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Film / The Absent-Minded Waiter

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The Absent-Minded Waiter is a 1977 short film (seven minutes) starring Steve Martin, Buck Henry, and Teri Garr. It was written by Martin, and directed by Carl Gottlieb (perhaps best known as the screenwriter for Jaws).

Martin plays Steven, a waiter at a fancy upscale restaurant. Bernie and Susan Cates (Henry and Garr) are a married couple who come for dinner, with Henry specifically asking for Steven the waiter. Bernie explains to Susan that he asked for Steven because Steven is "the most absent-minded waiter in the world", and that they will have an incredible experience. Susan is dubious, and becomes increasingly irritated as Steven's extreme absent-mindedness causes him to continually bungle the simplest of tasks, like when he pours water on the table without setting down the glasses first.


Back in the 1970s and 1980s when Martin was a touring stand-up comedian, this film played regularly as a warm-up before his shows.


  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Steven bothers a chef who is frantically busy preparing food.
    Steven: You busy?
    Chef: No, I'm having my lunch break.
  • Exact Words: Steven brings Bernie a burger, then says "hold the onion", and then puts an onion in Bernie's hand for him to hold.
  • Forgetful Jones: The main gag. At the end Steven brings them their "change"—ten thousand dollars—then completely forgets having served them, and invites them to sit down again.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: One of the cooks is not amused when Steven asks him "what's cookin?"
  • The Stinger: After the credits there's a quick shot of Steven pouring water down Susan's menu.

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