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In the midseventies Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand up In 1981 he uit forever This book is in his own words the story of why I did stand up and why I walked away Emmy and Grammy Award winner author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company and a regular contributor to The New Yorker Martin has always been a writer His memoir of his years in stand up is candid spectacularly amusing and beautifully written At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park In the decade that followed he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm performing his first magiccomedy act a dozen times a week The story of these years during which he practiced and honed his craft is moving and revelatory The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes Martin illuminates the sacrifice discipline and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day To be this good to perform so freuently was isolating and lonely It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister and he tells that story with great tenderness Martin also paints a portrait of his times the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventiesThroughout the text Martin has placed photographs many never seen before Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity focus and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time

10 thoughts on “Born Standing Up A Comic's Life

  1. says:

    This is a very enjoyable read I like Steve Martin's writing especially his novels Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company and this memoir is a good behind the scenes look at how he came to craft his hyper silly comedy routine of the 1960s and '70s I was interested to learn how much philosophy Steve had studied and how he evolved his brand of comedy Rather than cue the audience for a punchline he got rid of the punchline altogether and went on with another bit waiting for the audience to catch up Based on the 10 years it took for him to become successful it took the audience a while to catch up with his styleHe wrote out some of his jokes in the book but this was not an obnoxious humor book His narrative stayed strong focusing on the journey of his career instead of the setupWhat I found especially touching about Born Standing Up was Steve's openness about his strained relationship with his father which seems an almost universal theme for artists There is a terrible moment when his dad wrote a negative review of Steve's first appearance on Saturday Night Live and Steve vowed never again to discuss his comedy with his father The two didn't reconcile until shortly before his dad's deathAnother emotional theme was how isolated and lonely Steve was when he was at the height of his comedy success He was touring so much and packing in so many shows that he became tired and depressed He also felt his comedy had started to go stale and that it was time for him to retire his actAfter finishing the book I went back and watched Roxanne which is perhaps my favorite Steve Martin movie and I had a better appreciation for his physical comedy He started practicing magic as a boy and he worked for years to make his movements appear graceful and impromptu If he had to go through those lonely panic inducing years on the comedy circuit to become the writer and actor he is today then we have all benefitedUpdate July 2015I decided to reread this by listening to Steve narrate it on audio and I'm so glad I did His performance was engaging and delightful and it renewed my brain crush on Steve One of the things that is especially refreshing about this memoir is that it focuses on just his comedy career — he wasn't writing a biography of his whole life or of every movie he ever did Some Hollywood memoirs are long winded and bloated but Steve's is the perfect length filled with both humorous and emotional stories I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Steve Martin or who likes reading about comediansFirst read March 2008Second read July 2015Favorite uoteI was seeking comic originality and fame fell on me as a by product The course was plodding than heroic I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps I was not naturally talented — I didn't sing dance or act — though working around that minor detail made me inventive I was not self destructive though I almost destroyed myself In the end I turned away from stand up with a tired swivel of my head and never looked back until now I ignored my stand up career for twenty five years but now having finished this memoir I view this time with surprising warmth One can have it turns out an affection for the war years

  2. says:

    Whimsical anecdotes of how an artist became one huge superstar by honing his skills of wit comedy—funny observant Great autobiography This one is possibly on par to Bob Dylan’s Chronicles It's pretty inspiring to say the least

  3. says:

    I usually avoid these types of books like the Plague Celebrity autobiographies ego unchained coupled with a Then I went here then I did this then I went there and did that boring ass format Nine times out of ten books like these put me to sleepNot so Steve Martin's BORN STANDING UP First of all it's focused than most celeb tell alls It centers around Martin's life leading up to and including his career as a standup comedian not as an actorfilmmaker So Three Amigos fans you'll have to wait for Martin's next volume for those fascinating Chevy Chase anecdotesThis is not a laugh out loud book but there are funny bits in it Once while working as an up and coming comedian in the late 1960s Martin recalls how he stepped on to the stage of a Playboy Club on a Monday night Monday nights in nightclubs he tells us were usually as dead as graveyards On this particular night however the club was packed Martin describes how his performer's ego soared until he realized that he was standing in front of an audience consisting entirely of Japanese tourists who spoke almost no English Most interesting to me was Martin's chronicle of how he slowly painstakingly evolved from a self conscious teenaged magician working at Disneyland to the banjo plucking arrow through the head wildman who sold out arenas and defined 1970s comedy Martin is generous in providing insights into how he developed the punchline free surreal humor that he's known for todayAlong the way the comic spins numerous anecdotes concerning his encounters with those who shaped his life both personally and professionally; old time vaudeville comedians writer Dalton Trumbo and his daughter Mitzi Johnny Carson and the Smothers Brothers are just a few of the notables who are vividly recounted Even Elvis makes a cameo appearanceEven intriguing Martin finally answers the uestion of why in the early 1980s he walked away from standup comedy never to return Martin is as skilled a writer as he was a standup comedian; he keeps the pace brisk as he tells his multi faceted tale If you're looking for an insightful intelligent page turner look here If you don't know much about this entertainer you'll walk away from BORN STANDING UP with a new appreciation for his singular talents If you're a Steve Martin fan roll up your sleeves and dig in

  4. says:

    I bought the audiobook for Paul and I to listen to in the car for last weekends get a way I just finished it now Paul can listen to it later whenever he wants I'm not sure what I was expecting nothing really I guess I had a shiny new hard cover in my possession for years not sure where it came from but I finally gave it to my aunt who adores the heck out of him I don't 'not' like Steve Martin who doesn't like Father of The Bride?or any movie he did with Goldie Hawn but I never spent any time thinking about him one way or another Not a die hard fanbut liked him 'when I liked him'So Steve Martin of course does his own narration and this is NOT a 'haha' laugh out story He calls his autobiography a biographymeaning the man he is going to tell us about seems like a completely different man than who he is today He shares why he got into Stand Up Comedy and why he walked away from it More than thathe starts with his early childhood working at Disneyland at age 10 passing out programs then at the Knotts Berry Farm doing magic tricks on the Bird Cage leaving home at 18 driving to SF trying to break into stand up while sleeping on the floor of people's house no money not getting paid 'struggling not only for laughs' but seriously struggling to surviveIf his climbing up the ladder wasn't hard enough lonely isolating work the saddest part of the book besides the many rejections failures plus almost uitting completely was his relationship with his father He never used the 'word' abusebut what his father did to him and especially ONE NIGHT NEVER FORGOTTEN was so awful so horrific It's a miracle Steve Martin accomplished all that he has in his life Being a natural optimistic guy which Steve Martin is is a blessing of a disposition to face all the hardships he faced He talked about being an average C student in High School but years later he went to College in Long Beach He studied Philosophy literature historyetc He became a serious student with a uest for learning He became a scholar meeting other students for hours for philosophical discussions speaking about influences such as Descartes and Aristotle Hard work perseverance a little luck a little talent he saysbut I'd argue that pointThis big hearted shy humble honest funny guy with some sad storieswarms our hearts If you didn't think he was a gift to the world before this book or preferred audiobook if you can claim your hands on it you sure will after Born Standing UpLots to love about this endearing man

  5. says:

    I remember watching The Sunday Show in 1996 when Dennis Pennis buttonholed Steve Martin at a red carpet do somewhere – ‘Steve Steve Just one uestion—’ and then as Martin leaned in expectantly ‘How come you're not funny any?’He looked genuinely distraught as he turned away in fact it later emerged that he had cancelled all his press engagements as a result but the trajectory he was on is one that's become familiar – from live stand up to film comedies and from film comedies to bittersweet roles and finally to worthy passion projects We can admire Steve Martin the banjo virtuoso like we can admire Hugh Laurie the pianist but the primary feeling is one of tolerance rather than enthusiasm In our heart of hearts we want Steve to put on a white suit and wear an arrow through his head just like we want Hugh to be eternally getting punched in the face by Rowan AtkinsonLike it or not they're past all that and the perspective is an important one for this book Comedians freuently refer to Born Standing Up as the finest memoir of its kind but the most striking thing about it is that – unlike a lot of stand up memoirs I've read – it is not the analysis of a working comic about how their act has been honed but rather the reflections of someone looking back in a tone of melancholy forbearance on a distant period of their youth Sometimes typing out his performance notes from the 70s he seems unsure of the jokes and eventually admits to the reader that he no longer gets the materialAt his prime though in the late 1970s Steve Martin changed everything inventing a new kind of stand up comedy based on absurdist nonseuiturs exuberant physical gags and a constant simmering hilarity which had been stripped of punchlines so that the audience was never allowed to release the tension Watching him gradually arrive at this style by fortuitous increments and occasional ‘intuitive leaps’ is fascinating although it's told rather dispassionately without any of the thrill that must have accompanied it at the time More vivid are his descriptions of the banal exigencies of touring the exciting anonymity of life on the road and the exposure it gave him to different oddball characters – and girls of whom he seems to have had one in every port He is rather charming on this subjectOne night I opened the show for Linda Ronstadt; she sang barefoot on a raised stage and wore a silver lamé dress that stopped a millimeter below her panties causing the floor of the Troubadour to be slick with drool Linda and I saw each other for a while but I was so intimidated by her talent and street smarts that after the ninth date she finally said “Steve do you often date girls and not try to sleep with them?” We parted chasteYou can see that Martin is graceful enough to recognise the primary reason people read autobiographies namely to find out who you were sleeping with back in the day This winning anecdote from his days of obscurity contrasts interestingly with another story from some chapters later when now as the most famous comedian on the planet he tries to take someone out on dateAfter the salad course she started talking about her boyfriend“You have a boyfriend?” I asked puzzled“Yes I do”“Does he know you're out with me?” I asked“Yes he does”“And what does he think of that?”“He thinks it's great”I was now famous and the normal rules of social interaction no longer appliedThe distance Martin as writer has from his material may be a little disconcerting at times but it does allow him to organise and streamline his material without getting distracted He stopped doing stand up overnight and – he says – never looked back once until he sat down to write this book He should look back often because this is a joy to read – I just bought it a few hours ago in a bookshop outside Detroit and I've bombed through the whole thing in a single afternoon He may not be funny any at least not in the same way but his creativity and wit haven't gone anywhere

  6. says:

    I was born a poor black child I shouted repeatedly as a very little boy on our family trip down South I'd heard Steve Martin say it in a movie that I didn't understand but I did understand that it was an absurd thing to say and that was enough for me It was too much for my super white New England parents on that trip down through the Carolinas Georgia etcAt that young age and for years after Martin's humor resinated with me and I never fully grasped why until reading his autobio Born Standing Up A Comic's Life Early on his routine was based on the absurd It didn't always make sense it was often silly and that appealed to me as a kid An appreciation for that style of comedy was the reason I enjoyed the wacky humor of Andy Kaufman and characters like Pee wee Herman and Ed Grimly after I'd grown into a serious teenager Yes it can be hokey perhaps a pratfall or three didn't need repeating but that is the essence the originator of humor and should be revered on some levelBeyond learning about myself Born Standing Up also showed me a side of Martin I never knew was there It seems inconceivable for such outlandish entertainers to be riddled with anxiety Martin has been all but crippled by it It was an eye opening admissionAside from personal stories and even hearing all the interesting insider stories about the comedyentertainment business reading about Martin's own journey to comic brilliance is what makes this a very good read

  7. says:

    If before I read this someone were to tell me that I would only laugh one time in the whole book I would be like “No way” and he would be like “Seriously at one point a bird craps on Steve Martin’s head and that's literally the only time you’ll laugh in the whole book” and I would be like “Come on really?” and he would be like “Well think about it think about his material during this period and try to imagine how it would translate onto the page and then think about where he is now both as a writer and just as a person and imagine that person trying to convey anything that you would be able to have any connection at all to and plus you’ve heard all of his albums right? Like pretty recently?” and I’d be all “They’re – they’re on my iPod” and he’d be all “Well so even if there were some way to transfer a live performance of this nature to paper successfully you still wouldn’t laugh when you see it typed out because you’ve just heard it” and I’d be all “So should I not read it?” and he’d be like “Obviously yes you have to read it it’s a document of a period in American comedy that you’ve always admired and been fascinated by I’m just saying you’ll be frustrated with it; in fact what you’ll say when it’s over is ‘I wish this book were the Internet’” and I’d be all “Whaaaat?” and he’d be “Like when he talks about being writing partners with Bob “Super Dave Osbourne” Einstein and how much fun that was you’ll be all ‘Yes please about that click click click’ but then he won’t give you anything until about seven generously margined pages later when he will mention again that he’s still writing partners with B“SD”O and you’ll be all ‘More? About this?’ but he won’t tell you anything nor will there be than a passing mention about Saturday Night Live plus you’ll also be creeped out when he mentions Linda Ronstadt’s panties but that’s just because you have a problem with that word” and I’d be all “Yes I can’t hear it without imagining the speaker is in some state of arrested adolescence” and he’ll be all “It’s a perfectly cromulent word” and we’d be all “Simpsons reference” and high five and I’d be all “I’ll try to get past it” and then I’d be all “But wait how do you know this is all true?” and he’d be all “Because I am you From the Future” and I’d be all “Really?” and he’d be all “Yeah Wanna watch the Star Trek where there are two Captain Kirks?” and I’d be all “OK”

  8. says:

    Is it an endorsement to say that this is the most unfunny comedy memoir I’ve ever read? In my otherwise glowing review for Amy Poehler’s Yes Please I wrote about how the book is not really about comedy in that Poehler never spent much time getting into the nitty gritty of how she plans her characters and all the work that goes into each one This seems to be a common theme in the comedy memoirs I’ve read so far – everyone seems reluctant to discuss the work that goes into being funny or to even acknowledge that being funny takes effort It’s fine for comedians to spend hefty amounts of space in their memoirs talking about how hard they worked to become successful – all the years of working crappy clubs having no money and otherwise working long thankless hours to eventually get where they are – but when it comes to discussing how they planned and reworked a set there seems to be a reluctance to get into too much technical detail Being a professional comedian is kind of like being a professional magician it’s considered against the rules to show how the tricks are really done And maybe another reason this isn’t done – talking about the work that goes into being funny is inherently not funny at all So it’s actually very refreshing to read Born Standing Up a deeply impersonal deeply straight faced comedy memoir that shows us exactly how much work and conscious effort went into creating the persona of “Steve Martin comedian” It’s like no other memoir I’ve ever readAt first Martin adheres to the established memoir formula by taking us through his childhood But the purpose of this is mainly to show how he got an early start as a performer by working as a salesman at Disney World and also that he wasn’t originally interested in comedy and wanted instead to be a magician He gives us some stories of an unhappy home life and then reveals his real reasons for briefly getting so personal after telling a story of how his father would fly into unexpected violent rages Martin writes uote will not be exact as I listened to this as an audiobook “I’ve heard it said that a chaotic childhood prepares one for a life in comedy I tell you this story about my father so you know that I am very ualified to be a comedian”Read aloud by Martin in his soft spoken matter of face voice the line is a verbal gut punch That’s about as close as we get to learning anything about Martin’s personal life until the very end when he talks about his mother’s death Other than that Born Standing Up is entirely about the work Everything that Martin writes about his standup career was completely new to me since I only know him from his movies pretty sure my first exposure to Steve Martin was when he played the waiter in The Muppet Movie and even back then I could recognize something genius about him So it was fascinating to me to read about the progression from magician to comedian – back when Martin was starting out there weren’t places solely for performing comedy acts so he was doing his magic act alongside comedians and musicians allowing him to incorporate comedy into his routine and eventually become a comedian who did magic instead of the other way around And he thoroughly details how we went about developing his standup persona eventually settling on playing a guy who is totally unfunny but is convinced that he’s killing it and how he would push to see how long he could keep a bit going until the audience was laughing but didn’t even know what was funny It’s very interesting and almost intimate how Martin isn’t afraid to show how he thoughtfully and deliberately worked at his comedy rather than letting us believe that being funny is effortless And good for him because that’s a dangerous myth that’s in dire need of dispelling I have a friend who occasionally does open mic nights at comedy clubs and having seen a few of those shows let me tell you the number of mediocre white boys who think they can get a little tipsy and then go up onstage and just like wing it is too damn many One of the best details is when he tells us how he reworked his routine of observational comedy to make himself the focus of the stories – instead of “a guy walks into a bar” it became “I walked into a bar” Martin says he did this because “I didn’t want audiences to think other people were crazy I wanted them to think I was crazy”It’s a short book – Martin admits that he’s a very private person so of course he’s not going to bare everything to us But the little bit of Martin’s psyche that he’s allowed us to look at is fascinating and honest and reveals Steve Martin as a deeply thoughtful hardworking and brilliant artist Shopgirl still sucks but nobody’s perfect

  9. says:

    Steve Martin one wild and crazy guySo why did I find this book boring? I'm not uite sureWith a serious tone of voice dryly recounting his childhood and his difficult relationship with his father Steve Martin goes on to relate the story of his comedic life But it was all so serious There are very few funny asides and there's very little information on his skits on SNL or his relationships with the cast members I usually adore autobiographies in audiobook form especially when they're narrated by the author David Spade's and Betty White's were great This one? It was just okay

  10. says:

    I loved this book so much because it was everything I subconsciously wanted it to be and nothing that I expected it to be I thought it would be mostly about Martin's career as a primarily comedic actor and it basically ends at the onset of his film career I thought it would be hilarious and filled with jokes and I think I actually laughed out loud about five times And a part of me harbored some sort of belief that every person who saw Steve Martin do stand up comedy must have known they were seeing something amazing Surely someone so hilarious never experienced the silence of an unappreciative audience and he could not possibly have crashed and burned with some of his bits Of course I know that is never the case but it will never cease to amaze me how some people worked so hard for their success when their talent is worthy of an unimpeded rise to the top I've seen some fabulous stand up comedy and some absolute abysmal stand up This is the first book I've read about what life as a stand up comic is like but it certainly won't be the last and it definitely has me wondering about Martin's fiction worksSteve Martin knew he wanted to be a performer from a very young age Martin narrators the audiobook of Born Standing Up himself in his contemplative matter of fact voice He talks about working at Disneyland learning magic and rope tricks selling park maps and every minuscule step that brought him closer to his ultimate goal Woven through the entire book are Martin's ruminations on the strained relationship he had with his father and they provided a sturdy backbone upon which the rest of his story could rest I want to say that that aspect of the book ended satisfactorily for me but this is someone's life and these are real people I suppose I can say that I was very disappointed about several choices Steve Martin's father made but I'm glad Martin is a strong enough person to achieve everything he has despite a lack of paternal support when it might nay probably would have provided validation I was extremely surprised and entertained by the number of celebrities who peppered Martin's path to success He wasis friends with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Allman Brothers played at the same clubs at the same time as people like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell and even played a small gig where the other act that night was a pair of unknowns Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham He knew Dalton Trumbo author of Johnny Got His Gun and actually had a conversation with Elvis Presley in which Elvis commented on the fact that he and Martin shared an obliue sense of humor I knew how talented Martin is at playing banjo but just in case you are in the dark on that one check this out Martin playing the banjoI was aware of several of Martin's famous bits before listening to his memoir including Wild and Crazy Guys Well ex cuuuuse me King Tut the arrow through the head bit It was immensely entertaining to hear how these bits came about and about other lesser known to me of course jokes he used to use He is an admittedly private person and I can't remember ever learning too much about his personal life from the surprising amount of arguably useless information I've garnered from entertainment websites over the years so I was very interested to learn about Martin's philosophical studies how he acuired the skills he has and about the private life I'm glad the media mostly seems to allow him to keep to himself Though there were many memorable moments for me in this memoir my favorite uote of his was this one “Through the years I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration” I am such a believer in the idea that every random skill story or piece of information you gain in your life will come to some use later in life For that reason I was so excited to hear Johnny Carson tell basically that exact thing to Martin who used random rope tricks on The Tonight Show that he'd learned from a childhood coworker of his One of the highlights of listening to the audio production of Born Standing Up is how apparent Steve Martin's appreciation is for all the people who were a part of his comedic journey His voice is flat in a realistic way there's no pretension or fakeness to his storytelling This is four hours yes it is only four hours long well spent if you enjoy Steve Martin's comedy or are curious about a life doing stand upAlso appears at The ReadventurerUpdate I listened to this again over the weekend 92016 with my dad while we were driving to Lake uinault We were stuck in traffic for most of the time but I truly think this book made the ride bearable He laughed aloud a few times and would tell me side stories about some of the people from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that I would never have known due to my age I definitely recommend this audiobook for first time listeners who remember 60s70s television