Steve Martin is an actor that I was always fond of, not really a huge fan of, until about two years ago. Two years ago, I purchased "Saturday Night Live: The Best of Steve Martin" on DVD from a used CD/DVD store in Halifax, took it home and watched it one night. I probably shouldn't have watched it as it was the night before a major exam in the NSSC IM program. Obviously, I made the right choice.
I received a great gift for Christmas this year in the form of "Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life". Steve Martin decided to release an autobiographical book regarding the early years of his life leading to his rise to as a standup comedian in the mid to late 70's before finally walking away in 1980 forever. Martin would go on to have a hugely successful career in Hollywood as a pretty well known comedic movie star in the years that followed but this book completely ignores all that, concentrating only on his years on stage.
Certainly the best book I've ever read about a standup comedian (never mind the fact that it is the only book I've ever read regarding a standup comedian), Martin reveals quite a bit about himself, his past and his family. You'd be shocked to know that Martin really didn't have an extraordinary childhood. Steve pushed himself to become what he is today, no pressure from his parents and no footsteps to follow in - aside from his father's low key ambition to be a film and stage star that lasted all but one day - in terms of reaching the pinnacle of showmanship that he would reach in the late 70's.
Martin comes across as a real and genuine person. The man has little to no extravagance in his life (the man has NEVER once paid for anything on credit) and no stories of flamboyance and over the top antics of a personal nature; yet the book did not bore me in any way. His relationship with his parents is identifiable with any one you'd meet on the street; heartbreaking at times with an unfortunate end.
I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail in regards to specific content (passages and quotes) but Martin truly gives good reasons into why he walked away from stand-up comedy by declaring "my act was like an overly plumed bird whose next evolutionary step was extinction." In 1979, Martin had been booked for the next two years in stadiums and concert halls all around the United States but it takes a very, very modest man to realize when the end has arrived. Despite overwhelming ticket sales and demand for more live recordings, Martin would walk away and concentrate primarily on a career in film and playwriting.
"Born Standing Up" comes with a firm recommendation from one, Jerry Seinfeld. Therefore, how can you pass this up? The answer, "No".