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Steve Martin to Receive AFI Life Achievement Award

Martin is only second primarily comic recipient of AFI’s top honor


Actor, comedian and writer Steve Martin has been named recipient of the 2015 American Film Institute’s AFI Life Achievement Award, the AFI announced on Friday.

The award typically goes to dramatic actors or directors, with Martin becoming only the second recipient who would be considered primarily a comic, following Mel Brooks in 2013.

The AFI Life Achievement Award is announced well in advance of the ceremony, which will take place on June 4, 2015. It will be broadcast on TNT later that month, with encore presentations on TCM.

Martin, 69, has previously received an Emmy, four Grammys and a Kennedy Center Honor; he was given an Honorary Academy Award at last year’s Governors Awards ceremony.

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Born in Texas and raised in Southern California, he became a standup comedian and a writer for shows like “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” By the mid-1970s he was one of the most successful standup comics in the country, and he began making the first of many appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”

Martin’s film career began with the 1977 short “The Absent-Minded Waiter” and the 1979 feature “The Jerk.” He went on to make films that included “Pennies From Heaven,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Three Amigos,” “All of Me,” “Roxanne,” “Father of the Bride,” “Parenthood,” “Grand Canyon,” “L.A. Story” and “Shopgirl,” which was adapted from his novella.

Recently, Martin has been playing banjo in a bluegrass group, the Steep Canyon Rangers.

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“Steve Martin is an American original,” said AFI Board of Trusteers chair Howard Stringer in a press release announcing the honor. “From a wild and crazy stand-up comic to one who stands tall among the great figures in this American art form, he is a multi-layered creative force bound by neither convention nor caution.”

Beginning with John Ford in 1973, the AFI has given the award to 42 different people, most recently Jane Fonda last June and Mel Brooks in 2013.  (The ceremony honoring Brooks was one of the most wildly entertaining in the AFI’s history, suggesting that comics make good fodder for TV.)

Other recent recipients include Shirley MacLaine in 2012, Morgan Freeman in 2011 and Mike Nichols in 2010, as well as Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Robert DeNiro in previous years.