1945-08-14 (74 years old) Waco, Texas, United States
Ever since this white-haired humorist launched his showbiz career in the late '60, his comedy style has drawn equally from sophisticated intellectualism and lowbrow clownery, and his humor has reached both the mainstream and the intelligentsia. His life as a comedian began in California's Disneyland, where he started out selling guidebooks and souvenirs before he moved on to demonstrating magic tricks and gags at a specialty shop. He began piecing together his comedy routines, learning how to juggle, perform jokes, and play the banjo, all elements that would become staples of his comedic repertoire. Though he started out as a philosophy student at college, he dropped out to pursue comedy fulltime. He picked up an Emmy for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and later showcased his sketch and stand-up skills on multiple '70s series, notably The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live. Although he was never an official SNL cast member, he frequently appeared on the late-night show, playing kooky characters like King Tut and one of two "wild and crazy" swinging Czech brothers opposite Dan Aykroyd. While his presence on TV grew and his fame widened, Martin released a succession of popular Grammy-winning comedy albums and toured the country, often filling stadiums. He stepped down from stand-up to pursue a movie career. In 1979, he headlined and cowrote the hilariously crass comedy The Jerk. Directed by friend Carl Reiner and costarring his then-girlfriend, Bernadette Peters, the hit film cast Martin as an oddly endearing dimwit who endures an extraordinary life of highs and lows. Never one to shy away from a risk, two years later he and Peters reteamed for the dark musical Pennies from Heaven, in which Martin bizarrely lip-synched to Depression-era recordings. The movie went bust, and he quickly returned to his roots, starring in three more Reiner-directed comedies, the last of which, 1984's All of Me, was a smash that proved he had what it took for the big screen. It also marked the first time he played an uptight yuppie, an archetype he would soon be called on to play again and again. A well-liked star if not always a big box-office draw, Martin had his hits (1987's Planes, Trains & Automobiles, 1989's Parenthood) and flops (1990's My Blue Heaven, 1992's Leap of Faith) but never lacked for work. He also began producing and penning many of his own vehicles, including 1987's Roxanne (his modern-day take on Cyrano de Bergerac), and the 1991 quirky romantic comedy L.A. Story, opposite his then-wife and former All of Me costar Victoria Tennant. In the '90s, writing became a focus for Martin. In addition to screenplays, he authored plays (Picasso at the Lapin Agile), witty essays for the New Yorker and novellas (Shopgirl, which was turned into a film in 2005). While his career turned literary, he still managed to find time for films, alternating between broader flicks (1999's Bowfinger) and family fare (1991's Father of the Bride, 2003's Cheaper by the Dozen, 2003's Bringing Down the House, 2006's Pink Panther). Preferring to keep busy, Martin has continued filling his schedule up recording and performing his music, writing, and acting. When not working, he spends time with his wife, writer Anne Stringfield, and pursues an avid interest in art collection.