I just finished reading Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin. My mom and dad were both big Steve Martin fans when I was a kid and we had a few of his concerts on cassette. I thought they were great and remember trying to mimic his “Let’s Get Small” routine for my classmates long before I had any idea what drugs were. I was blessed with a mother that both loved Saturday Night Live and had no objection to letting my sister and me stay awake late into the night. And of course I’ve seen almost all of his films (except, surprisingly, The Jerk). So Steve Martin has basically been making me laugh for my whole life.
Born Standing Up is a memoir almost exclusively about his experience and development as a stand-up comedian. He only barely mentions SNL and his films, so if that’s what interests you, you won’t enjoy this autobiographical piece. But if you’re fascinated by stand-up comedy and you wonder what enables a man to take center stage in front of strangers and tell jokes, this is a must-read. Martin explains what motivated him to get into stand-up in the first place, how he got started and honed his craft, and what it was like to suddenly become a mega-star. He talks about being on the road, about losing his privacy, about fine-tuning jokes, about recording his albums. He describes the genesis of some of his most popular pieces and what drove him to one day simply walk away from the genre altogether.
Although there are many passages that will cause you to chuckle while you’re reading and remembering his act, this book is not a work of comedy. It’s a thoughtful and sentimental journey through Steve Martin’s career as a stand-up comedian. I really enjoyed reading it.
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