Back in the 70s, I remember Steve Martin on the occasional daytime talk show and on Saturday Night Live. He was a comic. In that era, comics and actors were different. Then I remember Steve Martin making movies. They were still comic movies, and I didn't feel like they were much of a stretch. Then came a moment when I realized how smart his acting and his writing was. I stopped thinking of Steve Martin as a comic and started thinking of him as an actor. Then, of course, he started writing novellas and plays and suddenly I had to revise my image of him again.
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In Martin's book, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life he exposes his family's particular dysfunctions, his escape to the newly opened Disneyland where he got his first job, his time working in the magic store, his first stage job at Knott's Berry farm, and his college life.
We get to see a man whose direction in college is driven in part by the women in his life. We see how the act was honed and the work ethic that drove him to create opportunities for himself. Through Martin's life, we're exposed to the coming of the Age of Aquarius and the decline of flower power.
This is a wonderfully written book. Martin has enough distance from events to evaluate what he was doing at particular moments. He's done his research to make sure he's clear on dates and puts things in order.
Martin strikes the right note. He can be sentimental without getting gooey. He can look back with an objective eye and name his own strengths and faults.
I loved reading this book. As in his novels, Martin brings the reader up to his own level; he never writes down to a lowest common denominator.
This book concentrates on the 18 years during which Martin did stand-up comedy. It does touch on the movie years, but I suspect that's another book. As someone who works with a number of comic-magicians, I have recommended and gifted this book to several.
I will not be rereading this book soon, but it will remain on my shelf to be savored again at a later date.
I recommend Born Standing Up highly. If Epinions offered the opportunity to give partial stars, I'd be giving four and a half...not quite perfect, but a tremendous pleasure.
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