born standing up: a comic’s life, by steve martin.
i think steve martin is an absolutely brilliant writer. i mean, i think he’s a good actor also (“the jerk” is still one of the funniest movies ever made, imho). but i have loved his books (the pleasure of my company, shopgirl, pure drivel, cruel shoes, and others). but this time out, martin pulls back the curtain on his own life. seems to me that most comedians spend so much time creating humor about and exaggerating certain aspects of their lives that we don’t really get to know them. but in this autobiography, martin shows and tells all, including the realities of his childhood (with a very difficult father).
really, the book is about martin’s development as a comedian. so the parts of his story he shares all serve that purpose: showing the stuff that went into who he became. what’s really compelling about the book is how much work went into developing the popular stage persona and style we were all so familiar with in the mid-80s. martin seems so natural on-stage in his act (which he hasn’t performed in 20 years, and explains why in the book), i wouldn’t have guessed he honed it for more than 15 years. he started working at 10 years old at disneyland, and learned a bunch there, continuing his development at knott’s berry farm (where his first love was co-performer, stormie omartian, the best-selling christian author). then came years on the road, performing comedy and magic for kiwanis clubs and scout troups and tiny clubs.
then things seemed to ignite. and when he went big, he went really big; and it happened almost overnight. quickly burning out and getting bored with himself, martin walked away from the whole thing, turning to movies and writing.
anyhow, i really enjoyed reading the book. fans of steve martin would, of course, enjoy it. but it’s also worth reading as a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work involved in creative success.