92nd St. Y Hates the Talk Steve Martin Gave at 92nd St. Y

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Steve Martin is versatile, but so are many performers. What separates Martin's work is its emotional consistency. People were taken aback in 1999 when he wrote a small, serious novel called Shopgirl, but Martin had considered these themes of love and self-isolation before, albeit in a horror movie parody called The Man With Two Brains where he played a character named Dr. Hfuhruhurr and fell in love with a medically preserved brain voiced by Sissy Spacek. Whether your sense of humor lies more towards his early high-motor movie silliness or the E.B. White-tinged New Yorker essays of later years, Martin seems like someone capable of saying an interesting thing in an interesting way.

The audience at the 92nd Street Y that watched The New York Times' Deborah Solomon interview Martin Monday night felt differently. His crime? Talking too much about art. And not just that--talking about a new book he wrote about art. A book! About art!

Thankfully an event staffer was there to intervene, slipping Solomon a note (in the middle of the interview!) telling her to focus more on Martin's film career. An incredulous Solomon read the message aloud to the crowd, only to have them burst into applause. The interview ended shortly after.

"Frankly, you would think that an audience in New York, at the 92nd Street Y, would be interested in hearing about art and artists,” a still-simmering Solomon told the Times. "I had no idea that the Y programmers wanted me to talk to Steve instead on what it’s like to host the Oscars or appear in ‘It’s Complicated’ with Alec Baldwin. I think the Y, which is supposedly a champion of the arts, has behaved very crassly and is reinforcing the most philistine aspects of a culture that values celebrity and award shows over art."

The Y, stating that the interview "did not meet the standard of excellence" of past programs, has already offered refunds for the evening's ticketholders.

Martin, for his part, noted that the Y's standards "can’t be that high because this is the second time I’ve appeared there."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.