Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Wild and Crazy autobiography

I just finished reading Steve Martin’s new autobiography “Born Standing Up” and I thorougly enjoyed it.
My mother gave me the book for Christmas because she remembers what a huge Steve Martin fan I was when I was a kid. Steve’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” album came out when I was in junior high school and it made a huge impression on me. I devoted large sections of the record to memory and I even made my parents take me to see the “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie simply because Steve Martin had a cameo role in it. (He sang Maxwell’s Silver Hammer). I had no idea who the Beatles were at the time, much less the Bee Gees.
A friend at school and I were going to spend the summer of 1978 working on a “King Tut” record pantomime for speech class the next year, but my family moved over the summer and I never go to do it.
My Steve Martin obsession waned a bit after that, although I did group improvisational skits in my high school speech classes that were greatly influenced by his humor.
The book talks about the poor relationship that Martin had with his father while growing up. It takes you through his early years of working at Disneyland and later at Knotsberry Farms where he acquired his magic act that slowly evolved into a comedy routine. In a lot of ways he benefitted from being in the right place at the right time. He got lucky and landed a gig as a writer for the Smothers Brothers and that opened doors for him in other comedy circles. His fame slowly increased throughout the late 60s and early 70s and then skyrocketed in ‘77-78 when he became national phenomenon and suddenly went from playing packed nightclubs to doing concert arenas and stadiums with thousands of people. For a time there, his experience was similar to what the early Beatles went through, except that he was a solo act and had no one to share the journey with. He began suffering anxiety attacks that plagued him for the next 10 years.
Fortunately, Martin’s story has a happy ending in that he walked away from his stand-up career at the pinnacle of his success and launched a moderately successful movie career. He admits that there is such as thing as being too famous and he feels now that he has reached that point where he is just famous enough.

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