Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

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Yeah, I Remember My First Beer

Apr 4, 2009
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Steve Martin chronicles his rise to fame and success

Cons:Won't provide any real insights

The Bottom Line: For the fan who doesn't quite have everything yet.


I can still remember junior high school when I was beginning to learn about music, movies and comedy.  Obviously, I hit it off with Carlin.  We share a first name and that made him cool.  Another comedian that was enormous in that era was Steve Martin.  Martin had a considerably larger audience than Carlin and he made an impact on many kids who watched Saturday Night Live and listened to comedy albums.  I'm sure many readers can remember a time when they wanted to punch the next person that said "Well, Excuse Me. . ." 

Steve Martin was the goofy one.  He did the funky King Tut song and had his wacky antics.  It was overload for such a young mind.  This comedian was going out in a bathrobe and wearing bunny ears.  He was never as hip as Carlin but he was enjoyable.  It was interesting to watch Martin evolve into a talented actor and writer over the years.  He's had a pretty remarkable career.  

I stumbled across Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life quite by accident.  I was stumbling through 30th Street Station trying to catch a train to get home.  There is a bookstore in the station.  I happened to catch the cover as I walked by.  It piqued my curiosity and I needed reading material for the train ride home.

Fortunately, I got distracted and didn't actually start to read the book until morning.  This is Martin's autobiography.  I guess every celebrity has to write one.  Martin does provide us with minimal detail on his childhood life.  He mostly covers the years of his early career through his rise to fame.  If you are looking for psychological analysis of his formative years, you will likely be disappointed.  Martin did not seem to feel that part of his life required much coverage.

He does provide a good deal of coverage on his early career.  He began doing stand up acts while still in college.  One of the reasons for attending UCLA was to be in LA where there were coffee shops and other outlets for performing stand up.  Martin was implementing magic tricks in his act right from the start.  He was also willing to use the banjo in his act.  This set him apart from many comics who were mainly jokes and monologues.

 Of course there is the usual song and dance about the hardships of stand up comedy.  Martin also delves into the origins of various lines and routines.  Classic lines like "Well, Excuse Me!" and "I remember my first beer" were originally used early.  He also writes of his style evolving from a simple idea.  He would tell jokes without punchlines to keep the tension building.  Often times, he would elicit laughter without the audience necessarily understanding why they were laughing.

The title of the book really should clue you in to the book.  The meat of the book does chronicle his stand up career.  He wrote the book in 2007 but he provides little information about his movie career or his career as playwright and screenwriter.  He goes more into personal life when he covers the 90s and the early part of this decade.  Here he writes about reconciling with his father and becoming closer with his older sister.  He does not cover his marriage and divorce in any great detail.  If you are looking for steam, you won't find it here.  

The book is interesting in providing details of the comedy career but I didn't find it to be very insightful.  Some of the anecdotes about performing in clubs and stumbling upon bits and routines is amusing.  I don't think I can really rate this as a great autobiography because it is not comprehensive.  I can't necessarily put him down though.  The title is Born Standing Up.  He does write of this as a book about his comedy career.

I would recommend this for fans of stand up comedy.  It does give some idea of the hardships faced by stand up comics of that era.  It also shows how a star can take 10 years to become an overnight sensation.  I don't think the book is very deep.  It's not going to provide any great insight into Martin's psyche.  Hardcore fans will likely already know most of the tales in this book.  If you like his casual style of writing, you may want to read it in his words anyway.  I think this is an entertaining  and quick read.  It's a little more than 200 pages and there are a lot of pictures throughout the book.  Buy it for a light read.  It does deliver some good laughs and also provides some nostalgic pleasure for those who remember those wild and crazy days.     


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