I listened to the Audio Book version of Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up-read by the author. The pieces of Steve Martin’s life are told in a simple, clear manner, with the occasion bit of silliness toss in for good measure. Steve Martin is no longer a stand up comic. We knows this because every time he is interviewed for anything, he asked-So when are you going back to Stand Up? This question is always greeted with a pained/shocked expression and a simple answer-Never, I will never do Stand Up again.
And this is sad for many reasons, all selfish ones-I miss the Steve Martin of the 1970s-and have never been very found of the Steve Martin who makes movies. Well, except for All of Me, which is dead brilliant. I don’t blame Steve Martin for choosing to make millions of dollars for working for a few months over make millions of dollars for work all year. So I loved listening to Born Standing Up, in which the real Steve Martin and the fake Steve Martin intermingle in a pleasant and funny way.
Steve Martin knew at a very early age that he wanted to be an entertainer. He didn’t know what kind of entertainer, but having moved from dull and boring Waco, Texas to dull and boring Englewood California-he was given an opurtunity he would not have otherwise had. He got to work at Disneyland when he was child. And as anyone can tell, you don’t work at Disneyland, you preform at Disneyland. He goes on to describe working with all kinds of famous and not so famous performers and how he learned a lot of tricks and picked up a lot of skills from all of them. He then talks about how it took him twenty years for him to become an overnight success. Or something like that.
Steve Martin’s familiar voice occasionally drops into character as he recites many of the tiny bits from his comedy routine. These little forays into the past are funny and shocking, like hearing the voice of a dead relative on the answering machine. I want that Steve Martin return, but I know he isn’t going to.
Steve Martin explains how Excuse Me was not meant to be a catch phrase, and neither was Wild and Crazy Guy. He talks about things working out for him, but I don’t recall him ever using the word ‘luck.’ He worked too hard at all he achieved to pretend that luck had anything to do with it.
I remember when I bough one of Steve Martin’s album’s, I think it was the one with him wearing bunny ears and glowing like he was radio active, and not the one where he was wearing a balloon hat and a rubber nose, but I don’t remember. Anyway, there was a picture of Steve Martin in one of these albums as a younger man, with a beard, longer hair, and a kind of hippie outfit on. He looked shockingly good in this outfit. At the time I though it was part of his routine, that this was The Rambling Man, maybe. But Born Standing Up tells how he was photographed a lot in these kinds of outfits when he was young.
One of the little story from the Disneyland years-he was closing up the magic shop where he worked and had to use a side exit, as there was a photographer taking a picture of the Cinderella Castle. The photographer was Diane Arbus-famous for taking portraits of odd people and odd subjects and Steve wonders why this one image from Disneyland wound up her collection of images. He decided that maybe she, like him, just thought it was beautiful.
I don’t know Steve Martin, and the odds are very good that I never will. But there is that feeling of knowing him from his records, movies, and this book. He has a friendly voice and I was sorry that the story was so short-only four CDs. But they are well worth the listen. You might want to get a copy of one of his comedy albums as well. They didn’t make any sense then either, but they are still damned funny for no good reason at all. Which is why Steve Martin is a genius.