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Born Standing Up

A Comic's Life

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


The riveting, mega-bestselling, beloved and highly acclaimed memoir of a man, a vocation, and an era named one of the ten best nonfiction titles of the year by Time and Entertainment Weekly.

In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away.”

Emmy and Grammy Award–winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written.

At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory. The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes.

Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times—the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.

Throughout the text, Martin has placed photographs, many never seen before. Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 31, 2007 – Neatly combining his personal and professional worlds, beloved comedian, filmmaker, author, magician and banjoist Martin (Pure Drivel) chronicles his life as a gifted young comedian in this evocative, heartfelt memoir, which proves less wild and crazy than wise and considerate though no less funny for it. The typically reticent performer shares rarely disclosed memories of childhood his father, a failed actor, harbored increasing anger toward his son through the years and the anxiety attacks that plagued him for some two decades, along with his early success as a television comedy writer, first for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and the evolution of his stand-up routine. Sharp insight accompanies stories of his first adult gig (at an empty San Francisco coffeehouse), his pioneering no punch lines style ( My goal was to make the audience laugh but leave them unable to describe what it was that had made them laugh ), appearances on programs like The Steve Allen Comedy Hour and breakthrough moments with small, confused audiences. Though the book is vivid and entertaining throughout, Martin doesn't dish any behind-the-scenes dirt from Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show; rather, he's warm and generous toward everyone in his life, including girlfriends and colleagues. Tellingly, this intimate early career recap ends not with Martin's decision to give up live performance or his first starring role in The Jerk, but with a visit to his parents and Knott's Berry Farm, where he first performed as a teenager.

Customer Reviews

One of the best!

I don't mean one of Steve Martin's best. I mean one of the best books I have ever read. I tried to read it slow, not wanting it to end. Always making me smile and laugh out loud, the end was so moving I had tears running down my cheeks. Thank you for this.

Neither mild nor lazy, nor just a guy

Steve Martin has written an admirably concise and yet remarkably deep and moving memoir of his trajectory towards stand-up comedy greatness in the 1960s and '70s. Without resort to Proustian detail, Martin provides a surprising amount of insight into his intentions as a comedian, and the familial, personal, psychological and intellectual pathway to the apogee of his standup career. He convincingly describes his reasons for ending that part of his professional life. This book is admirable for its spare writing style, its honesty, and for the author's willingness to note the interesting friends he made along the way without descending into anything like a tell-all motif. There is also a fair amount of Martin's dry wit, and an interesting degree of comic self-criticism. This is a fast must-read for anyone who loves comedy, and also for those who want some insight into the persistent hard work and, yes, luck from which success is derived - in any field.

Expecting more stories

Steve Martin knows how to write. He knows how to engage audiences. He knows how to combine the two. He simply needed to write more. Within a 10+ year span of life, he had a set of experiences (and at a time of unbridled creativity in this country) that he skimmed with us.

I wished for more stories of his interactions with his peers. Stories of the road more than just telling us over and over that he took the audience outside. And, quite frankly, more of his life AFTER standup. This was merely the teaser for the full autobiography.

Born Standing Up
View in iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Nov 20, 2007
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Print Length: 224 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings