Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin


Steve Martin has such a variety of talents: a comedian, actor, banjo player and composer, fiction writer.  I have read two fiction books by him (Shopgirl and An Object of Beauty) and found them to be terrific. A few years ago we heard him perform with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers here in Charlottesville. He had a patter, as someone from bands typically does, as they are tuning, but of course his was at a different level. (He said he eventually figured out that the Steep Canyon Rangers was a bluegrass band that had its own celebrity, rather than the opposite.) So when I ran across a reference to his 2007 memoir about his time learning to be and being a stand-up comedian, I was interested.

And once again he did a great job. He was clear-eyed and open about his family relations and his personal difficulties as he grew up and began working during high school in the nearby Disneyland. There was a certain inside baseball aspect to his description of becoming a comedian, but the book was always interesting and entertaining. He performed often on daytime variety shows and on Johnny Carson before he really began to build a large audience for his stand up performances.

He was surprised to discover the comedians on Saturday Night Live were also doing "the new comedy" when he thought he was the only one doing it. It was his appearances on SNL, especially as one of the "wild and crazy" Czech guys that boosted the sales of his comedy albums and increased the audiences for his shows. He did stand-up for about 18 years (4 of which were wildly successful), and he left that business for movies.

What a fun audiobook this was.

Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, Scribner, 2007, 209 pages (I listened to the audiobook version).

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