STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $9.98
RUNNING TIME: 108 Minutes
• Bonus sketches
• Dress rehearsals
• Photo gallery

The Pitch

"Steve Martin’s one Wild and Crazy Guy, who one day finds himself in a…I’m sorry? This is just a clip show? Shit, that saves me a lot of work.”

The Humans

Steve Martin, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Chris Farley, Alec Baldwin, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers.

The Nutshell

Steve Martin. SNL. Best of. Proceed.

" ‘What the Hell is that?’ ‘I think it’s Lindsay Lohan’s vagina, Steve. Either that or a Maryland King Crab.’ "

The Lowdown

A lot of people bemoan the individual “theme” SNL releases, and I can see where they’re coming from. A “Best of” compilation does not a full-season set make, and some people are completists. Me, I’m a fan (although pretty much everyone excluding Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg on the current season can suck a fatty), but truth be told, I prefer these more compact little numbers—they showcase some of the greats on the show, and you’re almost guaranteed a 50% laugh count. That’s WAY better than something like Epic Movie could ever hope for.

And as far as these individual SNL discs go, this “Best of” Steve Martin set is extremely solid.

I’m not kidding. This is gonna be a (relatively) snark-free affair.

It’s actually not a straight-up clip show, but rather an actual SNL episode built around Martin. Don’t let that dissuade you because more than anything else, this disc brings the funny. I laughed my ass off at quite a good bit of this. Regardless of some of his more dubious career choices, Steve Martin is one of the funniest guys alive, and it’s no surprise he’s SNL’s MVP in terms of hosts; the man’s got a gift for using his dry, absurdist style to elevate even the lamest of material. Take the “Corporate Gig” skit. This sketch has Martin performing stand-up before Hamas members. Say that to yourself again. Yes, the premise really is “jam-a-knitting-needle-into-my-brain-to-make-the-voices-stop” lame, but Martin sells it, and it’s one of the funnier new SNL bits I’ve seen.

Ah, Belushi! And in his physical prime and best of health! *shakes head and sighs* Christ, it’s a wonder he lived as long as he did.

And it’s certainly not the only funny bit. You got some stone-cold classics on this set, like the “Theodoric of York” twofers and “King Tut,” or the more recent “Penis Beauty Cream” and the brilliant “Tonight Song;” a whole mess of pretty good bits like “Common Knowledge” and “Jeopardy 1999;” one completely uninspiring bit, “Rise;” and only a few stinkers, “SNL Digital Short: Two Inches,” “Quick Zoom Theater,” and “Tightwad 007” being the odd boys out. Plus, the “Viagra Cold Open” is maybe the funniest goddamn thing I’ve seen in a long while. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s got Steve, a lusty Kelly Ripa, and Alec Baldwin being…well…Alec Baldwin. It’s a riot, and its follow-up, “Steve Martin Renegotiates,” is almost as good, Jimmy-Fallon-presence be dammed.

Oh yeah, and I peed a little bit ‘cause of “Theater Stories” and “What the Hell is That?” Right in my shorts. Don’t know why, exactly, but these two gave me the giggles and made me squirt off a little in my shorts, and I thought I should include that for you fine folks.

I also just found this set neat from a cultural standpoint. First off, it debunked a prejudice I carried about SNL: that the older stuff is funnier than the more current stuff. It turns out crap is crap regardless of when you cut it, and some of the older bits were just as bad as anything I’ve seen on recent SNL episodes. I’m sorry, the Coneheads and the Festrunk Brothers may be considered classics, but once you get past their relevance as cultural touchstones, there ain’t much else going on. And they go on and on and on, just so’s if you were already bored with them, they can nudge you even further into a lack-of-comedy coma. But at least they had the cultural thing going for them.

Some you may see Martin Short serving drinks as funny. Others see it as the next logical step.

Secondly, you get a lot of Steve Martin’s early stand-up routine. This was (dare I say it) revelatory viewing for me. I grew up with L.A. Story and Bowfinger Martin, the wry, dryly absurdist wit that would be perfect for The New Yorker if he didn’t already live in California. In his early stuff, he’s certainly absurd, but with a mania I’ve never seen in him before, a very Jim Carrey-esque wildness, and he’s just as funny and persuasive in this mode as he is playing it more subtly. The “Monologue (Steve and Bill)” bit is probably the best example of this, as Martin, playing the worst magician in the world, picks Bill Murray to be his volunteer for some tricks and ends up ripping off most of Murray’s clothes and violating him bodily. It’s good stuff, and muy surprising (for me, at least. Those of you already in the know, please be kind to me on the message boards).

Just in case you wanted to know, the twenty-four skits included are:

• "Viagra Cold Open"
• "’Memories’ Monologue"
• "The Festrunk Brothers"
• "Penis Beauty Cream"
• "Corporate Gig"
• "Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber"
• "To My Love"
• "SNL Digital Short: Two Inches"
• "Monologue Excerpt"
• "Common Knowledge"
• "Coneheads: IRS"
• "Steve Martin Renegotiates"
• "King Tut"
• "Hollywood Minute"
• "Quick Zoom Theater"
• "Tightwad 007"
• "Theodoric of York: Trial by Ordeal"
• "Monologue (Steve & Bill)"
• "Theater Stories"
• "Rise"
• "Monologue (Indian Dance)"
• "Jeopardy 1999"
• "What the Hell Is That?"
• "Tonight Song"

If nothing else, you’re guaranteed to find this funnier than anything in Pink Panther, Cheaper By the Dozen 1 & 2, and Bringing Down the House. My my, how far the mighty can fall…

"See? Removing a friend’s testicle with your bare hands is both easy and fun!"

The Package

The sound and picture are a mixed bag; newer skits look and sound fine, whereas older ones kinda look like they’re melting and sound like they’re in a wind tunnel. However, given the condition and age of some of the source materials, I’d say everything looks as good as it possibly can (the older stuff’s on par with the video on the SNL: Season One set).

The box is standard: Steve’s face as the main selling point. No surprises there. And the features are pretty slim, but I found them worthwhile, except for the useless photo gallery. There’s another Festrunk Brothers sketch which was marginally funnier, another quite funny Alec Baldwin vs. Steve skit, and a dress rehearsal skit that started off boring and obvious (Dinner Theater Mysteries are lame! How droll!) and got weirder and funnier and more off-the-wall as it went along (Martin’s savage murder of Chris Farley, Farley screaming, “Don’t let me die in a puddle of my own urine,” and Adam Sandler nebbishly praising the whole shebang). I doubt I’ll ever watch these again, but they served their purpose fine.

This may be the best of the SNL “Best Of” discs. Steve Martin’s a comedic legend, and the skits here are generally pretty funny, a nice mix of old favorites and lesser known gems. While the features are slim, they are of some merit, and the overall skit selection is strong enough to make up for that. Bottom line:

7.5 out of 10