Performer of the Week: Steve Martin

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THE PERFORMER | Steve Martin

THE SHOW | Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building

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THE EPISODE |Open and Shut” (Oct. 19, 2021)

THE PERFORMANCE | As Only Murders drew to a close, we expected a rise in dramatic tension, sure. But along the way, Martin slayed us with a downright hysterical and quite physical performance by his 70something self, giving us the big laughs we really needed this week.

Prior to the elastic-bodied hijinks, Martin engaged us in an entirely different way. As Charles sat with Jan in his apartment (after catching her in a bassoon-related lie), you sensed that a “switch” was about to be flipped — that, forced into a corner, Jan would reveal her true, murderous self. But it was Charles who first caught us off-guard, by revealing that he had only been taking “stage sips” of what he presumed to be a poisoned drink. From there, Martin slipped into a cooler, more calculating version of the character we had not yet seen, as Charles recounted clues and held guilty Jan’s feet to the fire.

But then, just as Charles laid out the proverbial smoking gun — Jan’s distinctive Js — his world got wobbly, as the poison she had administered via handkerchief tugged him to the floor, flat on his back. After Jan delivered a Talking Killer speech and exited stage left, Martin’s performance kicked into an entirely new and completely hilarious gear, as Charles struggled (greatly!) to muster up some motor skills and fetch the iPhone that had recorded their encounter. When Charles mumbled, “I don’t feel so good” and a mistaken Siri cued up Sting’s “Fields of Gold” to score what followed… well from there we were off to the races.

Charles had no command of language nor limbs, and yet Martin, through his mastery of physical comedy, made him an incredibly active player in the murder mystery’s climactic moments. When Charles wriggled across a hallway into the building elevator, Martin evoked his 1984 body-swap comedy, All of Me. Splayed across the lift’s floor (and thus dismissed by neighbors as soused), he labored to communicate yet only managed the occasional “gah” or “meow.” Eventually found by Mabel and Oliver — prone, between oscillating elevator doors — Charles was ingloriously strapped onto a dog stroller and wheeled to the basement, where his podcast co-hosts foiled Jan’s grand plan. But when Jan got the drop on the gang, Charles heroically busted out of his bindings, rose to his feet and delivered a rousing speech… though in reality, it was just more slurred words (yet enough to distract Jan and set up her capture).

Capping Martin’s showcase was a sweet sequence (in which Charles reached out to his ex-girlfriend’s daughter via text)… the character’s fine narration of the podcast’s own closing moments… and a zingy back-and-forth with Martin Short’s Oliver. Fitting for a murder mystery, it was a killer performance.

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mariska-hargitay-law-and-order-svu-season-23-performance

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Y The Last Man Season 1 Episode 8 Missi Pyle
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Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!

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