Customer Reviews: Let's Get Small
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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. The album was such a success that he immediately began selling out arenas and coliseums and, of course, began his unprecedented run as guest host of SNL, where he pioneered a string of famous skits. The album was cutting edge, but it was also graced with an almost universal appeal.

Following this album he released an almost equally good one, A WILD AND CRAZY GUY. Unfortunately the next two were more formulaic and felt like efforts to cash in on his success. By then Martin's career as a stand up comedian was over. The other great stand up to emerge from the seventies, Robin Williams, has at gone back to stand up from time to time, but Martin has stuck with acting and writing. But his subsequent success in other fields shouldn't make us forget just how brilliant this debut album was.
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on June 7, 2000
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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on October 12, 2001
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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on January 11, 2013
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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VINE VOICEon July 27, 2013
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. This was a great album for parties in that, like a classic rock album, everyone knew the words. Since 1977, though, the style has worn out, and jokes involving Jimmy Carter or the gay jokes will likely draw a blank stare from anyone under 50. Still, "Let's Get Small" is like a classic rock album. Those hits you all drunkenly shouted along to in college thirty some years ago still can elicit a nostalgic chuckle or two, but getting your teenage grandkids to laugh along might be a challenge.
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on November 9, 2009
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. It's certainly dated (he calls himself a semi-professional comedian, the price of tickets is $4, and he complains about $15 ticket prices in Vegas) but the comedy is well-crafted, intelligent, and far less offensive than most of what you'll find today. There is some swearing, but it's all in service of the comedy and not just to be shocking. But best of all, the performance is subtle enough that it rewards close attention and repeated listening. Martin doesn't just spoon-feed the audience, he makes you meet him halfway. And it's definitely worth the effort.
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on June 18, 1999
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.
The best skit, though, is his parody of a Vegas pop singer who has to perform his act in fifteen minutes, so he talks at the speed of light. The skit includes a humorous story of a bisexual couple who ask him to join them with some S&M people; Steve feigns ignorance by claiming he speaks a little Spanish and is looking forward to an intellectually rewarding dissertation with "Spaniards and Mexicans."
The Ramblin' Guy rambles on.
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on June 22, 2013
I had a pirated copy in the late 70's. It was one of the tap roots of my sense of humor. Preceded by Wild and Crazy Guy, Followed by Comedy is Not Pretty. Funny stuff. I would recommend it to anyone with ears and a pulse. Buy it. Hear it. Laugh!
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on October 4, 2005
One of the most classic comedy albums of all time... hands down. It's one timeless side-splitting bit after the other. If you don't walk around singing "Ramblin' Man", you need to go get meds for your depression.

The bit called "Smoking" actually helped me out once. I used Steve's line and it really worked!! Not to mention the other person found it funny too. (If you don't know the bit, buy this CD, listen to it and you'll understand what I'm talking about)

It's just too bad comedy just isn't like this anymore...
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on April 25, 2005
Steve Martin is so funny man. He laugh me out to death since I purchased this on original LP. I thought this was gonna be a music album at first when I little growing up but it's a comedy album. And it can be played again and again. Even tho he doesn't do stand up comedy anymore, he does movies which is his big thing. I always been such a honorable or fanatic fan of him since seeing him on Saturday Night Live and everything. I actually hear that he's plays guitar and banjo. No problem. Maybe 1 of those days he'll do a music album in the near future. I also wanna go see him. He's sure is one of the funniest and most beloved actors and comedians that's been around in the planet. I can't wait 4 his return to the stand up comedy pretty soon. 'Cuz it's been so long. All the comedy joints are great and are fun to listen to. I recommend along other comedy acts like Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Gilda Radner (one of my all-time fav. people in the world, RIP, bless her heart wish she was here), a lil Lenny Bruce, Flip Wilson, Jerry Seinfeld, just to name a few. Yep this is a comedy must if u luv real comedy or else into other stuff like I do.
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