Steve Martin has a new, excellent, 207 page book out in stores this month, titled Born Standing Up. Anybody interested in stand-up comedy should read Martin’s story. He recalls his early jobs as a teenager and young man, and later as a hugely popular comedian touring the country in 1970s, playing venues filled with thousands of people. The banjo, the arrow-through-the-head gag, the white suit – he describes the evolution of this act, from the beginnings as a kid with a talent for magic tricks and goofiness, to a young, educated man twisting general perceptions of stand-up comedy with his absurd actions, oddball humor and hard work.
He mentions very little of his movie career, except when related to some of his material in his stand-up act, so we are spared of stories about life on the set of Cheaper By The Dozen. Instead, he gives us a focused account of one of the hottest comedy acts of the 20th century – his own.
Most comedians can and do package their jokes into book form and slap a $20 price on it and watch it climb the bestseller lists. Those are sorta funny, I’m-on-an-airplane reads. But, only a few jokers actually take the time to asses their stand-up act, themselves and stand-up comedy. I think this is only because a few have the stand-up comedy career worth studying, like Steve Martin.
Here’s Martin performing his Fun Balloon Animals piece: