Steve Martin describes contentious relationship with his father on The Howard Stern Show

Award-winning actor and comedian Steve Martin made his debut appearance on The Howard Stern Show Monday, and dished on a host of professional topics, like writing comedy with the Smothers Brothers at the start of his career, his friendship with Johnny Carson, his Broadway musical Bright Star and much more.

But things got personal when Martin opened up about his challenging relationship with his father.

Martin’s father, Glenn, had aspirations of being an actor, but that changed once he started a family. Martin said he was unaware of his father’s ambitions until later on in life, but said perhaps his father’s unfulfilled dreams accounted for a lot of the troubles in his household.

“First of all, my view of my childhood always was that I was very happy,” Martin said. “And then I realized later that I was happy internally as a kid with friends and school, but maybe not so happy at home. I didn’t understand that there was an alternative lifestyle that other people were raised in very happy homes. By the way, it wasn’t awful at all, it was just that I had a complicated relationship with my father.”

Martin described his father as stern and emotionally unattached from his son, but says the two later reconciled and had a better relationship.

“The strange thing was, after he died, all these people came to me and said, ‘Your father was so much fun,’ and I thought, ‘Really?! Who are they talking about,'” Martin said. “By the way, later in life we reconciled, he became a fan, he would answer fan mail for me and he was an enthusiast.”

Martin recalled the time his father wasn’t too impressed with his role in the critically acclaimed comedy, The Jerk. His father’s constant criticism put a strain on their relationship.

“My friend says, ‘Glenn, what did you think of Steve in the movie?’ And he said, ‘Well, he’s no Charlie Chaplin,'” Martin said. “I didn’t even remark it as an insult, because I thought, ‘Well obviously I’m no Charlie Chaplin, that’s fine.’ But later I realized I was not getting feedback. If I said something like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do the so-and-so show’ or ‘I did the so-and-so show,’ he’d have a critical response to it so I just stopped telling him what I was doing.”

Martin says he doesn’t believe his father was jealous of him, but rather thinks it comes down to a case of unfulfilled dreams.

“It’s hard to interpret what he was thinking, I don’t know,” Martin said. “I believed that my father had ambitions, and children came into his life and those ambitions stopped. He had to go to work as a realtor and wasn’t able to pursue his dream, so he kind of maybe was angry and had an angry streak.”

Glenn Martin also once wrote an article for a local newsletter that was critical of his son’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.

“He wrote a critical article saying that it didn’t help my career, which was the opposite of true,” Martin said with a laugh, noting how SNL helped him achieve his success. “But he came and confessed that [to me] and he said he was sitting at his desk and his best friend came in with the newsletter, put it on his desk and shook his head, ‘Don’t do that.'”

Despite these issues, Martin still stood up for his father and believes the world around him is what influenced him to act the way he did.

“I still wanna defend him a little bit because it was a complicated life in the ’40s and ’30s and ’50s with these prototypes of what a man and a wife were and how the father treated the children,” Martin said. “It was a very different time.”

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