Author Topic: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up  (Read 1604 times)

Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« on: January 18, 2021, 12:19:16 PM »
Tell me, comedy fans: what is so great about this book? I at least know it to be highly rated.

I just listed my long-owned but shamefully-unread copy on eBay because I'm slightly broke and I was surprised to get a bid within minutes (2 views, 1 bid). They seem to go for about a tenner.

Scarcity doesn't always translate to high prices these days, so it must be pretty spesh. Is it?

Captain Crunch

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Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2021, 02:45:56 PM »
I haven’t read it but I did read ‘The Pleasure of my Company’ last year and was really impressed.  He has a great gift for fine sketching and being funny without it reading like a gag.  There’s a nice sunny feel to the book too, he’s a great writer. 

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2021, 04:07:48 PM »
Thanks CC. I'll seek that out.

Since I have 6 days before needing to ship the book, I've decided to just read it. It's not long. I'm 30% into it now and I like it a lot. The intro is breathtakingly good:

Quote
My most persistent memory of stand - up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding when and what to say next. Enjoyment while performing was rare - enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford.

Oof. I've never, ever, seen the experience of stand-up so well presented on the page. "my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future" is it. The terrifying glory of the stream.

The chapters following the intro aren't as good as this but it's a cheerful memoir in a pleasant voice with frequent "this is how I learned timing/originality/showmanship/audience inclusion" reflections along the way.

Ham Bap

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Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2021, 08:43:01 AM »
It’s a good book, on audiobook as well.
Side note: I’m still gutted that I missed Steve Martin/Martin Short last March. Was 6 hours away from seeing them in Belfast but it got cancelled because of the oul pandemic, and they flew home.
Very understandable and the correct decision, but once in a lifetime event and still sad it didn’t happen.

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2021, 01:18:22 PM »
It%u2019s a good book, on audiobook as well.
Side note: I%u2019m still gutted that I missed Steve Martin/Martin Short last March. Was 6 hours away from seeing them in Belfast but it got cancelled because of the oul pandemic, and they flew home.
Very understandable and the correct decision, but once in a lifetime event and still sad it didn%u2019t happen.

Ish, that sucks. I'm sorry pal.

I saw him perform in Montreal in maybe 2013. It was a gala event in a massive room though and the individual acts were shitey comedians largely familiar to us in Britain and trying to break North America with their piss-weak standard tens. Pretty sure Jack Whitehall was on. Jarred Christmas definitely was.

Also Nick Cannon with his "isn't it crazy how chicks have so many creams and lotions in the bathroom?" as we sat there thinking "your wife is literally Mariah Carey. That is the only thing we know about you."

Still, I saw Steve Martin with mine eyes. He didn't do stand-up as such, mainly banjo. But seeing him was properly trippy. Like an impossibility. I just kept thinking, Steve. Martin.

Edit: it was 2010. Yeesh.

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2021, 01:36:32 PM »
It's a good book because it's a comedian taking his work own work seriously. Perhaps too seriously. Like a less metatextual version of Stewart Lee's own annotations on his set script. Martin talks about process and the ongoing difficulty of rationalising doing something when it is bombing time after time. There's way more time spent amongst the chaff that makes up his unformed career than there is revelling in success.

As a side dish there is also get a good flavour of someone with parental issues, who perhaps dreamed of being more high-brow and acclaimed than he would eventually be when nitwits would scream punchlines at him.

Petey Pate

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Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2021, 03:19:22 PM »
There's way more time spent amongst the chaff that makes up his unformed career than there is revelling in success.

There's not very much time devoted to when he became massively successful is there?  The most interesting part I found was how much less he enjoyed performing as a superstar comedian than when he was playing to smaller audiences who didn't know him.  He definitely made the right decision to quit stand up when he did.

Is it true that Martin will only do interviews now as long as they are on the subject of music and his banjo playing? I can't blame him as the book seems like his final word on the subject of his comedy career.

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2021, 03:52:46 PM »
There's not very much time devoted to when he became massively successful is there?

Well, I'm on p156 of 207 and he's not made the big time yet but the next chapter is headed "breakthrough." Make of that what you will.

I've really enjoyed the journeyman stuff. If the breakthrough just says "and then I broke through" I'll be happy enough.

Magnum Valentino

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Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2021, 08:50:19 AM »
Yeah I don't mind that for a format in autobiographies. Simon Pegg's (which isn't great) ends long before he achieves superstardom (although he does mention working with Tom Cruise as an aside) as does wrestler Chris Jericho's, literally ending with him walking through the curtain for his first appearance with WWE. He's written three more since then though, with predictably diminishing returns.

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2021, 05:17:06 PM »
I've finished the book. It was excellent.

There's not very much time devoted to when he became massively successful is there?

Just to return to this for a moment, it ended up being an extremely wise decision. There were about five pages describing the exponential increases in thousands of people he would get at his shows and his time working with "Danny Ackroyd" and Co. on SNL. These pages were not without merit but they were less interesting that the journeyman chapters and at times his descriptions of success sounded (perhaps unavoidably) like boasting. I think he understood the risk so he didn't milk it. He had to include these pages though because served as set-up for the story of why he quit stand-up, which was extremely piquant and interesting, and then onwards to the deaths of his parents.

No kidding, this book is excellent. So glad I read it. And if you're not interested in the internal experiences of a stand-up comedian or the feel of a particular comedy scene at a particular time, there are always the one-liners. Here's a fave:

Quote
I've learned in comedy never to alienate the audience. Otherwise I would be like Dimitri in La Condition Humane.

Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2021, 08:34:07 PM »
Yeah I don't mind that for a format in autobiographies. Simon Pegg's (which isn't great) ends long before he achieves superstardom (although he does mention working with Tom Cruise as an aside)

Big fan of Pegg, but his autobiography in my memory has a few too many 'If you'd have told that 12 year old boy he'd be starring with.....'.

Magnum Valentino

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Re: Steve Martin : Born Standing Up
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2021, 12:20:53 AM »
Aye and he keeps inserting ba Hons film studies essays about films he likes. It's actually mostly awful.

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