Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Steve Martin is a Card

Steve MartinSome of you might have heard about Steve Martin’s appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday night. During the interview, Letterman asks Martin about his hobbies, and Martin says “for a while I played internet poker.” The audience genuinely laughs at this news, but Martin appears utterly serious.

In all likelihood, this is yet another “bit,” but Martin plays it deadpan. Then again, Martin did tell a story earlier in the interview about having been a passenger on that U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in which the two pilots managed to set the plane safely down on the Hudson River a few weeks ago. He even had a Photoshopped pic of himself amid the other survivors.

The laughter that comes just after Martin utters the phrase “internet poker” is interesting, I guess. I took it initially as the audience finding “internet” poker (as oppposed to “real” poker) humorous. Then I thought perhaps the crowd found something funny in the incongruity of the white-haired, 63-year-old Martin playing games on the computer. (Of course, Martin has been white-haired since he was 30.) Always interesting to gauge reactions whenever poker or online poker pokes its little head above the surface of the cultural mainstream, I think.

As the laughter dies down, Martin adds “when it was legal,” which seems to suggest his understanding that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 somehow made it illegal to play. Something about the way he tells the story seems sincere, actually, and this little disclaimer about the legality -- not really necessary to the comedy, here -- seems further to suggest he’s actually on the level and this is not “a level” (as the Two Plus Two-ers would say).

Anyhow, Martin then goes on to tell about having “one of those Ambien experiences.” Ambien is a sleeping pill taken to combat insomnia, and there have been instances where people have been found sleepwalking, eating, even driving cars after taking the drug, then later having no memory of having done any of these things. You can probably guess where this is headed.

If you haven’t heard the rest of the story, I’ll let you enjoy it yourself:

Again, the reference to calling support in “Pakistan... or India” is another detail that lends support to the idea that Martin isn’t quite making all of this up. He probably is (or was) somewhat familiar with “internet poker.” The stories on PokerListings and elsewhere about Martin’s appearance on Letterman are describing him as a “hobby victim” of the UIGEA -- that is, as likely happened with many others, the passage of the law dissuaded him from playing altogether, just as it has probably kept many new players from signing up to play, too.

Gotta think if the story is at all true Martin was over on PartyPoker -- the biggest site around at the time -- and when Party left the U.S. he, and perhaps many others, simply thought that was the end. People only have so much time, energy, and cash to devote to their hobbies, and since the UIGEA did have the effect of eroding some of those limited resources, some -- like Martin, perhaps -- decided they just didn’t need the hassle.

Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson in 'The Jerk' (1979)Yeah, Martin probably said “I don’t need internet poker anymore. All I need is this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp....”

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Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

Interesting post, and I agree that he was probably playing on PartyPoker, and assumed the illegality when they shut down their U.S. cash games.

But it's the last paragraph that really makes this post great. :)

2/04/2009 12:03 PM  

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