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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  40,844 ratings  ·  3,237 reviews

In the midseventies, 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. This book is, in his own words, the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away."

Emmy and Grammy Award winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a

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Hardcover, 207 pages
Published November 20th 2007 by Scribner (first published 2007)
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J.P.
Jan 04, 2008 J.P. rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Patrick
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
Flannery
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 [cclapcenter.com]. 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...more
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...more
Diane
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 '60s and '70s.

I was interested to learn how much philosophy he 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. (Based on...more
Lena
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...more
Michelle
May 23, 2008 Michelle rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
Patrick
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...more
James
Mar 11, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Trebro
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...more
CJ
Jan 04, 2008 CJ rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
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
Sarah
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)
Apr 08, 2009 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who like memoirs/autobiographies
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
Rebecca
May 31, 2008 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Maggie
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
Kara
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...more
Ben
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.
Jason Koivu
"I was born a poor black child" from the lips of Steve Martin struck me as one of the funniest things I'd ever heard when I was 7. At that young age and for years after, his humor resinated with me and I never fully understood why until reading his autobio, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. Martin's humor, especially early on, was based on the absurd. It didn't always make sense, it was often silly and that appealed to me as a kid. He was the reason I enjoyed the child-like humor of characters l...more
Brandon
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...more
Jess
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
Kerry
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.
Josh
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.
John Yelverton
A very honest autobiography that quite frankly made me feel sorry for how empty this man's life truly is.
Callie Rose Tyler
3 1/2 Stars

This book was a very quick read and came across as one of the more shallow memoirs I've ever read. I understand that this was meant to only discuss Steve Martin's stand-up career but it read like a really really really long Wikipedia entry. Okay, that comparison might be a little harsh, because I did enjoy the book, I just wish there had been more. It needed more anecdotes, more reflection, more about Saturday Night Live, and more about the creative process. Often it felt like a synop...more
Rachel
In Born Standing Up, Steve Martin finally takes a nostalgic look into the travel-worn black prop case that he packed up and stowed away in 1981, after he walked away from stand-up comedy forever. This is an autobiography (or, as he calls it, a biography -- because he's writing about someone he used to know) of the first half of his life, from his first job at age 10 selling guidebooks at Disneyland to his success as a stand-up in the late 70s where his shows pulled in rock concert sized crowds....more
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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
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“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” 367 likes
“I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.” 75 likes
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