After 40 years on the stand-up stage, countless comedy albums and iconic movies, Steve Martin is still finding new ways to make people laugh.
The comedian got on Twitter in 2010, and by now he has attracted nearly 2.5 million followers with his funny and slightly demented tweets.
But Martin has recently gone old-school by collecting some of his funniest tweets — and the best responses from his followers — in a book, The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin.
Martin came to NPR's studio to talk to Morning Edition host Renee Montagne about the book and to play his banjo in support of an upcoming tour with the bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.
On getting started on Twitter:
"I was actually talking to a friend of mine, Tom Hanks, [who] was tweeting, and I said, 'Why do you do that?' because I had this perception of tweeting, that it was very low. And he said, 'I use it actually for promotion. I talk about the movie I'm doing, I sometimes tweet photos, and it builds awareness.' And I thought, well that's interesting, because I was growing frustrated that when you do a movie or a record, that you have to promote it. I was going on television [and] playing to an audience of 4 million, for example, and maybe only 400 of them were interested in my so-called product. And I thought if I had a Twitter feed and say I had a following of a 100,000, that means 100,000 of them would be interested in my book."
On using Twitter for promotion:
"It was logical, but it didn't turn out to be true. It turned out if I had a Twitter feed of a 100,000, four of them were interested in my book. So, tweeting is really only good for one thing — it's just good for tweeting ... It is rewarding, because it's just its own reward. It's sort of like heaven."
On tweeting about jury duty:
"I was actually called for jury duty — for like, the third time in what seemed like three months. I started pretending as though I were at jury duty. I think the first was, 'Report from jury duty: Defendant looks like a murderer. Guilty. Waiting for opening remarks.'"
On riffing on a theme in tweets:
"People immediately catch on to it. You know, I like the idea that one thing leads to another. You can tweet something completely innocuous, and then find yourself going off on a tangent that's inspired by a response."
On his followers' responses:
"When people started responding, I found they were really writing well. ... I was promoting my album Rare Bird Alert, and I tweeted: 'Rare Bird Alert number three on Amazon. I'm happy as a clam. Wait — are clams really happy?' And a responder said, 'The chilling sound of clam laughter has caused many fishermen to quit the sea.' ... I felt like I was looking at kind of a new form of comedy, in a strange way, that was talking and response and talking and response."
On finding comedy in unexpected places:
"I've always believed that there are funny people everywhere, but they're just not comedians. In fact, some of my best comedic inspirations were not professional entertainers. I had a friend in Texas, and his wife told me they were at an amusement park, and they came up to one of those maps [of] the amusement park and it said, YOU ARE HERE. And he looked at it and he said to her, 'How does it know?' These things appear on people's phones in the middle of the day. It's not like people are gathered in a hall and they're expecting something funny. You know, talk about the unexpected."