Continuing my quest to read more of Steve Martin's books after enjoying his novel An Object of Beauty, I just finished the audiobook of his short comic memoir Born Standing Up.
Read by the author - as it should be, really, with a memoir; Mary Karr's Lit seemed much better to me than her Liar's Club, simply because Karr read Lit but not the first book - Born Standing Up is Martin's engaging tale of how he became a successful performer, starting with his days as a teenager working at Disneyland to his adulthood as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, touring as a comedian and his wild success in the 1970s after he appeared on Saturday Night Live (back when it wasn't painfully unfunny, though perhaps that assessment has more to do with my age than anything else).
I was just the right age - I was in middle school when SNL hit the airwaves - to be a fan of Martin, though his subsequent movie career has always seemed up and down to me (loved Roxanne and laughed at The Jerk; still having terrible flashbacks from the horror of witnessing The Pink Panther and those Cheaper by the Dozen movies, but don't we all?). So it was entertaining to hear some of his famous bits as well as gain a little insight into what drives any performer to choose stand-up comedy, surely the most masochistic of professions. This book sparks a pleasant jolt of nostalgia in anyone whoever uttered the phrases "excuuuuuuuuuuse me" or made some crack about being a wild and crazy guy. (Don't fret - Martin does not sing King Tut. Just in case you were worried.)
Comics tend to collect good stories, and Martin recounts a few. Some, about his family, are poignant. He also wisely keeps his book short and straight-forward; its impeccably swift pace makes you feel like it's over too soon.
Listening to Born Standing Up instead of reading it has a bonus, too: Martin leads into each chapter with a bit of his trademark banjo playing.