I don’t want to review Steve Martin’s new book Born Standing Up, I just want to tell you that it’s a wonderful, concise description of a brilliant comedian’s creative life. It’s warts and all, describing embarrassing mistakes, horrible jobs and exactly where the arrow through the head gag started, in an entertaining, funny way. Although it touches on his personal life, it is really only in relation to his creative life.
One of my favorite sections quotes a postcard he wrote to a girlfriend in 1965. He writes to tell her about tracking down e.e. cummings’s house, e.e. was an early hero, and standing in front of it. This is how the post card ended followed by Martin’s comments on what he wrote.
I have decided that my act is going to go avant-garde. It is the only way to do what I want.
I’m not sure what I meant, but I wanted to use the lingo, and it was seductive to use these pronouncements. Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.
Also interesting and useful is his realization about giving things a beginning, a middle and an end. He hadn’t realized it at the time, but he had abandoned his stand up career and not looked back. While writing the memoir, he came to this conclusion, "Moving on and not looking back, not living in the past, was a way to trick myself into further creativity."
An interesting thought, is there something you should give up to trick yourself into more creativity? Are you burned out in a medium?
You should read this book. If the philosophical stuff doesn’t grab you, at least you get to read about the conversation he had with Elvis.
"Son, you have an ob-leek sense of humor."