Reviews in 200 Words

Born Standing Up: a Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

In Memoir on May 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

People have always thought Steve Martin was odd, even before odd was hip. Before crazy was cool (think Joaquin Phoenix), Martin was experimenting. The man made the arrow-through-the-head-prop mean something more than a morbid suggestion. What if a man actually had an arrow through his head and didn’t know it? Would it be funny? Martin confesses to the unfunny: panic attacks and sleepless nightmare reactions to pot. He traces his trip through comedy by way of magic, poetry and philosophy; comedy is a combination: a balance of wit and compromise. Slowly (painfully so), Martin grew a following. He started out (literally) performing to an empty room, booked as an opener to attract people in from the street, so the actual act would have an audience. Eventually he had his own audiences, and they wouldn’t let his show end. He would leave his venue and they’d follow–so he’d manipulate them into empty swimming pools and then “swim” over them. Was it funny? Maybe, but it was outrageous and by the early 80’s, outrageous ruled. If pre-Martin stand-up was “A guy walked into a bar…” then post-Martin comedy was “Follow me down the street to McDonald’s and watch me order 300 cheeseburgers and then quickly change my order to a small-fry.” Is it funny?

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