Tuesday, May 27, 2008
monday tuesday book review: born standing up: a comic's life, by steve martin
I was born in 1978, a particularly good year for comedian Steve Martin.  That was the year he won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album with Let's Get Small, the year he released "King Tut" on 45, the year he appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, made so many appearances on SNL that he seemed more like a regular fixture than a guest host, and was basically as successful as any comedian can hope to be.  But since I wasn't exactly cognizant in 1978, all this was lost on me.  By the time I was old enough to appreciate popular culture Martin had long since traded in his stand-up career for one in film, so my early memories of him are more of the Little Shop of Horrors variety rather than the comedic banjo/magic act sort.  And so, I entered into this autobiographic recount of his stand-up career with slight apprehension.  I love Steve Martin but had never seen his stand-up routine, so I wondered if a story about this particular era of his life would be slightly lost on me. 

As I came to learn, Martin's early career made for a pretty interesting read, even for those who were not yet self-aware in 1978.  Before making it big, he more than paid his dues working in a Disneyland magic shop, performed some of his earliest material in a Knott's Berry Farm theater, made endless and often unsuccessful appearances on daytime variety shows, and strove to create a original brand of comedy that relied more on quirky non sequiturs than on punch lines.  He was also a student of philosophy, loved art and poetry, suffered from severe panic attacks, had a complicated and poignant relationship with his father, and very nearly gave up on show business before finally making it big.  On top of learning these interesting facts about Martin, his autobiography also revealed that he's a great writer who comes across as a genuine, wholly likable, and all-around good guy.

You may have noticed this by now, but I clearly prefer fiction to non-fiction, and biographies/autobiographies are generally not my thing at all. It's not that I don't find true stories interesting - I do! - it's just that I'd rather enjoy my stories of celebrity life in episodes of E! True Hollywood Story form rather than in book form. But I needed a book for the plane and had heard good things about Born Standing Up, so when I noticed that it happened to be available at my local library I rolled the dice and picked it up.  

And the verdict?  Born Standing Up is a very enjoyable read that can easily be digested in a few hours, making it the perfect airplane read.  If you are a Martin fan, it's definitely worth your time.

Steve Martin
224 pages, 2007

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Blogger Mary said...

Hooray another book to add to the list! And I know someone who would love this as a birthday present! Thanks for the review!

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