A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I was slow to warm to Steve Martin. I vaguely liked some of his goofy standup routines on television’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and other variety programs, but he seemed to repeat himself in various appearances. All the standup comedians did. In the 1960s, their routines were like pop songs that some people liked to hear again and again. A few years later, one of my college roommates was greatly impressed and liked to say “I’m a wild and crazy guy,” but I did not pay that much attention. I was not won over until the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors – Martin was great as the dentist. Then there was the movie Roxanne, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Of course by then Martin had left standup far behind.
In Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, Martin lovingly looks back on his childhood and his evolving comedy career. It is a great coming-up-from-the-bottom story, starting with young Steve doing magic tricks at Disneyland long before he was old enough to work legally. He honed his skills at Knott’s Berry Farm mixing magic, banjo, and jokes, earning $2.00 a show. Money hardly mattered. Life was great on the stage. Life at home, however, was not so good. On one occasion his angry father reacted to a smart remark and beat Steve up.
I was greatly moved by the matter-of-fact honesty in Born Standing Up. Martin expresses some regrets, but he never dwells on the bad and moves on. He is also very funny at times. I especially laughed at a thing his ninety year old mother said from her bed in a nursing home. I won’t spoil it for you by telling. The book is also filled with pictures. I had forgotten that he ever had dark hair. The one with the beard will make you laugh.
Review by Rick