On Monday night, Steve Martin participated in a live interview with the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon, an hour-long talk in front of a sold-out, 900-person audience who were no doubt hoping to hear Steve Martin muse on what it’s like to be Steve Martin, and maybe be funny or something. Instead, Martin and Solomon mostly talked about the art world—both an area of interest for Martin, an avid art collector, and the subject of his new novel, An Object Of Beauty. Unfortunately, while they had an instant intellectual rapport, and were well met in their areas of expertise, most people—who didn't come to talk about art, after all—just found it "boring." Part of the problem was that Solomon narrowly focused on An Object Of Beauty for the majority of the discussion, despite it only being released a few days prior, making it near-impossible for those who hadn’t read it yet to follow along. But really, most of the problem was that they spent the whole time talking seriously about art, which isn't why people go to a Steve Martin show.
Viewers watching a nationwide closed-circuit broadcast began sending e-mails, saying that they were growing dissatisfied. And midway through the show, Martin and Solomon got their first clue that maybe things weren’t going so well in the form of a note handed to Ms. Solomon, asking them to maybe move on to discussing something more Steve Martin-y, such as his career as a comedian and actor. Solomon, who probably says this a lot, said she was “appalled.” Martin said it was “a little like an actor responding in Act III to an audience’s texts to ‘shorten the soliloquies,” later adding on Twitter, “So the 92nd St. Y has determined that the course of its interviews should be dictated in real time by its audience's emails. Artists beware.”
Nevertheless, they debased themselves and obliged with six or seven questions from the audience, but it wasn’t enough: After many attendees complained both at the event and via phone and e-mail, the Y issued an e-mail apology and promise of a refund for the $50 ticket, saying they had “planned for a more comprehensive discussion and we, too, were disappointed with the evening” and that it “did not meet the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from 92nd St. Y.” Solomon responded by essentially calling the Y crass philistines, and railing against “a culture that values celebrity and award shows over art.” Martin, meanwhile, said it was “discourteous,” adding, “As for the Y’s standard of excellence, it can’t be that high because this is the second time I’ve appeared there.” Fair enough, but next time, maybe slip more jokes like that one in between all the art talk. You’re Steve Martin, dude! We saw Shopgirl. We’ve indulged your love of the banjo and bluegrass for years now. You don't have to go back to making balloon animals or anything, but would it kill you to just be funny every now and then?