Friday, January 18, 2008

Books: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Normally, talking about comedy is uniquely un-funny. Breaking down a joke into its parts, dissecting its language and identifying the tickler that zings the funny bone is seldom entertaining in its own right.

However, Born Standing Up, Steve Martin's new autobiography, is just charming. He writes in that same lilting, observant style that he uses in some of his prior books, like The Pleasure of My Company and Shopgirl.

Martin spends a lot of time inside his own head, but it's like a carnival of the absurd in there, complete with balloon-twisting entertainers and old-time magicians. Family pain that thankfully was resolved. All of which inspired him to be the artist he has become.

But what I like best about this book are the gems he leaves here and there. Quotable aphorisms like:

"Through the years, I have learned there is no harm
in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration."

Along the way, you'll learn what made him a wild and crazy guy, how he started collecting American art, and what he thought about writing for TV.

If you've enjoyed Steve Martin's comedy, or his writing, I highly recommend this book.


Kitty said...

I think a portion of his memoir was published in the New Yorker.

It was pretty good and pretty telling. He wrote virtually nothing about his family...because it wasn't so great growing up.

It was particularly cool to read how naive he was about comedy, that is, that some of it wasn't innate at all, like the concept of coming up with his own jokes.

He's a brilliant guy. Every year he does something at the New Yorker Festival and the show is sold out in nanoseconds.

Spandrel Studios said...

I have been trying for what seems like forever to see Steve Martin at the New Yorker festival, to no avail... that time that he and Roz Chast appeared together was one I was especially bummed to have missed - she's been my favorite cartoonist for many years.

For Christmas this year, my husband gave me the Martin/Chast book, The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z! I have been reading a page here and there, savoring it, because each one is so rich with sight gags. (And her Theories of Everything book? That took me months to get through.)