Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: A Comic’s Life in Book Form


As I grew up I didn’t know Steve Martin as stand-up comedian; I did know him as the Father of the Bride; and I wish I didn’t know him from the unfortunate Pink Panther remakes. But after reading Born Standing Up one quickly understands the great depth and craft of Martin’s comedy. Born Standing Up chronicles Martin’s life as a comic from his attention craved childhood to his sellout stadium nights. Those who see Martin as a waning star should read this memoir to reacquaint themselves with the determined genius who spent his life trying to create and master an original comic style.

As one reads Born Standing Up they wait for Martin to announce he’s finally succeeded, but that moment never quite comes. Martin’s act was always evolving; he strove to be fresh at all times. Though Martin was selling out huge stadia he never relaxed into the ennui of success. I realized (with about 10 pages left) that for the last half of the book Martin would have been considered successful by most standards with his large following and packed shows. But comedy and performing are muscles that weaken without a proper work ethic.

When Martin felt his comedy reached its limit he promptly quit touring despite his legions of screaming fans. I’ve never read Martin’s fiction, but if it’s written with the same clarity and honesty that Born Standing Up contains than I will gladly pick up his other work.

Through simple and eloquent prose Martin reminds us that he’s an artist. Through self deprecating humor, that he’s human. I recommend this book to everyone.

1 comment:

Salvatore said…

I probably shouldn’t respond, as this is one of my company’s books and I had to have an e-mail exchange with the author, but I agree, this is
well worth it. It’s a subtle, unassuming memoir. And Martin is one of the few ‘stars’ who can actually write and keep it interesting.

My parents have a pretty decent picture of Martin doing stand up in the 70s too.

I’ve read ‘Shopgirl’, which is cute, not much else. It’s told in a straightforward style, and you know exactly how everything is going to go down before any action happens. A very fast read.