Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
‘THE NEW PHONE BOOK’S HERE!’ Steve Martin stars as Navin Johnson, whose hilarious misadventures are chronicled in the 1979 comedy classic The Jerk, screening Nov. 4 and 6 at The Palm Theatre of San Luis Obispo.

Carl Reiner (Oh, God!) directs the 1979 comedy classic The Jerk, about simpleton Navin Johnson (Steve Martin), who decides to leave home to experience the world. His naivete leads him on a series of rags-to-riches-to-rags misadventures. The film opens on a homeless, drunken Navin, who directly addresses the camera to offer his implausible story: “I was born a poor Black child.” 

What follows are the chronicles of his early beginnings, his targeting by a crazed gunman (M. Emmet Walsh), creating his invention of the Opti-Grab marketed by Stan Fox (Bill Macy), joining a traveling carnival where he loses his virginity to motorcycle daredevil Patty Bernstein (Catlin Adams), meeting his dream girl Marie Kimble (Bernadette Peters), learning his invention is a success, living a life of excess, being sued and going broke, and losing it all. 

“Well, I’m gonna go then,” he announces, leaving Marie. “And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you! I don’t need anything. Except this.” Picks up an ashtray. You also get to witness underground cat juggling, the “Tonight You Belong to Me” duet between Martin and Peters, and the Thermos song. So. Damn. Funny. (94 min.)

—Glen Starkey

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