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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  90,166 ratings  ·  5,336 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 February 29th 2008 by Scribner Book Company (first published November 20th 2007)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  90,166 ratings  ·  5,336 reviews

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Nov 16, 2007 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
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Whimsical anecdotes of how an artist became one huge superstar by honing his skills of wit & comedy—funny & observant. Great autobiography. This one is possibly on par to Bob Dylan’s "Chronicles."

It's pretty inspiring, to say the least.
Jan 02, 2008 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
Elyse  Walters
Sep 29, 2016 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....
I remember watching The Sunday Show in 1996 when Dennis Pennis buttonholed Steve Martin at a red carpet do somewhere – ‘Steve! Steve! Just one question—’ and then as Martin leaned in expectantly: ‘How come you're not funny anymore?’

He looked genuinely distraught as he turned away (in fact it later emerged that he had cancelled all his press engagements as a result), but the trajectory he was on is one that's become familiar – from live stand-up to film comedies, and from film comedies to more bi
Jason Koivu
Sep 09, 2011 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 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
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, audiobook
Is it an endorsement to say that this is the most unfunny comedy memoir I’ve ever read? In my (otherwise glowing) review for Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, I wrote about how the book is not really about comedy, in that Poehler never spent much time getting into the nitty-gritty of how she plans her characters, and all the work that goes into each one. This seems to be a common theme in the comedy memoirs I’ve read so far – everyone seems reluctant to discuss the work that goes into being funny, or to ...more
Dave Schaafsma
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-bio-memoir
I loved listening to Steve Martin read aloud his own memoir focusing on his stand-up years, which I think was his best period. His most absurdist time. The movies can be good, but they are more mainstream comedy. I listened to this while running and at least three times I had to stop, I was laughing so hard. But not to falsely advertise. This is mainly a serious memoir for those who really want to understand how it all came down, how Martin moved from his Baptist upbringing (suffering verbal and ...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
Jun 16, 2012 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
Sep 04, 2016 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
Sep 21, 2014 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
I knew very little about Steve Martin prior to listening to this memoir, but I enjoyed it. All I knew beforehand was that I LOVED Father of the Bridge as a kid!! It was nothing fantastic, but I always seem to enjoy listening to memoirs read by the author. This had a little of his childhood and family, but mostly involved his beginnings in stand-up comedy, and what made him quit and never do it again all those years later.

My favorite parts were when Steve Martin talked about beginning his career
Jason Pettus
Jun 20, 2008 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
Andrew Smith
I watched a show in Netflix recently called Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, it was hilarious. Martin Short was really the star turn but it reminded me how much I always liked Steve Martin. And what happened to him, where did he go? Some of the answers were provided by another show I tracked down in which Steve chatted to fellow comedian Jerry Seinfeld, but I wanted more and this book was referenced by Seinfeld in the interview so I decided to ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great insight into the brilliant mind of Steve Martin. This isn’t a salacious tell all, it’s mostly an account of his early stand up career and improv days, he begins by telling us about his disconnect from his family life and how he was drawn to the comedy world, first working at a magic shop in Disneyland as a young kid when it first opened to working the comedy theatre circuit, it took many years of refining his act before he made it big, it’s not until the early 80’s where he became a hous ...more
Oct 20, 2016 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
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
Apr 28, 2008 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
Caro the Helmet Lady
Jul 21, 2015 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
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
A short memoir written and read by Steve Martin with a surprisingly flat affect, this is his truth about how and why and he began and ended his stand up career. Honest and surprisingly touching in parts, this is mainly his chronological rise to fame in a time when comedy and those producing it were regarded differently. Unique, philosophical, creative, and funny, Steve Martin has always been my number one choice for fantasy BFF. 3.5 stars
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A terrific look at Martin's early career...probably not fair to take half a star away, because the title of the book is Born Standing Up, but I really would have loved to hear more about his transition into film and at least up to making Roxanne. ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jan 28, 2015 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
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I should have listened to this on audio, as Martin would've been the perfect narrator, I'm sure. Still, the memoir was very well done -- not too sentimental, just the right mix of comedy and poignancy. Martin writes with a light touch, and comes across as a very centered, reflective, and well-grounded person, anything but wild and crazy. Of course, I grew up on Saturday Night Live and Steve Martin was my idol in middle school, so this had a lot of nostalgic value for me. I also liked it for its ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Steve Martin, one of the most obviously intelligent comedy artists of his generation, has written a genial and serious book about the art of stand-up comedy as he saw it during his development in the 1960s and his enormous success in the 1970s. The book is charming and funny, yet it trades easy laughs for a real look at what went into the building of a spectacular career. Martin is authentic in his description of his upbringing in a family that didn't discover closeness until almost too late. It ...more
Una Tiers
Apr 17, 2013 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.
Rob McMonigal
Mar 24, 2008 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
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, memoir
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
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, non-fiction
A fun look at Steve Martin's early career in stand-up comedy his time on Saturday Night Live. I do wish it covered more of his life. I would have liked to hear more about his roles in big blockbuster comedies and then how he has settled down somewhat in old age. A good, quick read. ...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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