Finished Steve Martin's memoir 'Born Standing Up' last night before bedtime. While not in the league of Jerry Lewis's 'Dean and Me', this was still a very entertaining and interesting bit of show business autobiography. I remember when Steve Martin first came on the scene, exploding into the public consciousness after his appearances on Saturday Night Live in the mid 1970s. Several of the catch phrases he established in his routines (Well Excuuuuuse Me!, Two words, I Forgot. I'm a wild and crazy guy!) remain in use today, often by people who never saw his stand up comedy and don't know where those phrases come from.
Like most entertainment stories, Martin's 'overnight success' took close to two decades worth of groundwork. The book chronicles Martin's first jobs at Disney Land and Knott's Berry Farm, followed by his stumbling into a writing gig on the Smothers Brothers variety show, which led to a long career as a comedy writer for television. The major breakthrough for Martin as a performer came when he decided to throw out anything in his act that wasn't original. This led to a lot of very lean years early on as a lot of people just didn't get he very personal and offbeat comedy routines, but gradually public perception of comedy caught up to Martin and a couple of successful outings on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson led to Martin being asked to host Saturday Night Live. After that he went from playing small clubs and theaters to stadiums, which paradoxically made him rich and famous, but ultimately led to his walking away from stand up comedy because he felt he had lost touch with what made his act work. Also his movie career was just beginning to take off, (His first film, The Jerk, while panned by critics, made a LOT of money.) and that seemed to be a direction that worked better for his personality.
Anyone who remembers Martin's stand up comedy fondly definitely needs to read this book. You'll learn the origins of those famous catch phrases and see how Martin came to his theory of comedy which basically came down to eliminating punch lines and always acting as if he was wildly successful on stage even if he was bombing. Oh, and you'll learn why he always wore suits on stage and particularly white suits. It makes me want to listen to his old comedy albums again. Of course I'd need the albums. And a record player and stuff.