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Book Review: Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

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A friend of mine passed along her copy of Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life with glowing praise and I sat down to read it with high expectations.   

It’s hard not to be familiar with Steve Martin in some way, shape, or form. From his stand up, which made him famous and opened doors for him, to the books and movies he’s written and starred in, Steve Martin has a face that is instantly recognizable.  

Born Standing Up isn’t about Steve Martin’s successful years as a stand up comedian. It’s about the years it took to get to that point, the time invested and material tested before he became the best. The final chapter almost comes as a shock, you go from reading about setbacks and small triumphs, until suddenly it all explodes and there stands Steve Martin, at the top.   

In a voice that is precise yet fluid, Martin lays his past before the readers. His is an unemotional voice; these are the facts, beautifully written but not embellished. His life growing up, scenes with his father, his detachment from his family and reconnection in later years; all these things are gone through, but quickly and with no bitterness or regret. 

Martin goes over his early years growing up, summers spent working in Disneyland in joke and magic shops. His fleeting crushes on pretty faces and the hopes that a smooth card trick might do the trick. It was wonderful to read and see how his passion and dedication grew as he aged, his desire to perform started so early and just intensified as the years passed.  

Through his young adult years, awkward and filled with passing loves, into his adult years the passion for getting up in front of crowd never wavered. From dark and seedy bars, a stint at Knott’s Berry Farm, Playboy clubs, and eventually the big times Steve talks about his routine; how he worked on it, tightened it, and eventually turned it into what would make a crowd laugh hysterically for hours.   

Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life is a wonderful look into the life of a stand up comedian, but not just any comedian. Steve Martin has done it all, suffered through the worst of the worst and come out the other side as one of the most famous names in the business. It’s sharp and insightful, early on there are a few pages that tug at the heart, but mostly it’s just an engrossing look at what life is like when you’re born standing up.

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About Katie T. Buglet