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

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  57,842 Ratings  ·  3,945 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
Hardcover, 207 pages
Published November 20th 2007 by Scribner
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

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsNight by Elie WieselAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
93rd out of 3,479 books — 3,963 voters
The Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNight by Elie WieselEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Favorite memoirs/autobiographies
30th out of 1,275 books — 1,211 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 09, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable read. I like Steve Martin's writing, especially his novels 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 had 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 c
Jan 04, 2008 J.P. rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
I bought the audiobook for Paul and I to listen to in the car for last weekends get-a-way. I just finished it now. ( Paul can listen to it later whenever he wants)

I'm not sure what I was expecting- ( nothing really I guess)- I had a shiny new hard cover in my possession for years-- ( not sure where it came from), but I finally gave it to my aunt who adores the heck out of him.

I don't 'not' like Steve Martin --- who doesn't like "Father of The Bride?"...or any movie he did with Goldie Hawn....
Jason Koivu
Mar 12, 2015 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Shelves: comedy, humor
"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
Jan 03, 2008 Patrick rated it really liked it
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
Steve Martin, one wild and crazy guy!

So why did I find this book boring? I'm not quite sure.

With a serious tone of voice, dryly recounting his childhood and his difficult relationship with his father, Steve Martin goes on to relate the story of his comedic life. But it was all so serious. There are very few funny asides, and there's very little information on his skits on SNL or his relationships with the cast members.

I usually adore autobiographies in audiobook form, especially when they're na
Sep 22, 2016 Flannery rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 18, 2008 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it
(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
Sep 04, 2016 Orient rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every girl who longs for a witty playgirl bunny

I was upraised when I saw Caro’s review of this book and I definitely wanted to read a book written by a comic, who was with bunny ears, (a true witty playboy (ups, sorry, playgirl) bunny:D)
My experience with memoirs is 50/50 (as before this one I read only 2, one was really good and heartbreaking (The Diary of a Young Girl) and the other was awful and heartpuking (Scar Tissue). I’m happy to say that this book belongs to really good and heartbreaking. "Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life" is a flo
Joe Valdez
Oct 01, 2014 Joe Valdez rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
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
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
Sep 29, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (7/4)

Whimsical anecdotes of how an artist became a huge superstar by honing his skills of wit & comedy—funny & observant. Great autobiography. This one is on par to Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. Inspiring!
Oct 20, 2016 Becky rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-ee
I have always adored the bizarre stand-up of Steve Martin. I used to listen to it on my parents records (cassettes were already in by then, and it was definitely the 90s but whatever). I thought it was hilarious. I still do. I have a penchant for the absurd. I love the comedic pause. Steve Martin was a master at both of those.

And after reading Born Standing Up, did I learn how Steve Martin got so fuckin' funny? Kinda, its the emotionally stunted life that many comics seem to have, a job history
Apr 24, 2016 Licha rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy, memoir
This ended up getting three stars because you can't help but like Steve Martin. He's such a likable guy. I'm not familiar with his stand-up comedy (not sure if I should be anyway, age-wise), but I am somewhat familiar with his movies. (Bowfinger and Roxanne being two of my favorites).

So I was a little disappointed that this book was a little boring for me as he explained how comedy and his act had changed throughout the years. I'm sure a lot of the jokes were going to fall flat in the book since
Aug 01, 2009 Lena rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, humor
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
Caro M.
Sep 06, 2016 Caro M. rated it really liked it
Martin's neat, self-ironic and interesting account on his beginnings in acting career, emphasising the years when he was doing a stand up comedy, made me rewatch (at 2 am last night) A Wild and Crazy Guy for the x-th time and giggle all the way through. Martin on stage and Martin the author seem to be two different people, and he is talking about it too. About the fame, expectations and all that jazz. About anxiety and depression coming with it, also, a little bit. He's classy and funny. And he ...more
Austin Kleon
Jan 06, 2010 Austin Kleon rated it really liked it
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
Una Tiers
May 18, 2016 Una Tiers rated it really liked it
The book has a short but universal question. Why do abused children feel ashamed? Nice language, love the Disney stories.
Aug 04, 2008 Kara rated it did not like it
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Mar 25, 2015 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Mar 24, 2008 Trebro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2008 Michelle rated it liked it
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
Executive Summary: Interesting, but not as funny or intersting as I hoped. I have a new appreciation for Mr. Martin's rise to fame though. If you're interested in the business of stand-up comedy, you may find this one a better read than I did.

Audiobook: Mr. Martin does an excellent job narrating his own book.

Full Review
I was born in the early 80s so Steve Martin the comedy movie star and SNL Host was part of my childhood. Steve Martin the stand-up comedian was not. I was too young.

I was intere
Glenn Sumi
Jan 28, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
If you’re at all interested in stand-up, you need to get your hands on a copy of this book. Steve Martin’s account of his first 18 years in the business – “10 years spent learning, four years spent refining, four years in wild success” – makes absorbing reading, full of the absurd humour and unsparing honesty of the comic’s best work.

The former “wild and crazy guy” began his show business career as an aspiring boy magician who sold guidebooks at Disneyland, graduated to corny melodramas in a sem
May 04, 2008 Patrick rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
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 it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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.
Sarah Fay
Jan 31, 2012 Sarah Fay rated it it was amazing
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 04, 2008 CJ rated it liked it
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
Jul 26, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I recently spent eighteen hours in a Prius with two other writers, travelling to and from a critique workshop. Both of them referenced this book, which prompted me to grab it at the library this week. It's not at all the memoir I was expecting. Martin has a better memory for detail than most of the actors and musicians whose biographies or memoirs I've read. He's also incredibly gracious; I don't think anybody is put into a bad light. Okay, maybe his father, but that falls under familial complex ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin - 4 stars 4 11 Aug 08, 2016 06:09PM  
2016 Reading Chal...: Born Standing Up 1 9 Feb 13, 2016 12:55PM  
steve martin 6 112 May 14, 2013 03:23PM  
  • Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz
  • American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
  • Last Words
  • Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek
  • Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art
  • How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion
  • Lips Unsealed: A Memoir
  • I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny
  • Adventures in the Screen Trade
  • If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
  • 700 Sundays
  • Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned
  • Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America
  • An Improvised Life
  • Diaries: The Python Years, 1969-1979 (Palin Diaries, #1)
  • I'd Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts
  • Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist
  • Attempting Normal
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...

Share This Book

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” 482 likes
“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.” 144 likes
More quotes…