Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Steve Martin.  Probably a household name, if not for his stand up comedy act, then for his many movies through the years:  The Jerk, Three Amigo’s, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pink Panther, Cheaper By The Dozen, It’s Complicated, and Father Of The Bride (my fav!) just to name a few that I am aware of. 

At age 10, Steve Martin got his start selling guidebooks at the newly opened Disneyland. In the years that followed, he worked in Disney’s magic shop, print shop, and theater, and developed his own magic/comedy act. By age 20,  he was performing a dozen times a week, most often at the Disney rival, Knott’s Berry Farm.

As time went on, Steve found himself being hired in clubs to do his magic act and stand up comedy and for many years these night clubs were close to having no patrons come see his show, or in one case, a group of Japanese salesmen who did not speak any english. 

When Steve did become a big name – it was fast and it was furious and taught Steve not only about the business of acting – but much about himself as well.

I remember in about 8th or 9th grade I became  fan of Steve Martin.  I had his comedy act on a record (20 somethings and younger ask your parents what this is…) and my friends would come over and laugh ourselves silly while listening to it.  I remember it was the first record (that word again) that I was allowed to have that had any sort of mild foul language in it and I thought it was fantastic.

The funny thing is that until I listened to this audio, I have no idea how old Steve Martin must have been when I was listening to him in the 80’s.  I discovered the year I was born…. he was 21.  That would put him probably in his mid 30’s by the time I started listening to him and thinking he was funny.  I think that is a little mind-blowing to think from his perspective that as his career is starting to take off at age 21, I am born and it will be another 14 – 15 years before I laugh at him.  😛

I really wanted to love this audio… I really did.  In all honesty perhaps it was other audio memoirs that I have listened to recently that made this one a bit of a disappointment to me.  Rob Lowe’s story blew me away.  Jane Lynch’s tell all was informative and funny.

So what was wrong with Steve, Sheila?

I felt it lacked pizzazz.  While Steve read this himself, which I LOVE, he almost read it monotone. Even when he talked about the jokes , and tag lines he had been known for (IE.  “I am a wild and crazy guy!!!!”), they came off as thought Steve was reading from a script.

As the audio, went on, it was interesting.  I liked learning about the early days, when he almost gave up as he performed to minimal audiences, to the 5 years of amazing career, when the age of stand up comedy exploded and Steve rose to the top filling arenas with 45,000+ people a show.  I can imagine that is some pretty heady stuff.

It was also interesting learning about his family.  His fathers lack of approval in what Steve was doing, and his distancing himself away from his entire family, including his sister who adored him.

And then, I think most disappointing was that as his on stage career came to an end – so did the audio.  Abruptly.  As in I was getting ready this morning and thought the audio was pausing between chapters… but no, it was over.  Steve did not go into his steps beyond the comedy.  He talked little of his movies, relationships, or other stars he friended along the way.  It felt lacking and left me….


I feel a little bad about this as I read other reviews and they are raves.  Yet I honestly checked my audible account to make sure it wasnt a two-part audio and I had missed something.  It really felt… unfinished.

Is the audio worth listening too?

Sure.  I think maybe I was expecting more and discovering this audio is only about his stand up career…. was disheartening, and that is all on me.  Steve shares a true rags to riches story that is interesting, but a lot of details even during that time period feel left out.

25 thoughts on “Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

  1. I haven’t read this one yet, but the way you described it is how I felt about reading the print form of Rob Lowe’s. On the page he came across as whiny. It could be like you said that you just came off two awesome audio memoirs and this one might have seemed better if it wasn’t up against those.

    1. Right Jill, its not that it was bad – just the recent ones I listened to went from youth to current time. Steve’s ended in the early 80’s with his stand up career. I was interested in knowing more about his movies, the connections, and now….

  2. When I finished this one, I wondered if he was going to write another memoir that picked up where this one left off. I think the thing that stood out most for me when I listened was the struggle he had with people in real life expecting him to be the “wild and crazy” guy from the stage.

  3. I read this last year and I would agree with you — it was very narrowly focused on his stand-up comedy and then when he was done with that, it was over. Plus he didn’t talk hardly at all about any personal stuff. The one advantage over the audio might be that the print version had lots of photos.

  4. I hate it when an author is reading their own book and they don’t add that extra inflection and intonation to their reading. I listened to one by Nora Ephron once that was like that.

      1. I’ve seen it on several blogs lately. I think I saw some of the movie sometime in the past-or at least it was very similar. I know I saw the end of it because I was crying (as usual!).

  5. I listened to it on audio as well and I definitely liked it more than you did, although in retrospect I can see what you’re saying about the monotone, but it just didn’t bother me. I also agree that it ended abruptly, which made me hopeful that there might be a Part II coming!

  6. I’ve always been a big fan of Steve Martin. Too bad the audio didn’t click with you. Maybe it would be better in print. Either way I’d still like to read it someday.

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