I grew up with comedian Steve Martin. Well, to be more precise, I grew up listening and watching Steve Martin — though we were both raised in Orange County, California, he is 22-years older than me.
I remember listening to his first comedy album, Let’s Get Small, with my best friend when we were nine (it was actually his parents’ album), along with a Dr. Demento album. The next year my Aunt Dottie gave me for Christmas Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy album. Now back in the days before CDs, frequently played albums received a lot of abuse. If it was possible to wear a record out, I was going to find out with Wild and Crazy Guy. In sixth grade (I think it was sixth grade) I did a book report on his first published book, The Cruel Shoes — much to the chagrin of my teacher when she had to read a report on such stories as The Diarrhea Gardens of El Camino Real and Dogs In My Nose. This was the same year that I made my mother take me to see the movie The Jerk — she had to, it was rated R. (I had already seen him in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Muppet Movie a few times each.)
Last night I finished reading another Steve Martin book, his memoirs — Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. Once I started to read this work there was little doubt that I’d find it boring, considering my fondness for the entertainer’s early work. This autobiography covers his childhood to his heyday as a stand-up comedian in front of arena-sized crowds. A few events are glossed over (or not even mentioned, such as his role in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — which is completely understandable), while other discoveries and inner-thoughts are explored in great detail. By no means is it any sort of “tell-all” book. There are no “dirty details” about life on the road as the nation’s number one comedy act. Much of the book is spent relaying Mr. Martin’s teenage years as an employee of Disneyland, to trying to figure out college and philosophy, his early years as a television comedy writer for The Smothers Brothers’ Show. Some moments of insight even provided quiet chuckles that would sneak up on me.
I would highly recommend Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life to anybody who is a fan of the very talented Steve Martin or has even the slightest interest in the world of stand up comedy.
And, for those of you keeping score — that’s two books now that I’ve read in the last six months. The previous title being Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein. You couldn’t find two more different titles.