Review: Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic's LifeBorn Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steve Martin has long been one of my favorites. I’m in awe of his talents: stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, theater, film, and music.

I was sure he was smart. You can’t be accomplished in so many creative endeavors without curiosity and drive. What I didn’t understand was just how deeply he considered his comedy, and what he was trying to do with his act. (Maybe that was a byproduct of my age. I was quite young in his heyday, and I didn’t yet understand classically absurdist thinking.)

This memoir is focused on the development of Martin’s stand-up comedy, which he abandoned at the height of his success. It’s particularly poignant because Martin seems to be processing through it along with the reader, as if it happened to somebody else.

But as a writer, I found his rumination on how he sought — and then ultimately turned away from — success a fascinating ride, one that is understandable for anyone who has achieved some modicum of fanfare. What I connected with most was his reasoning for walking away from stand-up just as he achieved unparalleled success, selling out massive venues. (I’ll leave that to the book.)

Born Standing Up is a book I’d recommend for anyone at the start of a creative career. It’s not a roadmap to success. It’s a reflection of what to expect — and how the world changes — when you’ve reached the top of the mountain. It’s preparatory, not explanatory.

And worth every page.

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