Friday, May 15, 2009

Steve Martin - From Waco to LA

I was a Steve Martin fan before I read his memoir, but I really enjoyed reading Born Standing Up , which begins with his unhappy childhood, and then takes us through his formative years at the Knott's Berry Farm Bird Cage Theatre, his salad days as a TV writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and his interminable stint as a road comic, performing in a different city every night, seemingly destined for nowhere, but then, finally, when he had become the country’s most popular standup comedian, he packed his bag of props one night after a performance in front of 30,000 fans and never did it again. It’s also about an artist’s creative process, how he put together his act, using his intellectual rigor, planning and honing, to use all his talents and interests – magic tricks, singing, banjo playing, logic, vaudeville.

In the book, he relates how meticulously he studied tapes of his standup performances, warily cutting out missteps. From the beginning he was devoted to his craft - a mix of astute, observational wit, fluid body language, and a desire to do a different type of comedy. He explains his theories of comedy, and those of others, too. He’s more dedicated and sympathetic, than “wild and crazy”.

Most comics work the celebrity roast circuit when they grow older, but Martin now writes serious novels and collects contemporary art. In fact, Steve Martin wrote the afterward in a book the Library just received about the American artist, Eric Fischl.

Sampling of Steve Martin’s work at the Library

Novels, Essays, Plays
Cruel Shoes
The Pleasure of My Company
Pure Drivel
Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

Father of the Bride
LA Story
The Jerk

Comedy CD

A Wild and Crazy Guy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My sister and I saw Steve Martin at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the height of his standup success (197?). We sat near Rob Reiner and Penny Marshall (we had great seats). It's hard to see it now, the arrow-through-the-head is dated, but he made us laugh so hard we couldn't breathe. It's one of the great things I've ever seen.