American Idol is “one of the most popular shows on American television.”
Wikipedia

So then what was Steve Martin doing on last night’s season finale playing the banjo?

Who wants this? Do you want this? Even your mom doesn’t want this.

Look, Steve Martin is an Old God. His body should be dipped in gold and hung in a comedy museum next to Gallagher’s sledgehammer. He literally has nothing left to prove. But some of us still live on planet Earth where the rules are that people get fame and exposure for doing something that someone wants. For as much as I hate Seth MacFarlane, for example, I recognize that he didn’t write himself a check for 100 million dollars. America did that. The reason insufferable hacks are more often rewarded than the genuinely talented is because there’s a HUGE audience for insufferable hacks. But is there a huge audience for a legendary comedian’s painfully earnest BANJO PLAYING? Am I reading the wrong Twitters? Between this and his Saturday Night Live performance of “Mommy, School Bus,” or whatever it was called, I feel like the national debt to Steve Martin’s legacy, which he is collecting in network television broadcasts of “serious” banjo performances, has been more than paid off. We can go back to not pretending like we like this stuff now.

Comments (36)
  1. Conversation between AI producers:

    Man 1: We’ll need a banjo player for tonight’s performance
    Man 2: Does anybody still play banjo?
    Man 1: I think Steve Martin does
    Man 2: But isn’t he a comedian? Won’t he want to talk or sing or do something?
    Man 1: Not if we pay him enough

  2. Longtime reader, first time Steve Martin / banjo apologist. I genuinely enjoy watching / listening to the man play, he has terrific bluegrass chops and seems to love the hell out of it. I’d rather see him do this than, you know. Cheaper by the Dozen III.

    • You got a point. I’ll go so far as to buy one of his painfully earnest bluegrass albums if it keeps him from doing anything other than writing books.

  3. I’m okay with it.

    American Idol in general is the thing that surprises me people want.

  4. Michael  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +24

    I would rather hear Steve play banjo than listen to either of those kids sing, that’s for fucking sure.

  5. Sal  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +10

    I think he’s a pretty cool banjo player.

  6. I know he has to be “showcased” and all, but did they have to put him directly between the two singers (who were also horrible)? Could the staging of this show be any more awkward?

  7. YJ  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +13

    Someone needs to take the Brooklyn snob lodged inside of said person’s special cavity. This was leagues less offensive than, say, Keith Urban, or Jason Mzaradsfshgazz. I think Steve Martin is more than competent at it and I personally I enjoy a bit of old time banjo now and then. Also. American. Idol. It is to cheese as Willy Wonka is to fantasy candy. Expectations, Gabe, expactations. Now, about that cavity of yours…

  8. DDD  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +14

    LEAVE STEVE MARTIN ALONE!!!

  9. Hey I believe that Old Gods were meant to be broken as much as the next kid, but for every roots music-y vanity project we’re subjected to, it’s one less Quinten Taranteturd we’re subjected to. But this should stop before Steve writes another horrible book and then makes an horribler movie in which he stars in.

  10. My mom totally want this.

  11. TC  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +8

    I like Steve Martin. And his banjo. Eat it.

  12. Zachra  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +3

    Martin has a new banjo-centric album out right now.

    Marketing!

  13. seth  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +10

    get cultured gabe. the banjo is the best. but i am from east tennesse, and i play the banjo, so i guess i’m bias.

  14. The banjo is going to be this year’s ukulele. Count it.

  15. Dan  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +7

    You’re almost definitely on the wrong side of this one.

  16. chase  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 -8

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • You mean senseless debates such as the one you’re contributing to right now? And “perenially out of touch Gabe” as opposed to finger-on-the-pulse-of-banjo-loving-America you? I mean you are kidding, right?

      • chase  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 -1

        Robinrubbermaid, I can’t counter anything you said, because you misunderstood my initial position, which I perhaps didn’t articulate well. I am not furthering any debate about whether or not Steve Martin or his guitar is a way to spend an evening, or commenting on the popularity of the banjo in America. I am stating that the language and general attitude of “Gabe” is pretty out of touch with the way people actually experience and analyze life. It aims to elicit exaggerated opinions on matters of little consequence. So I agree with you that banjo playing isn’t popular, but it doesn’t disgust or bore people either. Thanks for replying, and II hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

        • First of all, Gabe is his real name, so no need to put it in quotes. Secondly, there’s a difference between being out of touch and having strong opinions that a lot of people might not share. I disagree with Gabe all the time and say so, but I also recognize that his outsized and somewhat put-on assholishness is one of the reasons a lot of us read this blog. He’s one of the few cultural “critics” (word used loosely) that can be this merciless while maintaining actual ethical boundaries (he regularly speaks out against sexism and racism, sometimes to a fault). As someone who despises the whole climate of celebrity worship and entitlement, I find a lot of his posts weirdly cathartic. (Also he’s funny, so there’s that.)

          Thirdly, I don’t think any of us come here for “debate.” That’s not what this is. The comments here usually boil down to three basic sentiments: “I like this.” “I don’t like this.” “Have fun at dinner.” So when you say, essentially, that there shouldn’t be any comments because the original post wasn’t worth commenting on, you’re trying to shut down what was never meant to be anything but a bunch of idiots (like me) talking sass to Gabe and each other about “matters of little consequence.” And while that would make me a lot more productive at work, I prefer to have the freedom to waste my time the way I see fit.

  17. Annie  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +1

    I like Steve’s old face better than this new one.

  18. jazzy  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +3

    Leave Stevie alone. He was great. I love his banjo playing.

  19. This video has been removed due to terms of being the worst violation.

  20. really glad to see i’m not the only one who disagrees with gabe on this one.

  21. gabe told me he doesn’t even like “the jerk”. can you believe it?

  22. It seems odd to take offense at one few honest examples of musicianship that’s ever been on American Idol.

  23. RD  |   Posted on May 23rd, 2009 0

    How long will America continue to indulge Steve Martin’s banjo playing? Oh, it’s been over 30 years now. You have to remember, Steve Martin was originally a banjo player, and then began incorporating stand up comedy, then he moved on to straight comedy.

    • That is not true at all. He was initially a magiciain, then he incorporated comedy. He only learned the banjo as part of his act. Good job pretending like you know what you are talking about though.

  24. Liam  |   Posted on May 24th, 2009 +2

    Steve Martin did that King Tut song on SNL. If he wants to play banjo, i’m cool with letting him play banjo.

  25. TalentChecker  |   Posted on Jun 27th, 2009 +1

    Mr. Gabe,….Steve Martin appeared on American Idol only 4 days before selling out the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville……as a Banjo Player. He is undoubtedly one of the finest banjo players in the entire universe, and just happens to be an American legend in comedy and motion picture also. Would suggest you listen to every cut from his CD, The Crow, before casting any personal judgement. Better yet, why not ask Earl Scruggs, Tony Triska, Vince Gill and Dolly Parton how they rate his banjo performances. When he received The Kennedy Center Honors a few years ago……one of the most prestigious honors in the world of the performing arts……it was for his vast accomplishments as a comedian, actor, and writer. Any great artist refuses to rest on his laurels. Steve Martin…..a true renaissance man…..can proudly add musician to his resume. He rocks dude! Listen to the album.

  26. Xaq  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    What a stupid article. Steve Martin has been playing the banjo for over 30 years and is a passion of his. It’s not like he ran out of jokes. And he’s actually quite good and plays and composes beautiful new work, along with some of the top names in the business. He is serious, and he is good. Buy “The Crow” and find out for yourself. Jeez…I want to keep reading your blog, Gabe, just to see what other absolutely retarded things you say. But maybe that’s the point…no one would be drawn here for your intelligent discourse.

  27. Xaq  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    What a stupid article. Steve Martin has been playing the banjo for over 30 years and it is a passion of his. It’s not like he ran out of jokes. And he’s actually quite good and plays and composes beautiful new work, along with some of the top names in the business. He is serious, and he is good. Buy “The Crow” and find out for yourself. Jeez…I want to keep reading your blog, Gabe, just to see what other absolutely retarded things you say. But maybe that’s the point…no one would be drawn here for your intelligent discourse.

  28. Keith  |   Posted on Sep 28th, 2009 0

    Well, we indulge American Idol and it’s nonsensical acts, why not the skill of Steve Martin, a multi faceted talent… actor, comedian, musician, writer, etc.? I think he represents what the program is all about… an unkown person with talent making it in America.

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