Steve Martin’s ‘King Tut’ sketch parodied blockbuster museum exhibits


More than three decades since its beginnings on Saturday Night Live, comedian Steve Martin’s “King Tut” performance sparked anger for what some perceived as racism. But others pointed out that Martin was parodying the commercialization of Egyptian culture through museum exhibits. It’s a seemingly forgotten context that was relevant at the time. Keep reading to learn more about Martin’s humor claims and defense.

Steve Martin | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Steve Martin’s ‘King Tut’ humor offended some people

Summarizing the argument against Martin’s schtick, The Atlantic reported on student complaints in 2017. Their writer said, “You could say that…his dance moves are unintentionally offensive or downright racist.”

According to The Atlantic, “many students found the video so egregious that they objected to its even appearing in class.”

“It’s like somebody… was making a song with n-words all over it,” one student told Reed’s diary. They further explained to The Atlantic: “The golden face of the saxophone dancer leaving his grave is an exhibition of blackface.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with this summary. The skit and song are still very popular among comedy fans. Some point out how the comedian was parodying the commodification of Egyptian culture in America at the time it happened, and they argue he was not diminishing the culture itself.

It seems that the bow finger star didn’t just pick Tutankhamun at random and make him the subject of one of his fun songs. King Tut’s treasures then toured the United States, attracting millions of visitors and raising millions of dollars in memorabilia.

Steve Martin’s ‘King Tut’ Performance Has Forgotten Context

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The “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibit toured the United States at the time Martin was writing and performing his “King Tut” sketch for SNL.

According to the National Endowment for the Humanities, “As millions lined up for hours to see the spectacle, museums became the city’s most popular tickets, helping to usher in the era of the museum exhibit. to success.”

The NEH reported: “Leaving the show, [visitors] walked into a store filled with three hundred Tut-themed items developed by the Met. There were coloring books, posters and postcards, and a Tut tote bag.

Americans experienced a bit of “Egyptomania” following the cultural crossover event. According to the NEH, “Tut’s collection of inspired jewelry numbered about 100 pieces. Hermès designed a limited-edition scarf, while Limoges produced a porcelain plate adorned with a falcon. There was also a $1,500 reproduction of the Goddess Selket.

Some fans claim that the phenomenon was at the heart of the Only murders in the building the star’s “King Tut” humor when he sang lines like “He gave his life for tourism”.

The opening of Steve Martin’s “King Tut” provides some explanation

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It’s hard to find the real complaints about Martin among all the people defending him on social media. But some Twitter users pointed out the SNL The “King Tut” skit was shared without the opening monologue. This is where the comedian sets up the song. Without it, some context is missing.

“One of the greatest art exhibits to ever tour the United States was the ‘Treasures of Tutankhamun’ or ‘King Tut,'” Martin explains at the opening. “But I think it’s a national disgrace the way we’ve marketed it with trinkets and toys, t-shirts and posters.”

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