Monday, November 15, 2010


Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

So far this year in books written by comedians, I've read Craig Ferguson's book "American on Purpose" and Bill Maher's book "New Rules." Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" is much more Ferguson's than Maher's. I truly enjoyed a thoughtful, sincere, and funny novel-length biographical essay on comedy. Martin's book doesn't try for laugh-out-loud moments, but manages to make you chuckle to yourself here and there, smile, and furrow your brow with "ahhhhhh" moments. His take on what comedy means is refreshing. He begins with a brief childhood sketch and then gets right into his career, education, and stand-up failure through success through departure to movies. I think this quote will illustrate what I liked best about the book:

"I recently viewed a musty video of an appearance on The Virginia Graham Show, circa 1970, unseen since its airing. I looked grotesque. I had a hairdo like a helmet, which I blow-dried to a puffy bouffant, for reasons I no longer understand. I wore a frock coat and a silk shirt, and my delivery was mannered, slow, and self-aware. I had absolutely no authority. After viewing the show, I was - especially since I was writing an autobiography documenting my success - depressed for a week. But later, searching my mind for at least one redeeming quality in the performance. I became aware that not one joke was normal, that even though I was the one who said the lines, I did not know what was coming next. The audience might have thought what I am thinking now: "Was that terrible? Or was it good?"

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