Steve Martin Once Told A Joke

Steve Martin once stood upon the stage and declared that “Comedy is not pretty.” He said this after the audience started to suck their teeth and the chorus of a sea of boos was erupting in a pitched rise throughout the auditorium. He was telling a relationship joke. The setup to the joke was that he doesn’t understand women.

Hell, who does?

Not even women understand women.

Anyway, (in the joke) it just so happened that the woman in his life was telling him (Steve) that she felt like he didn’t respect her.

This is where Steve distorts his face in shock.  He then leans into the microphone and proclaims,

“What do you mean? You’re the best hog I ever had!”

Like I said in that opening paragraph, the audience turns ugly.

Steve looks out into the crowd, and utters these words:

“Hey! Comedy is not pretty!”

The audience laughs. They are friends again.

And he was right.

It’s not. Comedy is ugly, it’s bold, it hides truth in misdirection. It also lies and exaggerates. It stretches points that don’t need stretching and over looks important social acceptable platitudes.

It was the late 70’s that this joke was told. This was the age of Archie Bunker, The Jefferson’s, Maude, Chico and The Man, Alice, Hogan’s Heroes, and Soap. Shows that would probably never get the green light for production today. They would end up dismissed pilots that would have to find a home on YouTube instead of running on Prime Time Network TV.

Not that there is anything wrong with YouTube….

Can you imagine what AMC would think of a comedy about a Nazi Concentration Camp?

This era was also the Second Wave of the Feminist movement. The movement that brought forth women’s issues of rape, equal pay, military acceptable, divorce rights, and rights to own one’s own reproductive choices.

Which is what made this joke funny.

And why Comedy is not pretty.

Martin knew that he was setting back the feminist movement by 20 years and so did the audience. Their outrage slowly bubbling to the surface as the realization that everything everyone worked for was being belittled by a Grammy award winning famous funny man wearing an arrow through his head and standing three feet above them on stage.

“He just called women pigs! He is saying women are no better than common livestock! That they are no better than tasty, delicious, yummy bacon! American bacon probably! Not that Canadian bacon ham stuff, but bonafide, grade A, crispy, delicious, American bacon!”

Martin knew that this was a joke, and the joke was funny because of turning all that history on its ear. It took years to change both men and women’s thought process on women’s suffrage, and seconds to tell a joke that took in all of the significance of such history.


The audience did not see that at first. They heard the words, “Girlfriend” and “Best Hog I Ever Had.”  They collectively decided to lose their ever loving minds.

Martin had reminded them that that was the point. He wasn’t making fun of the present, or the women’s movement…he was making fun of the backwards thinking of the past. Of a time where men and women were not equal and the attitudes were completely different.

“Comedy is not pretty!”

Comedy brought up some shameful, human stupidity, that we can now all laugh at ourselves and say,

“Just what  in the hell were we thinking?”

With all that being said, imagine someone telling this very same joke today…

The world would stop turning on its axis in shock and horror. Teenagers would stop taking selfes. Nancy Grace would throw two pit stain arms in the sky. Grocery stores would stop selling meat. Peanut Butter and Jelly would trade places.

Chaos would ensue.

And you would not be able to reel the Universe back in by reminding everyone that it was just a joke.

Just a joke, that’s all.


And sometimes jokes take painful things and make light of them, because that’s a mighty fine coping mechanism.

The Twitter and the Facebook and the Email and the Instagram and the Memes would be flying off the blinky word processor presses. America has definitely lost its sense of humor.

Would Steve Martin even have a career if he started out today? How about Richard Pryor? Don Rickles? Eddie Murphy? Red Foxx? George Carlin? Sam Kinison? Lenny Bruce? Johnny Carson?

They might have had some sort of career, but would probably be more hated than loved. You can listen to their stand up routines now and laugh and justify it as; “Oh, it was a different time, such  a different time. Things were really different back then. People were different. Microwaves were expensive. Clothes were funny looking. People were old fashioned. Dogs were smaller….”

Yes, but do you know what was really different back then?

People understood it was a joke.

Thanks, Blogdramedy for letting me play in your sandbox. If you liked this, or even if you didn’t like it, come visit where there are other writers who might make you laugh.

28 thoughts on “Steve Martin Once Told A Joke”

  1. I’ve spent the last few library presentations talking about the importance of humor in our lives, and why it’s needed now more than ever. How it helps us cope with growing stress in society; helps us bring down the defenses people have put up so that we can talk about issues in a way that doesn’t make everyone lose their mind; and how really good humor connects us with other people by recognizing something about ourselves in someone else or their situation. This is a truly terrific piece, Chris. As I read it I just kept nodding my head in agreement and thinking, “Nailed it.”

    But I think anyone who looks at either of us knows that comedy isn’t pretty…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have told racist or misogynistic jokes before…not as much now, because people are… sho schenshitive…. But I always tells people- the jokes aren’t funny because I’m racist or I agree with them. All you need to appreciate a joke is to understand the stereotype that drives it or the history behind it. Sometimes jokes are funny simple because of their shock value. But then again, humor is subjective between person to person.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, the problem is some subjects are subjects that are not ever supposed to BE funny. Like rape jokes. And then when you tell a joke like that unwittingly to a rape survivor for example, you suddenly have a very unfunny situation.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. True I guess. I mean, but I know there are some people who would consider that people like him are in a prime place to affect social change for the better… and some would say the fact that things like rape ARE considered funny at all issort of evidence of the rape culture and sexism in society. Now you already know I am not one of those chicks that jumps on every percieved slight to my gender, but I do acknowledge sexism exists (see my last article.) Just putting some of this out there for consideration. I also will say on a personal note, I used to tell dead baby jokes all the time in HS. As a mother now, those jokes no longer seem funny.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Some subjects are not funny, like rape. But consider this, if a female comedian were to start off by telling a rape joke, let’s say from personal experience, but tell it in such a way as to bring the audience in, as opposed to alienating them, then she could bring about social change with following it up with positive help and insights to those who also suffer from the same tragedies. Comedy has the power to heal or hurt.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris, masterful post about society and how vital it is we keep humor alive. Every day, in every way. I know from personal experience that humor has helped me cope with major life changes. Surrounding myself with people who get me and my quirky sense of humor…life saver.

    Thanks for stepping up and stopping by. You are welcome in my world anytime. *big hug*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember watching Martin in the 70’s, but I don’t remember the joke. Maybe I didn’t “get” it! Dogs, I’d heard before, but hogs connotes eating like a pig or slobby behavior, right?
    Good to “see” you, Chris!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. He wasn’t just talking about pedophiles to talk about them. He was making a point on how the 70’s were different than today….except the Middle East. That’s the same. So, I don’t know if despite some people’s outrage on hearing the words; “child molester”, it really wasn’t for shock value.


  5. Super interesting piece. Have you read Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up? I’m working on a post about Sarah Silverman’s position on the PC wars. I agree with you to that people are too sensitive to jokes a lot of the time, but her position at least makes me think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes. And yes, yes, yes. I’m not a big fan of throwing poison arrows at someone else’s deeply held religious beliefs, or vicious mocking, especially if the target is a child or someone who isn’t quick-witted enough to handle it.

    Having said that, can’t we lighten up, just a little, and enjoy a good laugh together? Or else PC tip-toeing around will be the death of humor.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This was a very interesting piece and left me with a lot to think about. I think it’s a very thorny issue, to be honest. People like different styles of comedy and find different things funny. I tend to have a fairly gentle sense of humor and make jokes mostly about inconsequential topics that by their nature are unlikely to cause much offense (e.g. visiting the dentist or failing miserably to learn to play the guitar).

    However, it would be a dull world indeed, if this were the only kind of comedy people ever attempted. There must surely be a place for more dangerous jokes too. Satire, for example, would be extremely tepid if no one ever took a risk, and it’s certainly true that a more challenging type of comedy can help push important issues into the living room.

    On the other hand, I do also think that humor can isolate, stereotype or scapegoat entire groups and that this can have unfortunate real-world consequences for individuals just trying to live their lives. I suppose there’s a lot of truth in the saying that context and intent are everything.

    Liked by 1 person

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