Born Standing Up / by Karie Luidens

My review of...

Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
Scribner, 2007
click to buy on Amazon

Aside from his sappy-slapstick acting in Father of the Bride, I knew next to nothing about Steve Martin before reading this memoir. My expectations were fairly low—perhaps another name-dropping celebrity got a book deal on name alone and threw something together with a ghostwriter.

How wrong I was. Martin’s writing quickly impressed me: he’s a skillful raconteur whose accounts are refreshingly honest and insightful. He relives his years of stand-up through anecdotes that are at once intimate and entertaining, as well as informative with regards to the history of modern comedy more broadly.

I was also surprised to learn how remarkably sober and intelligent Martin’s career was from the start. Luck is always a factor in the making of stars, yes, but it’s clear that his rise was driven by a ferocious dedication to developing his craft. He describes hours of conscious honing that contributed magnificently to the comedy revolution of the 1960s and 70s. And there’s plenty of wit for readers to enjoy along the way.

It’s tempting to say that this memoir is a lovely read but contains nothing life-changing. That, however, seems comparable to suggesting that Saturday Night Live is good fun but a minor footnote in the American entertainment industry. The truth is both Martin and SNL have probably influenced me far more than I’ve realized—the movies I watch, the jokes I share, the culture I absorb and respond to each day of my life. So thank you, Martin, for sharing your talents with us, both throughout your comedy career and in this enlightening little book.