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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life [Paperback]

Steve Martin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 2 2008
The riveting, mega-bestselling, beloved and highly acclaimed memoir of a man, a vocation, and an era named one of the ten best nonfiction titles of 2007 by Time and Entertainment Weekly.

In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

Emmy and Grammy Award–winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written.

At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory. The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes.

Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times—the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.

Throughout the text, Martin has placed photographs, many never seen before. Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time.

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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life + Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Martin recounts his tense childhood, his desire to become a magician and his segue into standup comedy in his surprisingly serious and eloquently written memoir. Martin's memories are perceptive and emotionally honest even though he confesses early on that while writing this book, he felt some events in his life seemed to happen to someone else and I often felt like a curious onlooker. Martin's writing is spare, concise and evocative, and he's a smooth and limber reader, an assured and relaxed, seasoned raconteur. Martin runs through some of his classic comedy routines to give listeners an idea of how they developed into his anti-comedy sets (humor without punch lines). Enjoyment while performing was rare, he reveals. Enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford. After 18 years of studying, refining and finally succeeding, Martin ends the book when he gives up the solitary standup life in favor of a collaborative life making films. Martin also provides the banjo music that plays between chapters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"Absolutely magnificent. One of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written." - Jerry Seinfeld, GQ

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Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Born Standing Up will be of most interest to young people who want to create a career performing in stand-up comedy. I was fascinated by Steve Martin's recollections of the lessons he learned at the magic shop in Disneyland and in performing at the Bird Cage Theater at Knott's Berry Farm. Both places were favorite haunts of mine while he was doing his apprenticeship, and I'm sure I saw him perform but don't remember him. Knowing a lot about both places, it made it easier for me to appreciate the other steps he took to develop an act and to become recognized. His description of being on the Tonight Show was a good lesson in patience . . . the first dozen or so appearances don't do a thing for your career.

Having seen him perform, I could never figure out why he chose to do the self-deprecating bit and wear a white suit. Now I know how all that came about. It was definitely interesting.

But if you want to know a lot more about Steve Martin, the man, and his daily thoughts and challenges . . . this book will leave you disappointed.

At times I felt like I was reading a book about how to plan a career rather than an autobiography -- especially towards the end when he explained how heavy touring while you are hot makes it inevitable that you won't develop the new material you need to stay hot. I guess there's a reason why Bob Hope always had so many writers working for him.

I haven't always enjoyed Steve Martin's humor, and I found myself wondering over some examples of what was great about his humor. If you aren't a big fan of Steve Martin's or don't want to be a stand-up comedian, you might find it wisest to skip this book. It's probably a two or three star effort for you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars July 10 2014
By glady
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Funny and good to know about his growing up years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great auto-bio Sept. 27 2013
By Bootsy Bass TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Steve Martins story is nothing but fascinating. This book is brutally honest. At times funny...at times sad...but real for the whole story. Well recomended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Feb. 23 2013
By McC92
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
love it, steve martin is a riot. funny, insightful, and heartfelt. i loved it and would recommend it to all fans of his or of comedy in general
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By Mark Anderson TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
This is an excellent memoir by Steve Martin of his days doing stand up comedy from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

I'd recommend buying the audio book version rather than the print version. The print version is good but Steve Martin's narration on the audio book adds something extra to the final package.

I have a forty minute highway commute to and from work and I usually pass the time listening to audio books. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
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