BORN STANDING UP: A COMIC’S LIFE by Steve Martin [Review]

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Born Standing Up is one of the best biographies I have ever heard (I listened to the unabridged audiobook – more on that below), and definitely the best autobiography. Martin does a wonderful job retelling his life story (his “stand-up life” you could say) in a manner that is both entertaining and thought provoking. The book traces Martin’s career from his early performances, to his work on the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour, and then to when his act hit the big time, with a narrative that gives you a wonderful insight into his life. Throughout the book you begin to see that as funny as Steve Martin is, he had to work extremely hard to achieve his success, both in finding what was funny and dealing with setbacks along the way. He also provides glimpses of the role relationships (friends, business associates, family) helped shape his approach to life and, in turn, his comedy. Lastly, there are great anecdotes about working at Disneyland when he was 10, meeting Elvis, his early performances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and so on. I have to say that, after finishing this book, I have a new found respect for Steve Martin as a comedian, an actor, and a person, and it even led me to look up some of his old comedy clips on You Tube (hint: look for his magic or banjo clips, they really show how well rounded a performer he is).

I usually read a book before listening to the audiobook version, but this time I chose to do the audiobook first because it is narrated by Steve Martin himself. This really helped make the listening experience more complete, Martin’s narration felt more like a conversation with him and his feelings and emotions come through very well during the recording. The one thing I had not expected prior to listening to Born Standing Up was that Steve Martin is actually a very good banjo player (I originally thought it was only a part of his comedy bit), and he plays some tunes throughout the audiobook recording. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading biographies or Steve Martin’s work; though understand that the book is not a work of comedy but more a thoughtful recounting with funny moments. I would not recommend the book for young adults or children because the subject matter is a little too mature at times and the story refers to events in a time period they may not be familiar with (the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s). As mentioned earlier, the unabridged audiobook version of Born Standing Up is narrated by Steve Martin and is available from Audible.com or other audiobook sellers. It is a relatively short audiobook (approximately 4 hours long) and is great for listening during the commute or even from the comfort of your home.

Buy Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin on Amazon.

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  • Amie

    I’ve been curious about this book for a long time. I look forward to reading it now :)