Steve Martin has always been a renaissance man. He’s a movie star, a banjo player, a writer and raconteur, and a wild and crazy guy, to name just a few of his talents. But Martin made his name as one of the most beloved comedians to ever command the stage, and on Feb. 18, he surprised everyone when he performed stand-up for the first time since 1981.
So when Martin stopped by The Tonight Show on Monday to talk about his new musical Bright Star, which he wrote with Edie Brickell, Jimmy Fallon — a longtime Martin fan — took no time in asking Martin about why he chose to return to the stage now.
“I did a little sample of standup with Jerry… Seinfeld? I think that’s how it’s pronounced,” Martin said. “I actually do enjoy doing stand-up, especially now because life is so busy, and it’s so hectic, and with stand-up, I can just go out and relax and enjoy the silence.”
Martin has performed onstage in the last 35 years, touring as a bluegrass musician and hosting awards shows and Saturday Night Live, but the last time he performed as a stand-up comedian was in 1981. After he appeared on Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee earlier this year, where he talked about why he decided to walk away, Seinfeld asked Martin to open for him at the Beacon Theatre a few weeks ago.
Martin also talked with Fallon about how much he loves comedians’ opening lines, sharing a few of his favorites from Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison. Watch Martin’s Tonight Show appearance — including his own favorite opening line — above.