Imagine, if you will, those heady days of 1978 - my best friend, Bob, had a portable 8 track tape player. In between repeated listening of KISS, we came upon a tape that was pure comedy gold...for a ten year old.
Steve Martin's A Wild & Crazy Guy helped me develop a sense of humor. It's unique mixture of knowing irony, slightly intellectual edge, and sheer silliness is something that I took on and never let go. Even now, I tend to integrate various bits into my conversations - having a cat buy $5,000 worth of cat toys. Believing that you learned enough philosophy to screw you up for the rest of your life. And, as a ten year old, pretending (with his friends) to be a pair of swinging Czech brothers. (The Catholic school powers-that-be absolutely hated me for it). And The Jerk seemed to be a great transition of Martin's stand-up style to the big screen.
Anyway, it was in that spirit that I approached reading Born Standing Up. I was hoping that it would, at the very least, provide some insight into Martin's thought processes, and serve as part memoir/part autobiography/insightful tale of a comic's mind.
Well, it does....but although I liked reading it, I really felt distanced from Martin.
In interviews, Martin has said that this book felt more like a biography than an autobiography, simply because that part of his life was so long ago. It's a quick, easy read as he discusses how he pulled seemingly disparate interests such as magic, bluegrass, and comedy into a heady brew. (Imagine Dave of Dave's Long Box on chamomile, and you have some idea of the tone). However, for something that played a very important role in his professional career, Martin seems to lack the joy of even remembering that time in his life. When Jerry Lewis wrote about his work with Dean Martin, there was a palpable sense of love, nostalgia, and acceptance about that period of his life; with Steve Martin, it seems way too distant, and even a harsh contrast with his film work. Even in a non-traditional piece like David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner, one can see how much Steve enjoys himself; there's a lack of that enjoyment in this book.
Still, it's worth reading - if you are a fan of comedy, if you like Steve Martin, it's worth spending the few hours reading it. Or, better yet, listen to A Wild & Crazy Guy or watch The Jerk. At the very least, you'll get a decent laugh.