Steve Martin, at 75 years old, continues to expand his expansive horizons. Building upon a repertoire that already includes actor, standup comedian, novelist, playwright, musician, and more, Martin is trying his hand at… cartooning.
The former “Wild and Crazy Guy!” and “Jerk” recently joined forces with the talented and inventive New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss to create A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection, due out on November 17 from Celadon Books. Essentially, Martin spit-balled captions and cartoon ideas, while Bliss devised the art to match. The result is 272 pages of amusing cartoons and comic strips, complemented throughout with bits of commentary about their unlikely but fortuitous partnership.
“It was a completely unique experience,” Martin told Mo Rocca during a joint interview with Bliss that ran November 8 on the CBS News program Sunday Morning. “It’s the precision of one thing. This is a one-second link between the picture and the words or something with no words, you know?” Bliss added, “It’s very concise.”
Martin went on to acknowledge that he was never actively seeking to venture into cartooning. It just sort of happened. Likewise, when Rocca asked about the temptation to rest on his laurels, Martin noted that he wasn’t out to chase more laurels. “I often think, ‘I don’t have another idea in my head, I don’t, and I’m fine if I don’t have another idea, I’ve got plenty to do. It’s completely fine,’” he explained. “And then you realize sort of something’s going on, like with the cartoons. You go, ‘Oh, I guess I did. I didn’t even realize it.’ And I also really like… I guess there was a little bit of proving myself to myself, by being able to come up with these little pinpoints of comedy.”
Bliss and Martin, who were introduced by an editor at the New Yorker, worked from their separate homes, Bliss in New Hampshire and Martin in New York. Emails proved to be their main means of collaboration and communication. “If I write Harry and I say something like, ‘Spaceship,’ he goes, ‘Ooh, I love to draw spaceships!’” Martin enthused, looking at Bliss, who replied, “It’s funny because sometimes I’ll get an email from Steve with a cartoon idea and, you know, I get up fairly early too, 5:00, 6:00 a.m. But sometimes yours will say 3:00 a.m. It makes me laugh because I know, ‘Oh, he woke up in the middle of the night to have this idea!’”
Among the pluses of cartooning? Far less pressure than, say, mounting a Broadway musical (as Martin did in 2016 with Bright Star), or hitting the road for a tour (as he did recently and plans to again when possible with old friend Martin Short). In other words, there are far fewer people to please. “I think if it makes both of us laugh, that’s our test,” Martin pointed out. “If we like it. You know, it’s actually the first comedy that I’ve done where it didn’t depend on the audience.”
A follow-up is already in the drawing stages. In the meantime, A Wealth of Pigeons is available for preorder here.