Friday, February 22, 2008

BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin

I love Steve Martin. He was a significant influence on me as a kid. He had a strange, goofy style wrapped up in a clean white gabardine suit. He was all about the contradiction like that. He was one of the first comedians where I heard curse words that were funny rather than said in anger. Somehow that made them more acceptable.

I’ve just finished his (auto)biography. He doesn’t refer to it as a true autobiography because he perceives his stand-up persona as someone else. Someone he outgrew. The book is all about the growth of his act. The dedication to it. The work. The fears. The highs and the lows. What made him want to be a magician, then a comic, then an actor.

It doesn’t involve his acting and writing career much at all, its focus is on his stand up career. Which, both directly and indirectly, is about his father.

The book is a quick read at 204 not very cluttered pages. It’s funny and nostalgic and made me feel good while it also allowed me to feel Martin’s pain. Especially the final chapters about his parents. The book itself is structured like a good joke. Set up, set up, set up and then the punchline. Except the punchline isn’t funny. It’s poignant and compelling.

Because of this the book is uneven at first read. But knowing the revelations at the end I imagine that a second read will provide greater understanding of Steve Martin the man, as well as the comic.

I highly recommend this book for anybody who has or had a father. Um. That means you.



Lucas said...

The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need.

Steve Martin's a funny guy. I never saw much of his standup (I was too young...ahem), but I did see plenty of his movies when I was a kid and loved them (even LA Story, which has sadly not aged well).

I'd be interested in checking this book out of the Bruce Lending Library if possible.

Bruce said...


Will you be at any of the events Saturday evening? If so, I will keep the book handy and drop it into your digits then.

Lucas said...

I'll be there, and as a bonus? I'll return your Joey Ducks jersey that you borrowed to me like 20 years ago.

Rachel said...

I LOVE "Born Standing Up". I bought it as a Christmas present for my mother this year and ended up reading it before I gave it to her.
My Junior year in high school English we all had to pick an American author, read a bunch of their work and write a 15 page paper on a recurring theme and how their style has benefitted the literary world. Being a bunch of 16 year olds, 80% of the Juniors wrote about Kurt Vonnegut, but I chose Steve Martin. If you haven't read his novellas, "Shopgirl" and "The Pleasure of my Company" you should. They're amazing! Very short but with a very simple depth. He also has a collection of plays, including one about Picasso and Einstein hanging out at a bar in Paris. My paper ended up being about hermits, social anxiety and refusing to give in to people's expectations. I saw a little about expectations in "Born Standing Up", especially when he wrote about crafting jokes and completely leaving out the punch lines.
He's basically a genius.