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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

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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 regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written.

At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory. The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes.

Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times-the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.

Throughout the text, Martin has placed photographs, many never seen before. Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time.

207 pages, Hardcover

First published November 20, 2007

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About the author

Steve Martin

196 books2,817 followers
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 Brothers Comedy Hour, and later became a frequent guest on the Tonight Show.

In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. In the 1980s, having branched away from stand-up comedy, he became a successful actor, playwright, and juggler, and eventually earned Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,100 reviews
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,718 followers
July 9, 2015
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 catch up. (Based on the 10 years it took for him to become successful, it took the audience a while to catch up with his style.)

He wrote out some of his jokes in the book, but this was not an obnoxious humor book. His narrative stayed strong, focusing on the journey of his career instead of the setup.

What I found especially touching about Born Standing Up was Steve's openness about his strained relationship with his father, which seems an almost universal theme for artists. There is a terrible moment when his dad wrote a negative review of Steve's first appearance on "Saturday Night Live," and Steve vowed never again to discuss his comedy with his father. The two didn't reconcile until shortly before his dad's death.

Another emotional theme was how isolated and lonely Steve was when he was at the height of his comedy success. He was touring so much and packing in so many shows, that he became tired and depressed. He also felt his comedy had started to go stale, and that it was time for him to retire his act.

After finishing the book I went back and watched "Roxanne," which is perhaps my favorite Steve Martin movie, and I had a better appreciation for his physical comedy. He started practicing magic as a boy, and he worked for years to make his movements appear graceful and impromptu. If he had to go through those lonely, panic-inducing years on the comedy circuit to become the writer and actor he is today, then we have all benefited.

Update July 2015
I decided to reread this by listening to Steve narrate it on audio, and I'm so glad I did. His performance was engaging and delightful, and it renewed my brain-crush on Steve. One of the things that is especially refreshing about this memoir is that it focuses on just his comedy career — he wasn't writing a biography of his whole life, or of every movie he ever did. Some Hollywood memoirs are long-winded and bloated, but Steve's is the perfect length, filled with both humorous and emotional stories. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Steve Martin or who likes reading about comedians.

First read: March 2008
Second read: July 2015

Favorite Quote
"I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps. I was not naturally talented — I didn't sing, dance, or act — though working around that minor detail made me inventive. I was not self-destructive, though I almost destroyed myself. In the end, I turned away from stand-up with a tired swivel of my head and never looked back, until now ... I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years, but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years."
Profile Image for J.P..
85 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2008
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" fans, you'll have to wait for Martin's next volume for those fascinating Chevy Chase anecdotes.

This is not a laugh-out-loud book, but there are funny bits in it. Once , while working as an up-and-coming comedian in the late 1960s, Martin recalls how he stepped on to the stage of a Playboy Club on a Monday night. Monday nights in nightclubs, he tells us, were usually as dead as graveyards. On this particular night, however, the club was packed. Martin describes how his performer's ego soared---until he realized that he was standing in front of an audience consisting entirely of Japanese tourists who spoke almost no English.

Most interesting to me was Martin's chronicle of how he slowly, painstakingly evolved from a self-conscious, teenaged magician working at Disneyland to the banjo-plucking, arrow-through-the-head wildman who sold out arenas and defined 1970s comedy. Martin is generous in providing insights into how he developed the "punchline-free", surreal humor that he's known for today.

Along the way, the comic spins numerous anecdotes concerning his encounters with those who shaped his life, both personally and professionally; old-time vaudeville comedians, writer Dalton Trumbo (and his daughter, Mitzi), Johnny Carson and the Smothers Brothers are just a few of the notables who are vividly recounted. Even Elvis makes a cameo appearance.

Even more intriguing, Martin finally answers the question of why, in the early 1980s, he walked away from standup comedy, never to return.

Martin is as skilled a writer as he was a standup comedian; he keeps the pace brisk as he tells his multi-faceted tale. If you're looking for an insightful, intelligent page-turner, look here. If you don't know much about this entertainer, you'll walk away from BORN STANDING UP with a new appreciation for his singular talents. If you're a Steve Martin fan, roll up your sleeves and dig in!
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
April 21, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews603 followers
September 29, 2016
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.... but I never spent any time thinking about him one way or another. Not a die-hard fan...but liked him 'when-I-liked-him'

So... Steve Martin ( of course) does his own narration---and this is NOT a 'haha' laugh out story.

He calls his autobiography a biography....meaning the man he is going to tell us about seems like a completely different man than who he is today. He shares why he got into Stand Up Comedy, and why he walked away from it.
More than that....he starts with his early childhood-- working at Disneyland at age 10 passing out programs -then at the Knotts Berry Farm doing magic tricks on the Bird Cage-- leaving home at 18-- driving to SF trying to break into stand-up while sleeping on the floor of people's house - no money- not getting paid- 'struggling not only for laughs'... but seriously struggling to survive.

If his climbing up the ladder wasn't hard enough - (lonely -isolating work) - the saddest part of the book -besides the many rejections failures plus almost quitting completely-- was his relationship with his father. He never used the 'word' abuse...
but what his father did to him ---and especially ONE NIGHT NEVER FORGOTTEN was so awful- so horrific- It's a miracle Steve Martin accomplished all that he has in his life.
Being a natural optimistic guy, which Steve Martin is, is a blessing of a disposition to face all the hardships he faced.

He talked about being an average - C student in High School - but years later - he went to College in Long Beach. He studied Philosophy, literature, history...etc. He became a serious student... with a quest for learning. He became a scholar meeting other students for hours for philosophical discussions - speaking about influences such as Descartes and Aristotle.

Hard work - perseverance - a little luck - a little talent - ( he says)....but I'd argue that point.....
This big hearted -shy- humble - honest funny guy with some sad stories....warms our hearts.

If you didn't think he was a gift to the world before this book- or preferred-audiobook ( if you can claim your hands on it), you sure will after "Born Standing Up"

Lots to love about this endearing man!!!!!

Profile Image for Warwick.
844 reviews14.6k followers
September 8, 2017
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 bittersweet roles, and finally to worthy passion projects. We can admire Steve Martin the banjo virtuoso like we can admire Hugh Laurie the pianist, but the primary feeling is one of tolerance rather than enthusiasm. In our heart of hearts we want Steve to put on a white suit and wear an arrow through his head, just like we want Hugh to be eternally getting punched in the face by Rowan Atkinson.

Like it or not, they're past all that, and the perspective is an important one for this book. Comedians frequently refer to Born Standing Up as the finest memoir of its kind, but the most striking thing about it is that – unlike a lot of stand-up memoirs I've read – it is not the analysis of a working comic about how their act has been honed, but rather the reflections of someone looking back in a tone of melancholy forbearance on a distant period of their youth. Sometimes, typing out his performance notes from the 70s, he seems unsure of the jokes, and eventually admits to the reader that he no longer gets the material.

At his prime, though, in the late 1970s, Steve Martin changed everything, inventing a new kind of stand-up comedy based on absurdist nonsequiturs, exuberant physical gags, and a constant, simmering hilarity which had been stripped of punchlines so that the audience was never allowed to release the tension. Watching him gradually arrive at this style, by fortuitous increments and occasional ‘intuitive leaps’, is fascinating, although it's told rather dispassionately, without any of the thrill that must have accompanied it at the time.

More vivid are his descriptions of the banal exigencies of touring, the exciting anonymity of life on the road and the exposure it gave him to different oddball characters – and girls, of whom he seems to have had one in every port. He is rather charming on this subject.

One night I opened the show for Linda Ronstadt; she sang barefoot on a raised stage and wore a silver lamé dress that stopped a millimeter below her panties, causing the floor of the Troubadour to be slick with drool. Linda and I saw each other for a while, but I was so intimidated by her talent and street smarts that, after the ninth date, she finally said, “Steve, do you often date girls and not try to sleep with them?” We parted chaste.

You can see that Martin is graceful enough to recognise the primary reason people read autobiographies, namely to find out who you were sleeping with back in the day. This winning anecdote, from his days of obscurity, contrasts interestingly with another story from some chapters later, when, now as the most famous comedian on the planet, he tries to take someone out on date.

After the salad course, she started talking about her boyfriend.
“You have a boyfriend?” I asked, puzzled.
“Yes, I do.”
“Does he know you're out with me?” I asked.
“Yes, he does.”
“And what does he think of that?”
“He thinks it's great!”
I was now famous, and the normal rules of social interaction no longer applied.

The distance Martin, as writer, has from his material may be a little disconcerting at times, but it does allow him to organise and streamline his material without getting distracted. He stopped doing stand-up overnight and – he says – never looked back once until he sat down to write this book. He should look back more often, because this is a joy to read – I just bought it a few hours ago in a bookshop outside Detroit, and I've bombed through the whole thing in a single afternoon. He may not be funny anymore, at least not in the same way, but his creativity and wit haven't gone anywhere.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
March 12, 2015
"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 Standing Up: A Comic's Life. Early on, his routine was based on the absurd. It didn't always make sense, it was often silly and that appealed to me as a kid.

An appreciation for that style of comedy was the reason I enjoyed the wacky humor of Andy Kaufman and characters like Pee-wee Herman and Ed Grimly after I'd grown into a more serious teenager. Yes, it can be hokey, perhaps a pratfall or three didn't need repeating, but that is the essence, the originator, of humor and should be revered on some level.

Beyond learning more about myself, Born Standing Up also showed me a side of Martin I never knew was there. It seems inconceivable for such outlandish entertainers to be riddled with anxiety. Martin has been all but crippled by it. It was an eye-opening admission.

Aside from personal stories and even hearing all the interesting insider stories about the comedy/entertainment business, reading about Martin's own journey to comic brilliance is what makes this a very good read.
Profile Image for Patrick.
15 reviews44 followers
August 8, 2017
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, both as a writer and just as a person, and imagine that person trying to convey anything that you would be able to have any connection at all to, and plus you’ve heard all of his albums, right? Like pretty recently?” and I’d be all, “They’re – they’re on my iPod,” and he’d be all, “Well, so even if there were some way to transfer a live performance of this nature to paper successfully, you still wouldn’t laugh when you see it typed out because you’ve just heard it,” and I’d be all, “So, should I not read it?” and he’d be like, “Obviously, yes, you *have* to read it, it’s a document of a period in American comedy that you’ve always admired and been fascinated by. I’m just saying you’ll be frustrated with it; in fact, what you’ll say when it’s over is: ‘I wish this book were the Internet’,” and I’d be all, “Whaaaat?” and he’d be, “Like when he talks about being writing partners with Bob “Super Dave Osbourne” Einstein and how much fun that was, you’ll be all, ‘Yes, please, more about that, click click click,’ but then he won’t give you anything, until about seven [generously margined] pages later when he will mention again that he’s still writing partners with B“SD”O, and you’ll be all, ‘More? About this?’ but he won’t tell you anything, nor will there be more than a passing mention about Saturday Night Live, plus you’ll also be creeped out when he mentions Linda Ronstadt’s panties, but that’s just because you have a problem with that word,” and I’d be all, “Yes: I can’t hear it without imagining the speaker is in some state of arrested adolescence,” and he’ll be all, “It’s a perfectly cromulent word,” and we’d be all “Simpsons reference!” and high five and I’d be all, “I’ll try to get past it,” and then I’d be all, “But wait, how do you know this is all true?” and he’d be all, “Because I am you! From the Future!” and I’d be all, “Really?” and he’d be all, “Yeah. Wanna watch the Star Trek where there are two Captain Kirks?” and I’d be all, “OK.”
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.5k followers
July 14, 2021
i remember i had to do a book report on a work of nonfiction in early high school, and i thought i really gamed the system by picking a comedian's memoir.

little did i know this would be one of the most stressful, anxiety-ridden, and worst of all banjo-infested books i would ever read.

steve martin was discussing the line between stand-up comedy and mental illness decades before bo burnham did it.

however i liked it way less.

part of a project i'm doing where i review books i read a long time ago, blah blah, you know the drill
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
October 23, 2018
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 even acknowledge that being funny takes effort. It’s fine for comedians to spend hefty amounts of space in their memoirs talking about how hard they worked to become successful – all the years of working crappy clubs, having no money, and otherwise working long, thankless hours to eventually get where they are – but when it comes to discussing how they planned and reworked a set, there seems to be a reluctance to get into too much technical detail. Being a professional comedian is kind of like being a professional magician: it’s considered against the rules to show how the tricks are really done.

And maybe another reason this isn’t done – talking about the work that goes into being funny is, inherently, not funny at all. So it’s actually very refreshing to read Born Standing Up, a deeply impersonal, deeply straight-faced comedy memoir that shows us exactly how much work and conscious effort went into creating the persona of “Steve Martin, comedian.” It’s like no other memoir I’ve ever read.

At first, Martin adheres to the established memoir formula by taking us through his childhood. But the purpose of this is mainly to show how he got an early start as a performer by working as a salesman at Disney World, and also that he wasn’t originally interested in comedy and wanted instead to be a magician. He gives us some stories of an unhappy home life, and then reveals his real reasons for briefly getting so personal: after telling a story of how his father would fly into unexpected, violent rages, Martin writes (quote will not be exact, as I listened to this as an audiobook), “I’ve heard it said that a chaotic childhood prepares one for a life in comedy. I tell you this story about my father so you know that I am very qualified to be a comedian.”

Read aloud by Martin in his soft-spoken, matter-of-face voice, the line is a verbal gut-punch.

That’s about as close as we get to learning anything about Martin’s personal life until the very end, when he talks about his mother’s death. Other than that, Born Standing Up is entirely about the work.

Everything that Martin writes about his standup career was completely new to me, since I only know him from his movies (pretty sure my first exposure to Steve Martin was when he played the waiter in The Muppet Movie, and even back then I could recognize something genius about him). So it was fascinating to me to read about the progression from magician to comedian – back when Martin was starting out, there weren’t places solely for performing comedy acts, so he was doing his magic act alongside comedians and musicians, allowing him to incorporate comedy into his routine, and eventually become a comedian who did magic, instead of the other way around. And he thoroughly details how we went about developing his standup persona, eventually settling on playing a guy who is totally unfunny but is convinced that he’s killing it, and how he would push to see how long he could keep a bit going until the audience was laughing but didn’t even know what was funny.

It’s very interesting (and almost intimate) how Martin isn’t afraid to show how he thoughtfully and deliberately worked at his comedy, rather than letting us believe that being funny is effortless. And good for him, because that’s a dangerous myth that’s in dire need of dispelling. (I have a friend who occasionally does open-mic nights at comedy clubs, and having seen a few of those shows, let me tell you: the number of mediocre white boys who think they can get a little tipsy and then go up onstage and just, like, wing it, is too damn many.) One of the best details is when he tells us how he reworked his routine of observational comedy to make himself the focus of the stories – instead of “a guy walks into a bar” it became “I walked into a bar.” Martin says he did this because “I didn’t want audiences to think other people were crazy. I wanted them to think I was crazy.”

It’s a short book – Martin admits that he’s a very private person, so of course he’s not going to bare everything to us. But the little bit of Martin’s psyche that he’s allowed us to look at is fascinating and honest, and reveals Steve Martin as a deeply thoughtful, hardworking, and brilliant artist. (Shopgirl still sucks, but nobody’s perfect.)
Profile Image for Char.
1,681 reviews1,554 followers
September 8, 2016
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 narrated by the author. David Spade's and Betty White's were great. This one? It was just okay.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
May 30, 2020
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 physical abuse from his father), working at Disney, Knott’s Berry Farm, doing magic tricks, playing banjo, and then moving into stand-up at 18 in San Francisco. All the way from literally no one in audiences to audiences of 25,000 and international fame.

The theme of his estranged relationship to his family is present throughout, but this is not an autobiography, it’s about stand-up. It’s not a joke book, though I did appreciate his sharing funny bits throughout and wish there were more of that. But for that we have the audio and video record: see below for samples. What was interesting to me was the evolution of his act and his realization that his best approach was performing a parody of a comedian, a bungling comedian who didn’t realize he was not funny, The not-funny was part of the act, sometimes painfully so: His comedy show for dogs, for instance. Very funny, His balloon animals bit. Terrible, and hilarious.

He wore arrow hats and funny noses and conservative three-piece suits in the hippie seventies. I loved him then and find I still do. When he says “perseverance is often a useful substitution for talent” I smile, but he really was talented, though as he says, it took him close to ten years to get it the way he wanted it, and for audiences to get on board with it. Martin, who has written novels and plays, is a fine writer, thoughtful and introspective though he ends the book with a joke (no, I’m not going to tell you!) that I loved.

His first opening line as a teenager at the BirdCage:

“HI, I’m Steve Martin. I’ll be on a minute.” That is a weird line, right? People needed to understand why that line was funny, and over the years he had to convince people of that absurd approach. And he did!

“Hello, Madison! I decided to give the greatest performance of my life tonight! No, wait, that’s tomorrow night!”

“Put your hands together! Okay, keep them together!”

“I have a new sexual fetish I’ll share with you: I like wearing men’s underwear!”

He got known through appearances on Ed Sullivan and SNL, where he became known for his “wild and crazy guy” skits, “well, ex-cuuuuuse me,” juggling kittens (not really, folks!); he’d sing “I can see clearly now” and walk into the mike. When he was a teen he’d give out cards: Steve Martin Entertainer Ordinaire. He began writing for comedy shows already when he was 20!

So it occurs to me that none of that might seem funny to you, and I know funny is very personal, but for me it’s in the delivery and in the anti-comic mode that pushed the edge of comedy in those days. As one opening line from Sam Kinison says it: “Thanks so much for having me! There’s a lot of terrific comedians you’re going to see tonight, but there’s one thing and one thing alone that separates me from them: You will want to see those people perform again!” That gets at the vibe of the time, leading to Andy Kaufman and Bobcat Goldthwait and Steven Wright: Not at all like Bob Hope or Jack Benny or Jack Benny.

Ed Sullivan Show appearance, 1975:


Saturday Night Live monologue:


Balloon Animals:


What I Believe, by Steve Martin:

Profile Image for Flannery.
311 reviews
September 22, 2016
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 seeing something amazing. Surely someone so hilarious never experienced the silence of an unappreciative audience, and he could not possibly have crashed and burned with some of his bits. Of course, I know that is never the case but it will never cease to amaze me how some people worked so hard for their success when their talent is worthy of an unimpeded rise to the top. I've seen some fabulous stand up comedy and some absolute abysmal stand up. This is the first book I've read about what life as a stand up comic is like but it certainly won't be the last and it definitely has me wondering about Martin's fiction works.

Steve Martin knew he wanted to be a performer from a very young age. Martin narrators the audiobook of Born Standing Up himself in his contemplative, matter-of-fact voice. He talks about working at Disneyland, learning magic and rope tricks, selling park maps, and every minuscule step that brought him closer to his ultimate goal. Woven through the entire book are Martin's ruminations on the strained relationship he had with his father and they provided a sturdy backbone upon which the rest of his story could rest. I want to say that that aspect of the book ended satisfactorily for me but this is someone's life and these are real people. I suppose I can say that I was very disappointed about several choices Steve Martin's father made but I'm glad Martin is a strong enough person to achieve everything he has despite a lack of paternal support when it might (nay, probably would) have provided validation.

I was extremely surprised and entertained by the number of celebrities who peppered Martin's path to success. He was/is friends with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Allman Brothers, played at the same clubs at the same time as people like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell, and even played a small gig where the other act that night was a pair of unknowns, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. He knew Dalton Trumbo, author of Johnny Got His Gun, and actually had a conversation with Elvis Presley in which Elvis commented on the fact that he and Martin shared an oblique sense of humor. I knew how talented Martin is at playing banjo, but just in case you are in the dark on that one, check this out: Martin playing the banjo.

I was aware of several of Martin's famous bits before listening to his memoir, including "Wild and Crazy Guys", "Well, ex-cuuuuse me," "King Tut," the arrow through the head bit. It was immensely entertaining to hear how these bits came about and about other lesser-known (to me, of course) jokes he used to use. He is an admittedly private person and I can't remember ever learning too much about his personal life from the surprising amount of (arguably useless) information I've garnered from entertainment websites over the years, so I was very interested to learn about Martin's philosophical studies, how he acquired the skills he has, and about the private life I'm glad the media mostly seems to allow him to keep to himself. Though there were many memorable moments for me in this memoir, my favorite quote of his was this one: “Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”

I am such a believer in the idea that every random skill, story, or piece of information you gain in your life will come to some use later in life. For that reason, I was so excited to hear Johnny Carson tell basically that exact thing to Martin, who used random rope tricks on The Tonight Show that he'd learned from a childhood coworker of his. One of the highlights of listening to the audio production of Born Standing Up is how apparent Steve Martin's appreciation is for all the people who were a part of his comedic journey. His voice is flat in a realistic way--there's no pretension or fakeness to his storytelling. This is four hours (yes, it is only four hours long) well spent if you enjoy Steve Martin's comedy or are curious about a life doing stand up.

Also appears at The Readventurer.

Update: I listened to this again over the weekend (9/2016) with my dad while we were driving to Lake Quinault. We were stuck in traffic for most of the time but I truly think this book made the ride bearable. He laughed aloud a few times and would tell me side stories about some of the people from the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" that I would never have known due to my age. I definitely recommend this audiobook for first-time listeners who remember 60s/70s television.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews855 followers
December 23, 2022
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 booked into kindergarten when Martin exploded onto the pop culture scene. I wouldn't stay up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live until the 4th grade, which made Eddie Murphy the first comedian whose act I memorized through his records and TV appearances. Most of the details Martin reveals in his memoir were new to me. I knew that he'd worked at Merlin's Magic Shop in Disneyland and shot into the stratosphere the same moment SNL debuted in 1975, but that was it.

Born in Waco, Texas, Martin grew up mostly in Garden Grove, California, the only son of a nuclear family. His father harbored dreams of an acting career before going into real estate and Martin considers that might account for the increasingly volatile relationship with his father, who could be set off with a hair trigger. Martin followed his fascination with magic to a part-time job at Disneyland selling programs the year the park opened in 1955.

Martin was ultimately promoted to Merlin's Magic Shop, and began to study the vaudevillians on the park's payroll who'd spent a lifetime in show business. As a teenager, Martin built an amateur magic and comedy act, performing for Boy Scouts groups or rotary clubs or anyone else polite enough to encourage him. Upon graduating high school, he began to consider what he might actually do for a career.

"At age eighteen, I had absolutely no gifts. I could not sing or dance, and the only acting I did was really just shouting. Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent. Having been motivated by Earl Scruggs' rendition of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," I had learned, barely, to play the banjo. I had taught myself by slowing down banjo records on my turntable and picking out the songs note by note, with a helpful assist from my high school friend John McEuen, already an accomplished player."

Martin joined Knott's Berry Farm amusement park as a performer in their theater revue, the Bird Cage Theatre, while attending classes, first at Santa Ana Junior College, later Long Beach State College, and finally, UCLA. Over the next four years, Martin threw together everything he'd learned -- magic, comedy juggling, a banjo song, old jokes -- and with the poise he'd earned performing for paying customers at Knott's, took the comedy world by storm. Yeah, right. Overnight success took Martin twelve more years.

Stints as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Sonny and Cher Show, endless club dates and performances on TV followed, culminating in comedy nirvana, The Tonight Show, where Johnny Carson was displeased enough that he bumped Martin to shows with guest hosts, but was encouraged enough that he kept booking him. By 1972, with Flower Power on the wane, Martin cut his hair, shaved his beard and put on a suit. He also dropped political content from his act, believing people were done yelling in the streets and wanted to laugh.

As for how Martin's act would be best described, the author explains it better than I could:

"What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh."

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life is written in Martin's own hand, of course (he authored the screenplays for Roxanne and L.A. Story, wrote the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile and adapted his novel Shopgirl to screen). He's been regarded by interviewers as "private" and by writing about his father, explains why he's long hesitated expressing his feelings. The result is a memoir stripped of self-aggrandizement and thrifty on celebrity encounters -- an exception being Martin's terrific account of being visited backstage by Elvis and Priscilla Presley in 1971. ("Son, you have an ob-leek sense of humor.")

Rather than the fans of Martin's wackier movies like The Jerk (the genesis of which is covered in the book), I'd recommend this more for those interested in performance, how an artist develops and hones an act and if their hard work pays off, what waits for them at the top. In contrast to the prima donna he's long portrayed himself as on stage, Martin's rarefied intelligence and understatement as a writer makes me appreciate Shopgirl more and curious to give the novel a read.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews210 followers
September 4, 2016

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 flow of humor, ordinary life and struggle to find a place in life. Though some may say that to be a good writer someone needs reflection, self-scrutiny, endurance, skill, maybe some degree in writing/literature/or smth. But I still think that "Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life" is well-written, it’s full of entertaining jokes and it has a funny, likable, down-to-earth character, who is surprisingly touching and straightforward. Especially I felt it reading about Mr. Martin’s childhood years. This book was a believable, step-by-step journey through the life episodes of a great comedian with his ups and downs. I read with fascination how he created his self, quite opposite of his own. A shy guy without a bunch of talents goes wild and crazy with a need for applause. He approached comedy with intellect and originality. He perfected his Stand-up carrier and brought it to a new – screen level. I love Steve Martin in the screen, I love him as a writer. He has a legitimate right to be in my BOBME (Bunch Of Best Men Ever) <3

Profile Image for Christy.
664 reviews
September 5, 2019
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 in Disneyland as a young kid and his work in the Disney magic shop, and how he began to incorporate magic into his routines.

Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
July 18, 2008
(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 literally relate entire routines of his to a public audience (and sometimes did), pause for pause and inflection for inflection. And now I look back, of course, and wonder what the childhood-me ever saw in Martin's edgy, countercultural performances; as can be expected from a '70s comedian, most of his work was about drugs and sex and other strictly adult topics, half the jokes zooming right over my head as a child even as I was able to perfectly recite them. I guess, then, that it was maybe the pure manic energy Martin brought to his performance, the traditional zaniness of it all, which I guess adults were enjoying for ironic reasons at the time but I loved just because it was silly -- a grown man wearing rabbit ears, a clown wearing a formal three-piece white suit. "Well, excuuuuuuuusssse meeeeee!!!!"

So how interesting, then, to get to sit down and read Martin's memoirs on those years, Born Standing Up, decades after he quit stand-up for good, decades where he has been ambivalent and shy about his stand-up years in the first place, preferring to constantly delve forward with his traditional acting instead, as well as the more intellectual humor that has defined his later career as a novelist and playwright. Because as this tight, slim, plainly-spoken, always entertaining volume shows, it was in fact precisely the combination of his traditional showbiz childhood experiences and the countercultural excesses of the '60s that led to his act in the first place, not an affectation of any sort but merely the things that naturally interested him back then, the things that he naturally found funny; but by doing so, he in fact forged something entirely new, unique and unforgettable, leading to him at one point being the number-one live-entertainment draw in the entire United States, and this counting rock musicians as well.

That's important to remember about Martin's early career, that he had the kinds of live-audience successes that sound surreal anymore in these "Laff Shack on every corner" days; at the height of his stand-up years, he was sometimes packing in 20,000 people a night or more, night after night and city after city, precisely because he did the kind of hybrid performance that no other comedian did, a wry sensibility attuned to the times combined with literal cornball routines and effects from the Catskills era. It'd be easy to believe, as many did, that Martin deliberately added these cornball details to his routine at a certain point during adulthood, precisely for the ironic enjoyment that jaded '70s audiences would get out of it; but as this book shows, these elements have actually been a consistent part of his public act since literally his teenage years, when he worked at the magic store inside of California's Disneyland during high school, wearing such things as arrows-through-the-head and Groucho Marx glasses unironically, trying to actually sell more of them at the store. Once he got into college, according to him, once he was in his twenties and starting to put together an adult touring club routine of his own, he simply left the magic-store accrouchements in, simply because he was 20 and a terrible comedian and needed stuff to fall back on; it was only as he started getting older, started embracing more of the countercultural things going on around him, that these details took on their ironic effect, by which time he was a good enough comedian to understand how to exploit them for that purpose.

In fact, it's no surprise that no less than Jerry Seinfeld has called Born Standing Up "one of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written," because this is a very wonky, very process-obsessed memoir, a chance for Martin to literally record the steps that moved him from one moment to the next in his early career, to literally talk about the specific things he changed from step to step, the specific things he held onto. Because let's face it, there's actually a hugely fascinating milieu of significant events that was swarming around him during his youth; raised in southern California, actually a philosophy student at college while first pursuing a career as a comedian, Martin was lovers and roommates with all the various future legends of Hollywood, but also compatriots with student radicals, art historians, blacklisted Communist writers, and all kinds of other people who would have such a profound effect on his later, more mature career. (For those who don't know, in fact, on top of his performance career, he's currently also one of the most respected private collectors of 20th-century art in the entire country.) He was a writer on the old "Smothers Brothers Comedy Show," right at the height of its Nixon-hating, network-preempting controversy; he was brought into the now-classic "Saturday Night Live" right at its most daring start, one of the people who helped cement the show into what it now is. When the "Lenny Bruce Look" finally became the norm on comedy stages in the mid-'70s, he switched over to a short haircut and a three-piece suit, for no other reason than to be different; and then right at the height of his career, a moment when he was literally selling out basketball stadiums for weeks on end, he walked away from it all and never looked back.

And that's maybe the biggest irony about Martin's early career, as so smartly but sometimes cynically detailed in Born Standing Up; that he had never meant to be a stand-up in the first place, had only done so because he literally had nothing else going on in his life at the time, and in fact couldn't wait to walk away from it all as soon as he could, perpetually embarrassed as he was over the entire stand-up industry in the first place. And in this I share a deep empathy with Martin, in that this is how I in general feel as well about my own youthful years in the slam-poetry community of the 1990s; how even something that brings a person quick fame and attention can ultimately be embarrassing to the person it's benefiting, how a person can be weirdly proud of what they themselves did within that medium but still deeply disappointed by the medium itself, by everyone else in it and what the general public thinks of it. As Martin explains throughout this memoir, he has always seen writing and intellectualism as much more worthy life pursuits than simply getting on a stage and making with the yuk-yuk, and in fact even needed to be convinced by friends to write the memoir in the first place; it's very telling, I think, that he actually had to hire a researcher to track down all the photos and documents seen throughout the manuscript, in that he had held on to barely any of this stuff himself.

That's a fascinating thing about Martin, I think, that his career can be classified into such two clean and unrelated halves, not just the mediums he's worked in but even the type of humor he uses. He truly was a master of the stand-up format, which is why I have such immense respect for him for walking away from it all, the moment his fame got big enough that he had the actual opportunity to do so, to delve instead into traditional movies and traditional acting. But I have to say, I'm glad as well that he was eventually convinced to indeed write Born Standing Up -- it's a treasure trove of information for anyone who was old fan of his from those years, as well as any aspiring stage performer who wants to understand more about how one hones one's craft over time. It comes highly recommended today.

Out of 10: 9.0
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,080 reviews619 followers
July 26, 2018
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 track it down.

This short autobiography focuses on Martin’s time as a stand-up comedian and his formative years as a wannabe performer. I learned that his father had always hankered after a career in the movie business but his failure to achieve any traction in this regard led to a smouldering resentment of his son’s success in later years. His mother is pictured as a somewhat downtrodden woman, dominated by her husband. In short, Martin’s upbringing seemed to me to be frustrating and somewhat unhappy. But it did develop him into an independent young man who became determined to forge a career of his own in entertainment. Having moved from Texas to Inglewood, California (part of his father’s plan to get closer to the action) Steve found his first job Disneyland, selling guidebooks. He became fascinated with the Main Street Magic shop and after befriending staff there he began to practice and perfect tricks of his own.

Eventually Steve made his way to college where he took classes in drama. He later abandoned his University studies to focus on what was now a burgeoning career as a stand-up comic. There’s a good deal of focus on how he developed his act – very new wave and highly focused on his visual antics - and it’s clear that his path to success was a long one fraught with disappointments and more than a few failures. But eventually he forged a hugely successful career on stage and, in time, on television.

I listened to this on audio, read by the author. In truth, the delivery is deadpan and, for the most part, short of any kind of emotion. And strangely, I found that nearly all his jokes and lines fell flat and felt distinctly unfunny. Now, maybe this is because of the nature of his act that does (did) rely to a significant extent on the audience being able to see what he was doing as much as listening to what he was saying. Either way, it made the whole experience of listening to this book a somewhat disappointing one.

An element that was missing for me was the bit I was probably most interested in: his life as an actor, working on films that drew him to my attention, such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, one of my favourite films of all time. This is because Steve pulls the plug on this account after his first film, The Jerk. He walked away from stand-up in 1981, apparently to focus on his film career but I sensed that he was by this time he was discontented with his act and after years of working his material he was looking for something else.

This is an interesting and, I believe, very honest account. I'm sure fans of Steve’s comedy act will gain a good deal from this but ultimately it fell a little flat for me.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
463 reviews302 followers
July 29, 2019
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 household name. He shares his struggles, the anxiety and depression, as well as the loneliness and isolation of being a one man act and it wasn’t until he joined SNL that he found a comradeship with other comedians and really made his break. I mostly know him from his movies, some of my favourites growing up.

It’s clear that Steve doesn’t court the limelight as he is rather a shy character, he often struggles with the fame aspect of his career, and is often reserved in real life especially during interviews preferring to leave his act out on the stage and continue a normal life. Although this is a memoir you can see he values his privacy and I greatly admire him for his one of a kind comedy act, intelligence and humbleness.
Profile Image for Becky.
832 reviews155 followers
October 20, 2016
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 that just couldn't be repeated in modern day America, and the study of philosophy. That's right folks, it very suddenly made my philosophy degree seem more useful ;) I kid, Ive always felt it was useful even it wasn't necessarily practical, BUT STILL, the most interesting part of the book to me was how his study of philosophy, and really his study of EVERYTHING (did the waittresses laugh, how much, what if he timed it differently) was crucial to the formation of his final act.

There were times that I wish Steve had felt a bit more emotionally invested in his won books- parts came off dry and distant, you could read this and hardly even know that he ever married- but I also understand that he is an introvert with a deep need for privacy, so for that I commend him for striking such a good balance. He truly discussed his career, not his life, and thats totally fair.
Profile Image for Kara.
42 reviews
August 4, 2008
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 emotional connection to the women in his life than he did to his stage props. (I actually detected some emotion when he talked of his magic rings and arrow-through-the head prop - but I could be mistaken.)

I walk away from reading this book thinking Martin has got to be a very shallow man, and feeling duped that I found him so interesting back in his SNL days.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
3,000 reviews1,643 followers
February 21, 2022
I was pleasantly shocked to see this on Kindle Unlimited. I'm not a huge fan of absurdist humor, with the two Steve's being exceptions (Martin and Wright). Steve Martin has fascinated me because his frantic/manic delivery seemed so spontaneous and yet was obviously finely crafted. So I snapped this up and dove right in. And didn't surface again until I'd finished, staying up much later than I had intended.

As well-written and engaging as it is, I finished thinking "I still don't know much about him as a person." Which, come to think of it, wasn't really the point of the book. It does what it says it will very competently, I think. It has been decades since Steve Martin gave up comedy to move on to other artistic endeavors so this was very much a dive back in time. I remember seeing Martin on SNL and thinking him the most consistently funny host so seeing his path to get there was engaging, indeed. It was interesting seeing all the set backs he had to overcome. And to finally understand why he was the whack-job wearing a three-piece suit and how deliberate that choice was!

Martin is unstinting in depicting those in his life. His romantic connections are treated kindly, but thoroughly. And his family gets a drubbing. Or, at least, his father is depicted unstintingly as something of a monster. I couldn't help feeling that as open, even generous, as he was about others I notice I finished the book having zero insight into Martin, himself. His projection of the shy kid pushing through anxiety attacks doesn't feel like the whole story, particularly given the wide network of friendships he gives full credit for the key roles they play in his success.

So I'll end with four stars for an engaging read that was a bit more guarded than I would have preferred. A fascinating look at a fascinating talent and the peek behind the curtain of his comedy was priceless for the explanation for the choices that made him famous.
Profile Image for Colleen Venable.
Author 45 books371 followers
August 2, 2016
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 weren't even jokes, no real punchlines or section to pause and laugh. To this day I can recite LET'S GET SMALL on cue from opening Banjo licks to his final Thank you's, which he gave to each and every audience member individually.

So many comedian memoirs tend towards one of two paths: "I am a comic and I will make you laugh" with the entire book being one punchline to the next, or "my life has been horrible, THIS is why I make people laugh". Born Standing Up never tries to make you laugh, nor does it try to make you pity Steve's struggling beginnings. It's sweet without venturing towards splenda, funny without ever trying, and inspiring to the point I gave it a hug when I finished. Oooh and it also settled a 10 year debate with an old college friend. (Ha, Jodie! See Steve Martin DID do all those rope tricks in Three Amigos!)

While Steve Martin as stand-up comedian will always be my favorite incarnation of the man, Steve Martin as writer deserves some applause as well.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 257 books409k followers
November 8, 2013
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 reflections about the fleeting nature of fame. A good reminder for anyone -- writer, actor, musician -- who dreams of a "big break." Martin really worked for his fame, and those hard years helped him deal with fame when it finally happened. We have lots of examples of those who became famous too young too soon and self-destructed. The tabloids are full of them. Something to think about as we push for younger and younger icons in film, music, and even literature.
Profile Image for Priscilla.
129 reviews86 followers
May 23, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Robert.
1,604 reviews106 followers
April 26, 2023
Steve Martin is seriously funny, and serious about being funny.

You Do Indeed.

Though ostensibly limited in scope to the origins, and end, of Martin's legendary stand-up career in the late '60s, '70s and touching the very early '80s when he walked away from performing comedy live it is a droll, detailed, and very human account of both a career and an era. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,160 reviews210 followers
August 1, 2023
This man is a total inspiration. To watch him, listen to him. Hearing his voice, his music, his earnestness, and his longing - all while you've been reduced to tears by laughter at his antics, jokes and humor.

Born Standing Up just does it all over again with his writing. He tells the story of a comedian's life - his life. It's difficult, long and winds back on itself again and again. Still, he's willing to tell the tale, and while I don't think he's trying to persuade anyone to take up the baton, he's not warning anyone away, either. Mostly, and this is the deepest truth, mostly he's telling the Story of Steve, Son of Mr. Martin. Not the happiest story, but he's made a good show of it, with hard work and stick-to-it-tive-ness. There's a patch of reconciliation included for good measure, too.

Inspiring, all the way through.
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews403 followers
May 19, 2019
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
Profile Image for Brett C.
805 reviews181 followers
May 16, 2021
This memoir of Steve Martin was good. You'll get his life story and everything in between but the way he explains things, gives reflection into his life events, and having insight about what was going on at the time is what kept me reading. I felt as if I was listening to Steve Martin speak as I was reading. A really good book and written from the heart.
Profile Image for Una Tiers.
Author 6 books376 followers
May 18, 2016
The book has a short but universal question. Why do abused children feel ashamed? Nice language, love the Disney stories.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 11 books2,532 followers
August 6, 2018
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's a lovely and sometimes touching book.
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