Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

by Steve Martin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416553656
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 44,054
Product dimensions: 7.74(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Steve Martin is one of today's most talented performers. He has had huge success as a film actor, with such credits as Cheaper by the Dozen, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, L.A. Story, and many others. He has won Emmys for his television writing and two Grammys for his comedy albums. In addition to his bestselling novel The Pleasure of My Company and a collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, he has also written a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He lives in Los Angeles.


Beverly Hills, California

Date of Birth:

August 14, 1945

Place of Birth:

Waco, Texas


Long Beach State College; University of California, Los Angeles

Read an Excerpt

Born Standing Up

  • I DID STAND-UP COMEDY for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success. My most persistent memory of stand-up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding when and what to say next. Enjoyment while performing was rare—enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford. After the shows, however, I experienced long hours of elation or misery depending on how the show went, because doing comedy alone onstage is the ego’s last stand.

    My decade is the seventies, with several years extending on either side. Though my general recall of the period is precise, my memory of specific shows is faint. I stood onstage, blinded by lights, looking into blackness, which made every place the same. Darkness is essential: If light is thrown on the audience, they don’t laugh; I might as well have told them to sit still and be quiet. The audience necessarily remained a thing unseen except for a few front rows, where one sourpuss could send me into panic and desperation. The comedian’s slang for a successful show is “I murdered them,” which I’m sure came about because you finally realize that the audience is capable of murdering you.

    Stand-up is seldom performed in ideal circumstances. Comedy’s enemy is distraction, and rarely do comedians get a pristine performing environment. I worried about the sound system, ambient noise, hecklers, drunks, lighting, sudden clangs, latecomers, and loud talkers, not to mention the nagging concern “Is this funny?” Yet the seedier the circumstances, the funnier one can be. I suppose these worries keep the mind sharp and the senses active. I can remember instantly retiming a punch line to fit around the crash of a dropped glass of wine, or raising my voice to cover a patron’s ill-timed sneeze, seemingly microseconds before the interruption happened.

    I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps. I was not naturally talented—I didn’t sing, dance, or act—though working around that minor detail made me inventive. I was not self-destructive, though I almost destroyed myself. In the end, I turned away from stand-up with a tired swivel of my head and never looked back, until now. A few years ago, I began researching and recalling the details of this crucial part of my professional life—which inevitably touches upon my personal life—and was reminded why I did stand-up and why I walked away.

    In a sense, this book is not an autobiography but a biography, because I am writing about someone I used to know. Yes, these events are true, yet sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often felt like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream. I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years, but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Born Standing Up 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
    Ross_Hearns More than 1 year ago
    Steve is a very complex individual, with his past relationship with his Father, his ability to create humor, his writing, his musical ability and art appreciation. This book lets you feel like you are a friend. When in public I'm sure Mr. Martin has to always "be on". The public expects this image. I felt like I got to know the real person away from that image just trying to entertain. I would recommend this book to anyone that wanted to get to know Steve Martin a very fun book to read.
    the_protagonist1 More than 1 year ago
    One funny book, from a wild and crazy guy! This autobiography covers from his childhood that formed him up until the height of his stand up career. It contains some interesting stories about life on the road when he was well known but not famous. If you are hoping for some info on the Saturday Night Live Years, they are not there but you will feel you don't need it once you reach the end.<br /> <br /> Review by Curt Wiser Author of BOX CUTTER KILLER.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is the best book I have read in a long time. I love reading about celebrities that had it rough in the beginning and worked so hard to get where they are now. It is awesome to know that he went from living in a van to being famous. I have always loved him and now I love him alot more. He thought so many times about giving up and having a normal life but he didnt, he went for what he wanted and succeeded. I would recommend this book to everyone!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Sexy-Space-Cowboy-04 More than 1 year ago
    A deeply personal work about a genius written by that particular genius. This beautiful biography reminds everyone how complex a single individual can be... Plus is contains a badass picture of bearded Steve Martin.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I deeply enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I grew up with steve martin as a household name. I laughed during each of his stints on SNL, and every movie i saw him in. To read his memoirs and gain such insight into one of my favorite comedians/actors is...... awesome!
    Fodrod More than 1 year ago
    A couple years ago I had seen something about this book and became interested. I've always been a fan of Steve Martin and thought it'd be neat to learn about his life. At the time of renting this, I wasn't sure if I'd actually read it or not, because I hadn't voluntarily read a book since elementary school. But I started to read it and immediately got sucked into it. Which led me to read many more autobiographies. Steve Martin is one of the funniest comedians and this book is incredible. He discusses his ups and downs in life, as well as what it took for him to become who he is today. Along the journey of reading, you pick up advice about what you can do in your life to become who you want to be.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    An insightful look at a great actor and comedian. This book sheds light on one of the best-loved and most talented comedians of our time. Steve Martin gives fascinating glimpses into his background, career and personal life. He tells his story in a funny, entertaining manner and also shares humorous anecdotes as well as some very emotional memories.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago NOT what Steve Martin is writing about. His talents and philosphy evolved, He was dedicated and hard-working for years, honing his routine. And, not all his bits were understood. This is a memoir about his career and NOT an expose on his personal life--if anything, you'll become aware of how private an individual he is. (And, funny (stupid) things his fans did emulating him). If you lived through this period and know Steve's routines you'll enjoy reading this book. He lets you in on how some of his most famous bits came about, what other comics were doing at the time and what made him give up stand-up. I'm a big fan, I remember his appearance on the Smother's Brothers as a young writer (A day without sunshine is like....night); the article in Rolling Stone; his performance in Dallas, Texas. I memorized all the routines on his album and thought of him as cutting edge. This is a reminder of how pervasive his popularity was at the height of his career and how he changed comedy.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    You have to read it for what it is: the story of how Steve Martin began--and ended--his stand-up career. Amusing!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Steve lists lovers like trophys, mentions exs, nothing truly personal revealed. A fragmented tome.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    What a wonderful look into Steve Martin's life. He's always made me laugh and now I feel like I know him so much better.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    western More than 1 year ago
    For those that want a serious laugh(and I mean not a gut buster but a hard gut checking laugh) then read this book!!!! You will find a candid (free from resaervation ,disguise,or reservation) then this is the book for you! Remember that the greater part of comedy is truly "Tragedy"! This book will deliver nakedness of soul mostly unsought.( If you think I mean it in the litral sense put your clothes back on he"s not gonna have sex with you!)A fine and candid read. ( No sugar intended!)
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    Reid1 More than 1 year ago
    This is one of the best books I have ever read. Steve Martin is the man!!!
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