101 Funniest Screenplays

“I had an idea for a film,” Steve Martin writes in his memoir, Born Standing Up. “It came from a line in my act: ‘It wasn’t always easy for me. I was born a poor black child.’” In trying to place himself in the wider world, the rube Navin R. Johnson considers getting listed in the phonebook a major breakthrough. Martin was entering his "Wild and Crazy Guy" mega-stardom when he teamed with director Carl Reiner to make The Jerk, a title Martin favored for the way it implied an epic tale, a la Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. With “writer friend” Michael Elias and Carl Gottlieb, who had written with Martin on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and directed him in a short film called The Absent-minded Waiter, Martin fashioned a screenplay that fit seamlessly with his high-flown surrealist and unremittingly silly duality, not to mention his talent for physical comedy.