Born Standing Up


Author: Steve Martin

Title: Born Standing Up

Genre: Autobiography/Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 209

Geographical Setting: Primarily southern California, though the book details the author’s years as a stand up comedian traveling from town to town across the United States.

Time Period:1945-1981

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: Actor and writer Steve Martin looks back at his early career, from his days as a teen employee of Disneyland practicing magic tricks on tourists up to his spectacular success selling out arenas as a stand up comedian. Martin examines his uneasy relationship with his father, a failed actor, which drove him out of his parents house at an early age and into the 1960’s Californian counterculture that shaped his comedy. Much detail is provided about how Martin went about creating his uniquely absurd stand up style, his process of writing and shaping material and ultimately about how his sudden fame lead to his decision to walk away from stand-up at the height of his popularity.

Subject Headings: Stand-Up Comedy, Autobiography, 1960’s, Show Business. California.

Appeal: easy, engrossing, fast-paced, relaxed, Closely observed, detailed, introspective, reflective, quirky, episodic, accurate, detailed setting, details of stand up comedy, comfortable, humorous, lighthearted, philosophical, playful, unaffected, unpretentious, accessible, candid, conversational, literary, sophisticated.

3 terms that best describe this book: Humorous, insightful, nostalgic.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

And Here’s the Kicker Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft by Mike Sacks

Journalist Sacks interviews humorists and comedians on the subject of writing and what it is that separates humor writing from other styles. The book details how writers and performers such as Dick Cavett, Buck Henry, David Sedaris and Bob Odenkirk work, their influences and what they themselves find funny.

Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America by Richard Zoglin

An overview of the world of stand up comedy in 1970’s. The author provides interviews with and brief biographies of many of the most famous and influential comedian of the era including Albert Books, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman.

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli

A history of the controversial 1960’s variety show which gave Steve Martin his first writing job. Gaining fame in the folk music scene, Tom and Dick Smothers brought their act to CBS in 1967 only to be essentially run off the air two years later due to increasing pressure on the network from the Nixon White House.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Conversation with the Mann by John Ridley

Set against the backdrop of the early civil rights movement this novel follows a young black stand up comedian on his path to fame. This somber character study evokes the backstage isolation and personal tragedy that is common to many stand up comedians.

Funnymen by Ted Heller

This novel, told in the style of an oral history, chronicles the ups and downs of a Martin and Lewis style comedy team. Secondary characters are given the opportunity to tell their recollections of the duo’s career. A funny and entertaining behind the scenes show business story.

Milt & Marty: The Longest Lasting & Least Successful Comedy Writing Duo In Show Biz History by Tom Leopold and Bob Sand

A young writing team arrives in Los Angeles to pitch ideas to the show business machine when they meet up with Milt and Marty, a hopelessly unsuccessful septuagenarian writing duo. Milt and Marty attach themselves to the young writers’ ascending career in an attempt to finally get the success they have longed for.

Name: Kris


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