Steve Martin returns to the intimacy of the Boarding House in San Francisco -- the same venue where his 1977 debut, Let's Get Small, was documented -- for 1979's sublime and surreal Comedy Is Not Pretty! The overwhelming success and appeal of the previous year's A Wild and Crazy Guy -- which included the hit novelty single "King Tut" -- all but guaranteed any follow-up to be as eagerly embraced by his ever-increasing legion of fans. Martin is fully armed with his fool-proof sense of timing, which is addressed in the opening collage of observational non sequiturs titled "Born to Be Wild." Using a saber-like sense of humor, Martin wastes nary a second as the first thing out of his mouth is "...Check the time, don't wanna do too long." He pokes with vigor at himself and his blatantly out-of-step anti-anti-establishment leanings. In other words, a man whose professed sexual fetish is to wear "Men's Underwear" is the same man who points out that he is "wearing loafers [with] no laces on his shoes" before ironically belting out the ultimate rebel yell, "Born to Be Wild." Part of the brilliance in Martin's delivery style is the totally unselfconscious manner in which he seemingly screws up the introduction to "Googlephonics," only to unravel a series of verbal jokes and put-ons in the process. His affinity for the written and spoken word is equally as effective on "Cruel Shoes," which is a recitation of the title work from the artist's first book. Slightly edgier are the sexist "Comedy Is Not Pretty" and the unconventional "Hostages." The latter denotes how Martin is proud of his latest acquisition, rationalizing that "[there are] so many people with hostages nowadays and you say 'hey, I'd like some too!'" On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, the sole non-spoken entry is the "Drop Thumb Medley" -- an obligatory and adeptly executed original banjo solo from Martin. The track actually foreshadows the contents of his next LP, 1981's The Steve Martin Brothers, consisting of comedy on one side and bluegrass-flavored instrumentals on the other.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer