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Let's Get Small

4.4 out of 5 stars 62 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 (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,127 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2006
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 found my dad's copy of this record long before I had any idea who Steve Martin was. All I remember about it is how much I used to laugh. I'm a huge Steve fan right now, and this album is just amazing. It's funny, featuring both edgy and family-humor. Even though there are many visual based parts of his act, the way he vocalizes everything means it is very easy to picture what is going on. It's also cool to hear a lot of little blurbs that pop up later in his movie career, such as the very rough outline of his life as a poor black child that turned into his first starring film, The Jerk.
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Format: Audio CD
With the 70's, comedy albums made a radical shift. The rock and roll generation didn't have the mindset for the starchiness of, say, Bob Newhart, or the homilies of Bill Cosby. The sex and drugs and rock and roll world needed their jokes to come at them more like a progressive rock album, just in monologue form. They also took advantage of the studio technology. The first of these artists came in the likes of Firesign Theater or Cheech and Chong, who used recordings like sound stages to set up elaborate long form jokes and characters. Then there was the other side of that coin. Enter Robin Williams and most importantly, Steve Martin.

Martin flipped the 70's upside down. Instead of the dopey world of Cheech and Chong, Martin came to the stage as the most uptight of WASP's, with a shiny white suit and surreal sideshow sight gags. Like Monty Python did to TV, Martin went to that backdrop, and he exaggerated the absurdity of being this vanilla wafer of a guy to the point that his routines became like rock songs. By making a name for himself with his appearances on Saturday Night Live, where his banjo and bunny ears were delivered with a straight face as compared to the rapid-speed freakishness of John Belushi and the rest of the original cast. He was acting like he was clueless among the hippest, but you were in on the gag. By 1977, Martin was one of the hottest of the new breed of stand-up comedians and "Let's Get Small" was recorded.

These were such 'hits' in the late 70's that every high-schooler and college kid had most of the catch phrases memorized. You couldn't go an hour without hearing somebody set themselves up to say "Excuuuuuse Meeeee!" Or sing the bits off of "Theme From Ramblin' Man." His shows were like concerts for his acolytes.
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