Wild and crazy, and much more

Co­me­di­ans and costars don’t pull any punch­lines as he’s hon­ored at AFI gala.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Su­san King su­san.king@la­times.com The AFI Life Achieve­ment Award gala will be tele­cast June 13 on TBS, with an en­core pre­sen­ta­tion July 30 on TCM.

Steve Martin is hon­ored with the AFI Life Achieve­ment Award in a rau­cous yet touch­ing gala.

It was hard not to get a case of happy feet at the AFI Life Achieve­ment Award gala for Steve Martin at the Dolby Theatre in Hol­ly­wood.

In fact, the wild and crazy spirit of the Thurs­day night event re­called the rau­cous at­mos­phere of Martin’s old stand-up com­edy shows. The star-stud­ded crowd whooped its ap­pre­ci­a­tion as the 69-year-old ac­tor/writer/ song­writer/play­wright was in­tro­duced on stage with his 1978 nov­elty hit, “King Tut.”

In­ter­spersed with mem­o­rable clips from his stand-up days and his nu­mer­ous fea­ture films, in­clud­ing 1979’s “The Jerk,” 1987’s “Rox­anne” and “Planes, Trains and Au­to­mo­biles,” 1988’s “Dirty Rot­ten Scoundrels” and 1991’s “L.A Story,” were thought­ful and funny in­ter­views with Martin about his ca­reer as well as tes­ti­mo­ni­als from Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Ron Howard dis­cussing the mod­ern­day re­nais­sance man’s com­edy ge­nius.

And a who’s who of com­edy took the stage to have some fun with Martin.

Amy Poehler con­ducted an auc­tion of Martin, with his good friend and “Three Ami­gos” and “Fa­ther of the Bride” costar Martin Short win­ning the comic ac­tor for a bid of $51.

Tina Fey, who worked with Martin when he guesthosted “Satur­day Night Live” and in the film “Baby Mama,” dis­cussed the ad­vice he once gave her: “If you are go­ing to pick up Marty Short, re­mem­ber to sup­port the neck.”

She said she was thrilled that Martin had mar­ried a younger, smarter and thin­ner ver­sion of her­self as the cam­era panned to Martin’s wife, writer Anne Stringfield, who in­deed looked like she could be Fey’s sis­ter.

Co­me­dian Sarah Sil­ver­man said, “I didn’t just love Steve. I wanted to be him. You are my in­spi­ra­tion.”

“I have spent the ma­jor­ity of my life do­ing a pale imi­ta­tion of Steve Martin, and I re­sent him for that,” said Steve Carell, adding that Martin is “my Chap­lin. I des­per­ately wanted to be him. Steve Martin im­pacted me in a deep and last­ing way. I owe ev­ery­thing to him.”

The leg­endary Carl Reiner, who di­rected Martin in 1979’s “The Jerk,” 1982’s “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” 1983’s “The Man With Two Brains” and 1984’s “All of Me,” said he was thrilled to par­tic­i­pate in the evening. “I’m so happy I can stand up,” joked the 93-year-old. “I’m the old­est per­son in this room.”

Short was one of the night’s high­lights, de­liv­er­ing a bril­liant rou­tine about his old friend. “I’m go­ing to make this quick, be­cause my Uber is wait­ing -- and you know how testy Randy Quaid can be.”

And he of­fered this un­known fact about the AFI hon­oree: “Steve uses the same stunt dou­ble as An­gela Lans­bury.”

And then Short be­came se­ri­ous. “Steve is an un­mit­i­gated ge­nius, pure and sim­ple,” he said. “He’s the def­i­ni­tion of a good guy.” Two banjo play­ers came out to ac­com­pany Short as he sang the haunt­ing, “Friend of Mine,” writ­ten by Martin and Edie Brick­ell.

Com­edy icon Mel Brooks, who won the AFI honor two years ago, pre­sented Martin with the award. “Good is good, and Steve is good,” he said.

Martin was thought­ful, thank­ful and, of course, funny in his ac­cep­tance.

“Tonight is es­pe­cially mean­ing­ful to me, be­cause when I was a kid, I used to get all dressed up and play AFI Life Achieve­ment Award,” he said.

Martin closed his speech with this quote from Jack Benny: “I re­ally don’t de­serve this award. But I have arthri­tis and I don’t de­serve that ei­ther.”

Kevin Win­ter Getty Images

Kevin Win­ter Getty Images for Turner Im­age

STEVE MARTIN quoted Jack Benny in say­ing he did and he didn’t de­serve the AFI Life Achieve­ment Award.

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