Star quality

<strong>Born Standing Up: a Comic’s Life</strong>

Steve Martin <em>Simon & Schuster, 224pp, £15.9

The comedian Steve Martin is very serious about the business of making people laugh. While Martin’s account of his early career is told with a warm feeling of nostalgia, his journey from “Monday-night-quality” magic act to stardom is retold with unsentimental precision.

Drawing from the detailed post-mortems that he would conduct after every show, he lets us in on the secret of his success as a comedian: “I was not naturally talented – I didn’t sing, dance, or act – though working around that minor detail made me inventive.”

Born Standing Up begins with Martin entertaining imaginary audiences in empty dives, fresh from a childhood spent as an assistant in a Disneyland magic shop. “Show business” is his passion, and he listens with reverence to Lenny Bruce LPs in an apartment “so small that its street number was 1059¼”. As he works small clubs and colleges in subterranean “folk rooms”, Martin’s own act slowly morphs into a carnival-style “parody of comedy”.

This entertaining book shines brightest in its casual, off-hand remarks, often transcribed from Martin’s own routines: “I think communication is so firsbern.” What? Oh.

Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His latest album, It Never Entered My Mind, is out now on Eidola Records and is on Spotify here.

This article first appeared in the 07 January 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Pakistan plot