At age 10, Steve Martin got a job selling guidebooks at the newly-opened Disneyland. In the decade that followed, he worked in Disney's magic shop, print shop, and theater, and developed his own magic/comedy act. By age 20, studying poetry and philosophy on the side, he was performing a dozen times a week, most often at the Disney rival, Knott's Berry Farm.
Obsession is a substitute for talent, he has said, and Steve Martin's focus and daring--his sheer tenacity--are truly stunning. He talks about making the very tough decision to sacrifice everything not original in his act, and about lucking into a job writing for The Smothers Brothers Show. He recalls mentors, girlfriends, his complex relationship with his parents and sister, and some of his great peers in comedy--Dan Ackroyd, Lorne Michaels, Carl Riener, Johnny Carson. He confesses to his feelings of fear, anxiety and loneliness. And he explains about how he figured out what worked on stage.
Born Standing Up is a memoir, but it is also an illuminating guide to stand-up from one the greatest comedians living today. Though Martin is reticent about his personal life, he is also stunningly deft, and manages to give listeners a feeling of intimacy and candor.
Until I read the synopsis of this book and then listened to Martin reading the opening lines of it, it hadn't occurred to me that it had been so long since he gave up stand-up comedy and became a more-or-less serious actor. I used to love Martin's attacks of Happy Feet, the King Tut performances, and his one-liners, like excuuuuse-me and others. Listening to this book and hearing the serious side of Martin, I found I was interested in his life story, but at the same time, I didn't really care about it. Hearing how much work went into his act and that he wasn't really enjoying his own insanity on stage, sorta took away from my joy of listening to him tell about it, so I rated the book with only 3-stars. Nonetheless, the book is not obnoxious in manner and Martin reads it well so that you forget he's reading it, and I loved the few instances where he sang or recited excerpts from his act that I used to enjoy so much.