Steve Martin: Born Standing Up and the origins of ‘The Jerk’

Just finished reading Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (2007). I loved this, not just because it was a fun read but also because it gives a fascinating insight into the twenty-year genesis of one of my absolute favourite movies, The Jerk.*

According to Wikipedia, at the turn of the century readers of Total Film magazine voted The Jerk the 48th greatest comedy film of all time (well, ‘all time’ meaning in the 105 years since the first comedy film was made**). The Jerk is also #20 on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies” and #89 on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs list.

And Premiere magazine voted Steve Martin’s performance of Navin Johnson #89 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.”

In celebration of one of the sweetest characters in film, Navin Johnson, and his heroic journey, here’s a few of my favourite scenes: ‘he hates these cans!’ and ‘that’s all I need’. Enjoy.


**by the way, the first comedy film ever made (and remembered) is L’Arroseur Arrosé  Watering the Gardener or ‘The Sprinkler Sprinkled’ — by the Lumiere brothers in 1895.

*Re the title, Martin writes:”We were still mulling over titles for the movie. One day I said to Carl [Reiner, his co-writer], ‘It needs to be something short, yet have the feeling of an epic tale. Like Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, but not that. Like The Jerk.’ The title, after a few more days of analyzing, stuck.” (Born Standing Up, p 190)

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