This is going to sound crazy, but prior to reading Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up, I had not idea that he had been such a popular stand-up comedian.
I was born in 1977 and as far as I have been concerned, Martin was foremost an actor.
In the last fifteen years, I have discovered his writing as a novelist and playwright. He's a fantastic writer, very adept at creating emotionally charged situations involving mostly subtext. Martin may have a big personality on stage, but as a writer, his works are quiet and subtle.
My obsession with theme parks even provided me with the knowledge that Martin had worked in both Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm.
I knew all of this going into Born Standing Up, but I had no clue that Martin has had one of the most successful stand-up careers and had spent years selling out arena shows. Born Standing Up is all about Martin's early career.
The first half deals with his childhood and love for magic and comedy. For my fellow theme park geeks, it has several chapters on Martin's various jobs at both Disney and Knotts. I loved how later in life, Martin returned to Knotts and walked through the employee gate to the Bird Cage Theater and employees recognized him not for being famous, but for being a former employee. It's a sweet anecdote.
The second half of the book deals with Martin's rise in fame and his exhausting stand-up tours. You never feel like Martin is ungrateful for his fame, but that fame is a double-edge sword that comes at a great price. Mostly, Martin strikes me as someone who has spent a lot of time being very lonely at the height of his fame.
His film and writing career are mentioned briefly to show where Martin headed after his stand-up career peaked. The focus of the memoir is not only on his career, but on his family. The Martin household was not always a happy one and it took many years for Martin to reconnect with his parents and sister. There is a good message about tying up loose family ends and having important conversations before your chance might forever be lost.
Martin's writings often involve the art world and I enjoyed reading about how Martin's interest in art developed.
Born Standing Up was a lightening fast read, mostly because Martin's life is so fascinating. I read the bulk of it in a single go and had it done in less than a day. A throughly enjoyable memoir.