From 'Jerk' to Novelist

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Martin has never spoken publicly about his lovelife, but he seems willing to make fun of it. In his last movie, Bowfinger, his character’s love interest dumps him in favor of “one of Hollywood’s most influential lesbians.”

It seems, at times, Martin seems confused by his own celebrity. Earlier this year, he accepted a Career Achievement Award at the American Comedy Award in typical fashion: “When I was told I won this award, I spent the next three weeks trying to, well, care.

“At first I did not really understand what the career achievement award was — so I called the producer, George Schlatter, and George said, ‘Let’s put it this way: Without it, we have a short show.’”

But Shopgirl seems to have perked him up. For a while, Heche questions were off-limits. But now he’ll make jokes. “I got a message from Marty Short the other day,” he told Vidal at the Y. “He says, ‘I’m here in Toronto with my wife Nancy and we are walking on the street looking for Anne Heche’s biography.”

More Standup? No Way Martin says there’s no way he’ll ever do standup comedy again, even though he was the biggest act in the country in the late 1970s. “I know it sounds cliché, but it was the most miserable time in my life,” he says. “I couldn’t leave my hotel room, I couldn’t go outside. I was isolated, and isolation is where creativity ends.”

He says the most creative time in his life came while he was playing small clubs, right before he became a TV sensation. “It was magic. I felt so free,” he said. “I got an entire college audience to walk out of the auditorium and get into this empty pool and I swam across the tops of them.”

But then came the bunny ears, and the arrow in the head, and suddenly, the guy who started out playing the banjo and selling programs at Disneyland was too big for his own good. Now, it is time to think small. And if Shopgirl gets the small notice Martin craves, it will be the high of a lifetime.