Friday, July 13, 2012

Nonfiction: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

I feel like that if I knew Steve Martin personally I would either be that person who would try way too hard to be his friend and would therefore annoy him to the point where he would want to stay away from me, or I would just be crazy jealous of now talented he is and be somewhat annoyed every time he discovered there was something else he was good at. Because aside from being one of the funniest people alive, as well as an actor, a musician, and a seemingly great person all around, turns out the guy can write too. I first discovered this when I read Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and the book I am covering today, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, which is his memoir, only served to further prove what the first two books already showed us. 

Genre, Themes, History: As mentioned, this is a memoir, and of course, since it comes from the brilliant comedic mind of Steve Martin, it is incredibly funny. But it is also honest, and the comedic elements take the sting out of some of the more serious events in Martin's life. The book follows Martin from his humble beginning working in various theme parks; then follows him throughout his eventually successful and popular stand up career; leading to his days at Saturday Night Live; and eventually to where he is now, writing and starring in movies. Much like Tina Fey's book, Bossypants, Martin covers the difficulty of starting out as a comedian and just how exhausting those early days of traveling and performing and hoping to get callbacks for auditions can be. Also, because Steve Martin has been performing since the 60s, he has seen a lot of changes throughout history, and the book tells of his attempts to change his comedy and his act to fit an ever-changing audience. 

I think what struck me most about this book was Martin's ability to write, as one of my professors would call it, "economically," while still getting the point across. He is incredibly honest without being harsh or unnecessarily crass, and the humor that comes with it is anything but over the top. He simply tells his story in a way that only he could pull off. 

My Verdict: Even with everything that Martin has accomplished in his career, the paperback version is only 204 pages long and is an incredibly easy read, and yet I didn't feel like Martin skipped or left out anything. And rarely does a book, of any type, make me laugh out loud, but this one made it happen. Anyone who appreciates any of Martin's work will most likely appreciate this book. It is one of those books that I felt privileged to be able to enjoy. 

Favorite Moment: When speaking of John Frankenheimer, Martin mentions that the director once tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce his first wife, actress Victoria Tennant. And while Frankenheimer died just a few years ago, Martin assures the reader, "but it was not I who killed him." Ha! 

Recommended Reading: I would have to recommend Martin's The Pleasure of My Company. It is funny, but incredibly serious, and also a fairly short and easy read. Really, it is difficult to go wrong with anything Martin has written, including his most recent novel An Object of Beauty.

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