The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Mr. Martin's name came up at dinner a few weeks ago. One of the younger guests asked if he was "that guy in the Cheaper by the Dozen movies". His companion added that Mr. Martin was also in the latest version of The Pink Panther. While I acknowledge that both the guest and his companion are under the age of 15, I die a little inside to think that to these young people Steve Martin is nothing more than a likeable goofball in soft comedies. They know nothing of his writing, his "bad" magic, his spectacular banjo-playing, the early years of Saturday Night Live... Would they find the album, Let's Get Small, as funny as I did at their age?

Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up, is a reminder of how much more there is to the man besides his recent films (thank heavens). Or even his recent foray into fiction (Shopgirl, Pleasure of My Company). Born Standing Up is not merely an autobiographical recount of his brilliant career as a stand-up comedian. It is study of a man studying his art, his calling, and how he developed himself from a young boy selling guidebooks at Disneyland to selling out stadiums at his stand-up performances years later. And that's where it stops. Perhaps Mr. Martin is saving the rest – his marriage, his movies, dating Anne Heche, etc. – for a later book. But I hope not. If his fans are lucky, he will save some of his writing talent to create better scripts for himself. It would seem that Steve has been a big fan of sequels of late – so why not an L.A. Story II? It would make me feel better if the next generation knew of Steve Martin beyond a string of flaccid films. This book will certainly help.

Remarkably non-self-indulgent, Born Standing Up is a well-written read - thoughtful but to-the-point and refreshingly unsentimental. A must-read for anyone who still believes that the road to artistic success is paved with hard work and tenacity.

4 Comments:

Blogger Anne C. said...

Don't despair, Mel! New generations are being introduced to old favourites on YouTube. My own kids have had to watch more than one banjo routine...

And I really want to read this book. I read at least one excerpt, about the show he worked at in his university years.

Sun Jan 13, 07:31:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

We have an old vinyl of Wild and Crazy Guy. My sixteen year old son loves it.

When I was in high school, a classmate did Steve Martin's routine, banjo and all.

I really loved LA Story!

Sun Jan 13, 12:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

There was a retrospective of old Saturday Night Live on recently, and it was hilarious; nearly all the old skits (the famous ones) held up. I'll definitely look for this book.

Sun Jan 13, 05:37:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I have to get this book! I was a huge Steve Martin fan and I've forgotten the playful anarchy of his old stuff. It will be good to get reacquainted with it. As well, it's pretty rare to have an insight into the art and craft of stand-up. Thanks for the tip, MelBel!

Mon Jan 14, 09:24:00 am GMT-5  

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