Monday, July 02, 2012

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

I was slow to warm to Steve Martin. I vaguely liked some of his goofy standup routines on television's The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and other variety programs, but he seemed to repeat himself in various appearances. All the standup comedians did. Their routines were like pop songs that some people liked to hear again and again. A few years later, one of my college roommates was greatly impressed and liked to say "I'm a wild and crazy guy," but I did not pay that much attention. I was not won over until the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors - Martin was great as the dentist. Then there was the movie Roxanne, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Of course by then Martin had left standup far behind.

In Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, Martin lovingly looks back on his childhood and his evolving comedy career. It is a great coming-up-from-the-bottom story, starting with young Steve doing magic tricks at Disneyland long before he was legally old enough to work. He honed his skills at Knott's Berry Farm mixing magic, banjo, and jokes, getting $2.00 a show. Money hardly mattered. Life was great on the stage. Life at home, however, was not so good. On one occasion his angry father reacted to a smart remark and beat Steve up.

I listened to Martin skillfully read his book and was greatly moved by his matter-of-fact honesty. He expresses some regrets, but he never dwells on the bad and moves on. He is also very funny at times. I especially laughed at a thing his ninety year old mother said from her bed in a nursing home. I won't spoil it for you by telling.

After listening Born Standing Up, I checked out the book to see its many pictures. I had forgotten that he ever had dark hair. The one with the beard will make you laugh.

Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. Scribner, 2007. 207p. ISBN 9781416553649.

4 compact discs. Recorded Books, 2007. ISBN 9781428181052


adgorn said...

I saw him in concert in Michigan way back in 1979. King Tut era. The only negative was that the warmup act (folksinger Steve Goodman) was booed off the stage by the rowdy comedy crowd. Felt bad for him.

ricklibrarian said...

How strange. Goodman was quite funny, too.