“Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”
That’s one of my favorite lines from the book I just finished, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.
It seems ridiculous that the Steve Martin we know through TV and film would say either of the sentences above with regard to himself and comedy. However, in this captivating autobiographical tale of comedic genius we get to see a very different side of the celebrity jokester.
With his perfected humor, he guides the reader through his life’s journey from childhood to the year 2007 (when the book was published). He explains his complicated youth; a tumultuous relationship with his father, working at age 10 at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, performing magic tricks, and eventually finding comedy in his early teens.
He eloquently describes college, girlfriends, early stand up gigs, and writing for TV. He recalls his struggles in half-empty clubs, silence after punch lines, becoming a headliner, jokes that worked, jokes that didn’t, and the lengthy process of crafting his now-famous act.
And then the fame erupts. Martin depicts life on the road, hosting Saturday Night Live, and performing for crowds of 20,000, then 25,000, and then 40,000. And, in addition to experiencing super-stardom, he tells us about his severe anxiety and the loneliness of performing a one-man show for countless nights and weeks in a row.
We’re provided an explanation of why Martin’s last stand up show was in 1981 (never to be picked up again). We learn about his crossover into film, the importance of mending relationships with family, and even see a glimpse as to what it was like for him to write his own story.
Overall, this book was fantastic. It made me laugh, touched my heart, and somehow made me feel like I now know the iconic comedian in a way that many others don’t (oh…except the millions of other people who have read this book).
I recommend this book to everyone! If you have a recently realized crush on Steve Martin (what? I know I’m not the only 30 year-old out there who digs on him), if you’re looking for inspiration, enjoy a chronicle of history from an unconventional perspective, or just enjoy a heartfelt, beautifully written story, you should add Born Standing Up to your reading list. After all, he is a wild and crazy guy….how can you not enjoy it?