Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Born Standing Up” as Want to Read:
Born Standing Up
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Born Standing Up

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  44,827 ratings  ·  3,376 reviews
In the mid-70s, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. Born Standing Up is, in his own words, the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away".
At age 10 Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that follo
209 pages
Published (first published 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Born Standing Up, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Born Standing Up

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jan 04, 2008 J.P. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comedy fans, biography fans
I usually avoid these types of books like the Plague. Celebrity autobiographies---ego unchained, coupled with a "Then I went here, then I did this, then I went there and did that. . ." boring-ass format. Nine times out of ten, books like these put me to sleep.

Not so, Steve Martin's BORN STANDING UP. First of all, it's more focused than most celeb tell-alls. It centers around Martin's life leading up to and including his career as a standup comedian, not as an actor/filmmaker. So "Three Amigos" f
Jason Koivu
"I was born a poor black child," I shouted repeatedly as a very little boy on our family trip down South. I'd heard Steve Martin say it in a movie that I didn't understand, but I did understand that it was an absurd thing to say, and that was enough for me! It was too much for my super white New England parents on that trip down through the Carolinas, Georgia, etc.

At that young age and for years after, Martin's humor resinated with me and I never fully grasped why until reading his autobio, Born
If, before I read this, someone were to tell me that I would only laugh one time in the whole book, I would be like, “No way,” and he would be like, “Seriously, at one point a bird craps on Steve Martin’s head and that's literally the only time you’ll laugh in the whole book,” and I would be like, “Come on, really?” and he would be like, “Well, think about it: think about his material during this period and try to imagine how it would translate onto the page, and then think about where he is now ...more
This is a very enjoyable read. I've liked Steve Martin's other books, especially Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and this memoir is a good behind-the-scenes look at how he came to craft his hyper-silly comedy routine of the 1960s and '70s.

I was interested to learn how much philosophy Steve studied and how he evolved his brand of comedy. Rather than cue the audience for a punchline, he got rid of the punchline altogether and went on with another bit, waiting for the audience to catch up
Jul 12, 2012 Flannery rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Steve Martin, memoirs, or author-narrated audiobooks
I loved this book so much because it was everything I subconsciously wanted it to be and nothing that I expected it to be. I thought it would be mostly about Martin's career as a primarily comedic actor and it basically ends at the onset of his film career. I thought it would be hilarious and filled with jokes and I think I actually laughed out loud about five times. And a part of me harbored some sort of belief that every person who saw Steve Martin do stand up comedy must have known they were ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

I hope this isn't too embarrassing a thing to admit, but when I was a kid I used to have Steve Martin's old comedy albums literally memorized; and I mean, literally, back in the late '70s and early '80s when he was at his commercial height, back when I was ten, eleven, twelve years old, I could litera
Joe Valdez
By 1978, Steve Martin was the biggest selling act in the history of standup comedy. The idea that you could sell out the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. with fans who wanted to hear your comedy was unheard of, kind of like Martin's act itself, which might be the very definition of "you-had-to-be-there". Plenty wanted to be, but by 1981, Martin left standup and never looked back. Until this memoir, that is, a crisp, clear shoot through the rapids of Martin's life from 1955 to 1980.

I was being book
I was just a kid when Steve Martin became Steve Martin, the biggest touring comic of all time. His absurdist brand of anti-humor did wonders to enliven my dull suburban childhood and I thought his Cruel Shoes essay, "How to Fold Soup," was one of the most brilliant things I'd ever seen. Born Standing Up is the story of how Steve Martin found his way into my suburban living room.

Martin writes with thoughtfulness and clarity about the path he followed from his first job in a Disneyland magic shop
May 23, 2008 Michelle rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in comedy or the history of comedy
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed reading Steve Martin's memoir of his years in stand-up comedy. His job handing out guide books in Disney Land as a pre-teen led him to a love of magic, then to a love of performing on stage. I loved the hard work and thought he put into his act; honing it after years of trial and error.

I think so many people today break into "the business" because of nepotism, but Martin did it by persevering. I first knew of him as the guy in the movie The Jerk, but he was also a writer for The Smoth
I'm not the biggest Steve Martin fan, but I watched "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" a few months ago and my brother gave me his book "Cruel Shoes" in college, so I was interested to read his take on his stand-up years, which were a kind of anti-comedy that employed the banjo and purposely bad magic tricks. The book is only 200 pages, so it's concise and interesting thoughout. My favorite part was when he explained his theory of what he was trying to do:

"What if there were no punch lines? What if the
Mar 11, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
This probably gets an extra star for my undying love for Steve Martin.

When I was a kid, I had three heroes: Han Solo, Kermit the Frog, and Steve Martin. Two of them are fictional, so only one can tell his life story, and damn, he f'n did it. It's a story of perseverance, and how to persevere under what I would call whelming odds. Not overwhelming, but enough that you might see where he would want to pack it in. Sometimes.

I love his approach to this book. He doesn't really write too much about p
I am a huge fan of Steve Martin, to the point that even though I was probably a bit too young for it, Mom took me to see Roxanne in the theater. His SNL work and standup and early movies were a big part of forming the peculiar sense of humour that I have today.

So next time *I* am laughing hysterically while the rest of the room looks on in silence, remember kids, it's all Mr. Martin's fault.

This book, which I listed to as read by the author (I think it would have been funny to have it started to
Jan 04, 2008 CJ rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: steve martin fans
Recommended to CJ by: Jillian
Shelves: 2008-books
I heard Steve Martin talk about this book a couple of weeks ago on NPR and he was brilliant. He's so low key about his celebrity it makes me want to sit and have a cup of coffee with him.

In Martin's own words this book is "a biography, because I am writing about someone I used to know." It chronicles his childhood entrance into show business and follows him all the way through playing stadiums in the 1980s.

What interested me most is his approach to doing stand up. I've often wondered what it's
Colleen Venable
I count my idols on one hand. When I was 18 I took a cross country road trip with my father during which we listened to Martin's LET'S GET SMALL on repeat for the entire length of New Mexico. The trip confirmed a few beliefs, yes my father was the greatest man on the planet, and yes Steve Martin was a close second. Martin's stand-up has still never been rivaled, a perfect blend of absurd with a straight face, as if his goal was to make the joke fly over the audience's heads. Many times there wer ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
A while back I got Tim Conway's memoire, the audio. It was not only an interesting story it was filled with laughs. Since then I've "read/listened to" a few biography/memorie type books.

This is much more a bio than the Conway book. Here we will get a lot of the background story of what made "Steve Martain, Steve Martain". Moving from beginnings to the present we get the workings of his mind, what he hoped to achieve in his life. He talks about his insecurities and even his "process" (if it can b
I listened to this book on my iPod while driving around town running errands---I've been listening to a lot of memoirs this way, lately---and I thought it was just so good. Steve Martin reads it himself and it's really interesting to find out everything that went into the development of his standup act, and why he no longer does it. A great read.
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Coming of age in the 1980's Steve Martin sits in my youthful consciousness as a stand out/up celebrity. I laughed at his movies and all my high school and community college friends loved him. I remember everyone imitating him in conversations and at parties in attempt to be funny or contemporary. So when trying to find a comedian to read about for an April fools day challenge I chose his memoir Born Standing Up. I expected the book to be funny - it wasn't. So if your looking for humor this is no ...more
Sarah Fay
Having read and enjoyed "An Object of Beauty", I remarked (naively) to a friend in the entertainment world that I was impressed Steve Martin could move from being a performer to such a well written author. Duh! Steve Martin actually began as a writer, first creating all of his own comedy material, then for years he was a TV writer (Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher), and of course, he wrote the screen plays for blockbuster movies, "The Jerk", "L.A. Story", etc. My friend, swiftly sent this bio ...more
Jan 09, 2015 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patty!
for me, this book read just as if it were a one-sided, long conversation with the only thing forcing story progression being when steve would remember his original point and refocus on the story. he veered off on related tangents and then would jump back into the plot very quickly.

that sounds much more critical than it should. the man has done a lot in his lifetime and i'm sure it's hard to put all of that into a book cohesively. even thought it was a bit scattered, i would still recommend it.

I was born in 1978, a particularly good year for comedian Steve Martin. That was the year he won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album with Let's Get Small, the year he released "King Tut" on 45, the year he appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, made so many appearances on SNL that he seemed more like a regular fixture than a guest host, and was basically as successful as any comedian can hope to be. But since I wasn't exactly cognizant in 1978, all this was lost on me. By the ti ...more
Wow. Big disappointment. I was hoping for some insight into this this man who was so hilarious in the 70s, yet disappeared to later reemerge as a family-friendly "light" comic actor. But this is an impossibility due to the fact that Martin seems to have little insight into himself.

His book reads like a Filofax diary of who and where and what. What's missing is any genuine humanity or emotion. Is he married today? Has kids? Who knows because it's not addressed.

He also appears to have less emotio
I often feel like I'm either not smart enough or not weird enough to really "get" Steve Martin. Nonetheless, while this didn't have as many laugh out loud moments for me as another recently read comedian's memoirs (I'm looking at you, Fey), it was fascinating to hear the long journey from Disneyland hawker to stadium comic. I read the entire book in one evening, if that says anything.
Troy Blackford
I don't know a lot about Steve Martin, and I'm not really that familiar with his work. But this short and blazingly honest retrospective of the dawn of his career and the period he spent doing stand-up comedy was incredibly interesting. He's a very accomplished writer, and the story he has to tell is worth hearing. A very engaging book.
This book had been recommended to me several times by a trusted book friend. I had never gotten around to reading because - ...? ... - Hey, I don't owe you an explanation, ok?

I was born in '82, just missing the peak of Martin's fame. I knew who he was, of course. Probably more from Father of the Bride than anything else. *Watching that trailer right there, before I added the link? Yeah, totally want to see that movie again. Probably a different viewing experience now that I have 3 daughters of m
Steve Martin is an actor that I was always fond of, not really a huge fan of, until about two years ago. Two years ago, I purchased "Saturday Night Live: The Best of Steve Martin" on DVD from a used CD/DVD store in Halifax, took it home and watched it one night. I probably shouldn't have watched it as it was the night before a major exam in the NSSC IM program. Obviously, I made the right choice.

I received a great gift for Christmas this year in the form of "Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life". S
I really didn't know anything about Steve Martin's stand up career. It is always interesting to learn about how someone famous gets to that point--the combination of talent, luck, and perseverance. This isn't a funny book, at least I didn't think so. It is truly a memoir, and I enjoyed listening to Steve Martin revisit this time in his life.
Steve Martin is probably my favorite comedian and this book is a fascinating look into how he got to where he is today. His childhood was less than perfect, his rise to stardom was less than smooth, but through it all he had this passion for laughter that he could not deny. And essentially, Martin ushered in a whole new era of comedy that allowed the audience to "laugh when they wanted" by doing something ridiculous that wasn't your typical punch line. This guy is brilliant and this book was a g ...more
Austin Kleon
A book that moved quick and didn’t bullshit. Great writing, very subtle and smart jokes.

My map of the book:

born standing up by steve martin
This book is not funny. That's because it's not a humor book, it's a memoir. Sure there are quips here and again, but Martin is a performer; and when he's not performing comedy, he's . . . not performing comedy. If you've followed his career at all, though, you know this already.

It's charming, though, and it's sad, like most of Martin's work, and it made me cry at the end.
In the best possible sense, this book is exactly what you might expect from a stand-up comedy memoir, written by Steve Martin; that is, it's erudite without seeming like a put-on, it's quite humorous in a dry and often self-deprecating way, and it's beautifully written. It's a magnificent and addictive read, and it's over far too quickly.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
steve martin 6 107 May 14, 2013 03:23PM  
Book Club Meeting Questions 1 33 May 03, 2011 02:35PM  
  • Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz
  • How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion
  • Last Words
  • I'd Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts
  • American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
  • I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny
  • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
  • If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
  • Adventures in the Screen Trade
  • Dirty Sexy Politics
  • Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek
  • Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art
  • The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts
  • Life Itself
  • Drama: An Actor's Education
  • Attempting Normal
  • You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations
  • Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician, and composer. He was raised in Southern California in a Baptist family, where his early influences were working at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and working magic and comedy acts at these and other smaller venues in the area. His ascent to fame picked up when he became a writer for the Smothers ...more
More about Steve Martin...
An Object of Beauty Shopgirl The Pleasure of My Company Pure Drivel Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

Share This Book

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” 413 likes
“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.” 135 likes
More quotes…