Book Review: Steve Martin’s “Pure Drivel”

Steve Martin, SNL, comedyBook Review: Steve Martin’s “Pure Drivel”

In many ways Steve Martin could be considered a comedian for my parents’ generation. By the time I started watching SNL in High School and college he had long since left the show (Norm MacDonald, Phil Hartman, and then eventually Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon were the stars when I was watching it most.) Also, I haven’t seen that many of his movies. I was born in the ’80’s, so I missed most of his comedies when they first came out. The movies I recall seeing with him in the cast are films like, “The Pink Panther,” and “The Father of the Bride.”

All of that doesn’t really matter for this book though. It’s just plain funny. Steve Martin is a hysterically funny man.

Pure Drivel was published in 1998 by Hyperion. It’s a small book that contains over 20 short stories and short essays. Many of them were first printed in  “The New Yorker” or in “The New York Times Magazine”. I assume the others were new when this book released. It’s the type of book you could read in one sitting, but is probably best enjoyed in little chunks over the course of a week or two. I read three or four entries at a time, usually before going to bed. I often ended up laughing so hard that my wife would put her book down and say something like, “Okay, read it out loud already.”

Martin’s humor is what I would call non sequitur comedy. It’s the type of humor that’s so over the top is stupidly funny. Here are the titles of some of my favorite essays, perhaps they’ll explain what I mean better than I can:

  • Mars Probe Finds Kittens
  • Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods
  • The Sledgehammer: How it Works
  • Artist Lost to Zoloft

A note to the writers and authors reading this: At least three of the essays are about writing and writing-related humor is laced through the rest of them. As a wannabe author I know that writers like to read about other writers. I loved that Martin made writing the subject of so many of his jokes.

This book was loaned to me by a friend at work (a guy at least 10 years older than me) who was moving his office. This particular friend is someone I regularly chat with about pop culture. In the process of cleaning his old office he found this book and said I had to read it. I’m so glad he did.

One last note about this book, it’s not too crass. I know that every time I write something like that it may make me sound like a real prude, but to be honest, I hate reading over the top cussing or sexual references in books. There’s something about the act of reading that makes that type of content affect me more strongly from the printed page than when I see it in a movie. Though I think some of Martin’s standup comedy may contain a lot of that, this book wasn’t too bad. For those of you looking for a rating I guessed I’d say it is a PG-13 book. It’s cleaner than your average episode of SNL.

Highly recommended for those (like me) who get a real kick out of the totally ridiculous.


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