Just finished Steve Martin’s new book, BORN STANDING UP. It is the perfect holiday stocking stuffer for anyone interested in comedy. Like most funny people he is very introspective, very neurotic, and with his talent comes a whole closet full of demons. But he’s very candid and revealing. He shares his failures – professional and romantic, his anxiety attacks, his dysfunctional family, where the back entrances are at Knotts Berry Farm.
Side note: It seems that every artist growing up in LA in the 60s had a distant somewhat abusive father. What was it with these guys? “Son, it’s beautiful and sunny all the time. You never have to shovel snow like many other kids your age, so I’m going to have to beat you.”
There’s also a book-on-tape of this book with Martin himself reading it. (On the one hand you say, “Of course he reads it himself, it’s first person” but knowing Martin, I would not have been shocked if he had gotten Stuttering John or Elaine Stritch to do it instead.) But the thing you miss with the audio presentation is the pictures. And they’re great. Most never before seen. And even better – he includes a handwritten critique of his act when he was 15. Wow. You really feel that he’s giving you the inside stuff.
Martin contends that he had no gifts, that his success was just a product of sheer will, hard work, and endless repetition. I think he sells himself short. His stand-up act was inspired, totally original, and yes, polished over many years but you need the comic chops to pull it off and he had ‘em.
The book takes you into his thought process. Martin was (and is) a student of comedy and everything he did was painstakingly thought-out and carefully crafted. He was no “wild and crazy guy” by accident. I learned a lot and I've been doing this for awhile now.
From his days in Disneyland, writing for the Smothers Brothers, losing two girlfriends to director John Frankenheimer – Martin tells it all. It’s a great and very informative read.
The thing I admire most about him is how he continually re-invents himself. From stand-up comedian, to actor, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and now memoirs writer. There's really only one frontier he hasn't conquered -- probably because it's the toughest. And maybe someday, if he has the courage, he'll try his hand at blogging.
Steve, if you need any tips give me a call.