By Victoria L. Dammer
The packed house at The Town Hall was in stitches when Nathan Lane walked onto the stage and announced the special guests for the evening, Steve Martin and Harry Bliss.
Martin and Bliss, who previously collaborated on another book in 2020, appeared in a one-hour conversation to discuss their recently released second book, Number One is Walking. My life in the Movies and Other Diversions. The book is a collection of stories, similar to a scrapbook, filled with cartoons and sketches representing Martin’s memories of his extensive movie career. Each audience member received a copy upon entering the theater.
Lane entered the stage, witnessing a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd. Then, launching right into his first bit of humor, Lane introduced himself as if all in the theater didn’t know.
“I’m your moderator, although I’m not known for moderation.” The laughs continued.
As Martin and Bliss took their seats, Lane couldn’t stop with his one-liners that brought the house down.
“I never felt more like Oprah in my life,” Lane said as he emulated the famous talk show host and pointed his finger to the audience. “You’re getting a book. And you’re getting a book.”
The talented beyond compare Martin, an actor, author, comedian, producer, playwright, musician, and screenwriter, explained he started standup as a kid. His first memoir in 2007, Born Standing Up, had a beginning, middle, and end, the end being his choice to walk away from his career as a standup comedian in 1981.
Number One is Walking is different, and the title has an interesting meaning. Martin explained when actors are on a set and the star is traveling from place to place, the stagehands use the term to describe the star’s movements. Martin made the audience laugh when he told the story while acting in the top-rated movie It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. He remembers hearing, “number three is walking.”
Martin wrote for The New Yorker for years, and it was at a party he met Harry Bliss’s boss, who introduced the two. Bliss is well-known for his years as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. In 2020, the two worked on A Wealth of Pigeons, a #1 New York Times best-seller that featured the popular New York feathered creature in cartoons, comic strips, and commentary throughout the book.
When Lane called Martin a Renaissance Man, Martin was quick to respond, “No, I don’t draw.”
Number One is Walking chronicles his movies, such as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, starring alongside John Candy, who Martin said could imitate an Italian Gladiator. It explains in cartoon format a story about people he met, including Paul McCartney. Martin told the anecdote about how he asked McCartney to sing a song he had written, and McCartney asked him why he didn’t just sing it.
“I’m a terrible singer,” Martin said. And when McCartney received his demo, he said, “You know, when you said you were a terrible singer, I thought you were being humble.” The audience loved this.
Bliss and Martin produced dozens of other cartoons that make up the book’s later half. In addition, Bliss thrilled the crowd with his on-demand drawings, which he shared on the screen for all to see and enjoy.
The perfect ending to the evening’s discussion was when Martin pulled out his banjo from behind the couch and played and sang.
Lane quipped, “I have to differ with McCartney. I love your voice!” Martin shot back that to play the banjo is “to live forever. Alone and in a van.” Bliss drew a caricature of the imaginary van, and the evening ended with another standing ovation for the talent of Martin, Bliss, and Lane. They kept the audience in constant hysterics, and all were lucky to go home with what will surely be another best-seller, Number One is Walking.
The Town Hall presents Number One is Walking. My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions, with Steve Martin, Harry Bliss, and moderator Nathan Lane. Presented in partnership with Strand Books. Number One is Walking is published by Celadon Books. Public relations by Keith Sherman and Associates Inc.
The Town Hall is located at 123 West 43rd Street NYC