Born Standing Up


Steve Martin

My rating:
Read in May, 2020


An incredibly interesting insight into Martin's early career, one I was not familiar with until reading this book (I had only known of him from a handful of movies). Interesting insights into the creative process, originality and consistently working at your craft. Enjoyable to read, too - I read it in a single day.

My Notes

- ‘I did stand up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.’ p1
- ‘Stand-up is seldom performed in ideal circumstances. Comedy’s enemy is distraction, and rarely do comedians get a pristine performing environment.’ p2
- Jokes are funniest when played upon oneself.
- ‘I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic.’ p2
- ‘She didn’t know much about show business, having once told a ventriloquist to move the dummy closer to the microphone.’ p6
- ‘Afraid of falling short, I ad-libbed, wandered around the audience, talked to patrons, joked with the waitresses, and took note of anything unusual that was happening in the crowd and address it for laughs, in the hope of keeping my written material in reserve so I could fill my time quota. The format stuck. Years later, it was this pastiche element that made my performances seem unstructured and modern.’ p12
- ‘I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know that I am qualified to be a comedian.’ p29
- ‘The move enabled me to place my hand on opportunity’s doorknob.’ p32
- The concept of ‘monday night quality’ - which is to say, you’re good enough to go on on Monday night but maybe not Saturday
- ‘One day I was particularly gloomy, and Jim asked me what the matter was. I told him my high school girlfriend (for all of two weeks) had broken up with me. He said, ‘Oh, that’ll happen a lot.’ The knowledge that this horrid grief was simply part of life’s routine cheered me up almost instantly.’ p41
- ‘As new as sunrise.’ p43
- ‘All entertainment is, or is about to become, old-fashioned. There is room, he implies, for something new.’ p51
- ‘Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.’ p53
- ‘Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one necessary element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.’ p54
- ‘There could be nothing that made the audience feel they weren’t seeing something utterly new.’ p72
- [[Steve Martin]] would tape himself so that he was able to honestly review and rate himself to improve on the next time.
- ‘Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.’ p80
- ‘Locals with a sense of entitlement, who were pitted against developers with a sense of condominiums.’ p84
- ‘Teaching is, after all, a form of show business.’ p86
- The road - without guidebooks or mentors or critics. To be bold and dumb and fail as often as you like.
- ‘Comedy is just a distortion of what is happening, and there will always be something happening.’ p104
- ‘When I think of the moments of elation I have experienced over some of my successes, I am astounded at the number of times they have been accompanied by elation’s hellish opposite.’ p109
- ‘If I kept denying them the formality of the punchline, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh.’ p111
- ‘I gave myself a rule. Never let them know I was bombing: This is funny, you just haven’t gotten it yet.’ p112
- It’s easy to be great, but it’s hard to be good. (One can be a flash, the other must be consistent.)
- ‘Were they beautiful? We were all beautiful. We were in our twenties.’ p134
- ‘Honing the edge that confidence brings.’ p145
- ‘Moving on, and not looking back, not living in the past, was a way to trick myself into further creativity.’ p203

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