- Navin Johnson (Steve Martin), narrating the story of his life
"He hates these cans!"
- Navin, fleeing a madman (M. Emmet Walsh) with a gun
New York Times - 12/14/1979
"...Martin proves himself -- often hilariously -- to be nobody's fool....Funny, vulgar and backhandedly clever..."
Total Film - 03/01/2001
"...Martin's first major lead is a wonderfully excessive line-up of physical gags and puerile, sitcom-style set-pieces..."
Premiere - 04/01/2004
"[The film] uses many of the bits Martin was doing in his standup act at the time."
Entertainment Weekly - 07/29/2005
"[Martin] earned leading-man status in this un-PC classic..."
Navin Johnson, a none-too-bright white boy raised by a family of black sharecroppers, somehow manages to reach adulthood without ever discovering he was adopted. His parents finally tell him the truth on his birthday and, shocked by the news, he decides to head off to the big city to seek his fortune. Although he embarks on his odyssey with Candide-like optimism, Navin soon learns the cruel ways of the world as his crazy invention--a device to stop one's glasses from sliding--leads him from rags to riches and back to rags. Steve Martin is riotous in this no-holds-barred broad slapstick comedy, with Bernadette Peters playing his accepting love interest. Jackie Mason, M. Emmet Walsh, and Bill Macy are excellent in small roles, but the focus is always on Martin, who is at his goofy best in a film loaded with hysterical sight gags and a dog whose name cannot be said on television.
THE JERK is number 89 on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Funniest Movies.
There was a television movie remake of the film, produced by Steve Martin, called THE JERK TOO. It was directed by Michael Schultz and stars stand-up comedian Mark Blankfield. Mabel King played Navin's mother in both films.
This film was Steve Martin's first starring role, made at the height of his immense popularity as a stand-up comedian. Previously he had small roles and cameos in three feature films: SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, and THE MUPPET MOVIE.
Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters do all their own singing in the movie--including the ever-popular Thermos song.
In the film shown to Navin by a charity representative, a disguised Martin plays a "cat juggler," billed in the end credits as Pig Eye Jackson.