Book Review of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
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Helpful Score: 2


The funnyman behind the ubiquitous King Tut gets serious in his 2007 memoir, Born Standing Up, highlighting his rise to fame and the pitfalls and heartaches that came with it.

Martin speaks of his many struggles to obtain steadiness in performing, including unenthusiastic crowds and unrequited opportunities. Add in a few anxiety attacks, Saturday Night Live skits and sparing relationships and liaisons, and you have yourself the life of one "wild and crazy guy".

But before Martin hit the stages of some of the biggest U.S. arenas with his stand-up comedy, little Steve of the '50s began his antics with magic. His fascination with visual trickery quelled his performing bug for a few years, but his gift of the funny ultimately won him his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and various television programs, sold-out headliner gigs and countless adoring fans.

Behind the fame and fortune, though, lay an entirely different person, suffering from never-ending anxiety attacks night after night, unintentionally putting his entire life on display under the spotlight, and receiving anything but raves about his career and gigs from his father. Years after breaking away from the intimate skits and inspiring audiences of his younger days, Martin sought a return to anonymity. His choosy, thorough approach to his inspiring movie career has ensured just that. But you have to admit - if the guy is so private, why is he writing a memoir?

Good question. But that's what makes this 200-page read interesting - it isn't like many other memoirs that spill scandalous secrets by the truckload. He instead allows his forgotten past to take center stage. Only a few juicy romantic tidbits are available in this book, and the youthful will find no mention of his later works such as Pink Panther, or the tale of his own making, Shopgirl. Martin just scratches the surface of these years with the '79 flick, The Jerk, and no matter how much I wanted to hear about its filming, there was only one mention of the comedic Three Amigos.

His bouts of loneliness throughout his whirlwind tour of the nation are sad, but not despondent; he doesn't attract sympathy because of his success, but you do want to give him a hug.

All in all, Martin knows how to write a good story, even his own. While his narration is fluent, detailed and wise, the occasional quip (especially the ones regarding former roommate, comedian Gary Mule Deer) help fans and foreigners alike relive the comedic magic that has captured a million laughs.