripes about how the crew is made of hippies who prefer to take drugs than do their job; the more he talks about it, the angrier he gets, until he is roaring - some in the audience start egging him on, adding enormously to the comedic effect.
Funny Comedy Gags is just that - recommended jokes to play on friends, the laughs coming from the sheer rudeness of the jokes.
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