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

Steve Martin - Born Standing UpI’ve been a fan of Steve Martin since I was a young boy and could enjoyed the silly animated kind of humor that accompanied daytime classic shows.  The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and the Little Rascals all were staples and seemed to be on one of the seven TV channels during the day.  I would catch a glimpse here and there of Steve Martin as my parents or their friends talked about seeing him on TV.  What I saw of his antics on TV were right up my alley, and I even bought the 45 record (remember those?) of “King Tut” back in 1978.  I’ve enjoyed all of his movies over the years and my favorites were definitely the more silly ones like “The Jerk”, “The Man With Two Brains” and “Three Amigos”.

Now his book, “Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life” came out in 2008.  I was looking for a new audio book and was definitely interested when I saw his name on this one.  I was even more intrigued when I saw that it was read by Steve Martin himself.

I always associated him with Saturday Night Live and one of those folks that went from that show directly to movies.  I didn’t realize that he was a successful stand up comic that was a guest host on SNL a number of times.

As a fan of his, I do have to say it was great to learn about his career from his own mouth.  My expectations of it were along the lines of high comedy with a touch of tough times thrown in.  I was greeted with the revelations that his career was painful, his family life was dysfunctional (but who’s isn’t?), and his comedy was his life in every way.  He worked his ass off refining, changing and inventing stand up comedy approaches.  He wanted to entertain and he wanted to succeed at all costs.  Eventually, with fame as his companion, he walked away from the stand up life that he made for himself.

The story is filled with his relationships, his hardships, his drive and the personal decisions he repeatedly made to guide his path toward his goal.  It is definitely an inspirational story, one that falls through the cracks in this regard.  He tells it in a very lucid and endearing way from beginning to end, and the nostalgia he feels for certain points in his life is apparent.  He shares his regrets and frustrations and expresses his pride without allowing himself to feel proud.

Overall the book was very good, but I would definitely recommend the audio version over the printed word.  The banjo riffs between chapters were Steve’s, and a few of the song verses in the book he sings.  Plus when repeating a joke or two from his many routines, you get that comedic timing from the master himself as it was meant to be, something a book can never convey.  My only negative about it is the fact that Steve reads it… as a book.  I expected so much more inflection and emotion.  This could be on me, though, as I listen to a lot of audio books and have an Audible account.  So I listen to people reading books that are professionals in this particular field.  Also, I only know Steve Martin, the “wild and crazy guy” and this may very well have been the real Steve Martin, the mature and mellow man.

I brought away a few things from this:

  1. I wish I could have seen him perform stand up live, as it must have been an experience.
  2. I just want to walk up to him, shake his hand, look him in the eye and say, “Great job.”
  3. I will never, ever, want my children to try to be stand up comics.  I think it may be less stress and work to become an astronaut.

If you enjoy Steve Martin’s work, I recommend learning more about what it took for him to get to where he is today… rich, famous, and a person for when his name is mentioned, I cannot help but smile.