Monday, June 27, 2011

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin, 2007

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naiveté that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” Steve Martin. P 54
In ‘76 or ‘77, I am not sure which Linda and I went to a concert in the Marriot Center. $10 a ticket. I am not sure who the headliner was, certainly it was a “safe” group, maybe the 5th Dimension, or someone like that. (Linda remembers it being the Carpenters).  I remember very clearly not wanting to go, certainly not with the tickets priced so high. I was making $400 a month at the time, $100 a month rent including utilities. The other $300 for all the rest including food, insurance, books and tuition. Tuition was either $600 a year or $600 a semester my memory fails me at the moment. I have no recollection of the musical performance but I do remember the front act. It was a guy in a white suit, an arrow though his head and a banjo. He was a surprisingly good banjo player. Steve Martin was hilarious but not quite famous. I got my $10 worth with just his front act. He was not well received by the crowd however and at one point pleaded with us for laughs. He stopped and asked some people in the front row what they paid for a ticket. He repeated the amount and then said, “10 cents, 10 cents is what I get. Certainly I am worth 10 cents”. He did magic tricks, silly balloons, and played bluegrass on the banjo. This was prior to outrageous fame and the more famous “King Tut”.
The book was more whimsy than autobiography. Given his claim to fame is fame itself not as a historically significant figure, whimsy sounds just right. Mostly he reminisced about his jobs, loves and rise to fame and fortune. Though out the book Martin claims to own and to be the vanguard of “new and modern” comedy. As far as he is concerned his antics were the only fresh and original comedy of the 70’s and maybe even now. He claims to have taken his comedy quite seriously. He wants to be believed. He approaches self importance all the while pretending to straight arm narcissism and keeping himself pure.

Still if you are a fan, the book offers some insights. He claims to have worked extremely hard to get where he is and provides the necessary documentation by describing what seems to be every job he ever had. He mentions working for four months perfecting the ability to perfectly shuffle a deck of cards. (The faro shuffle). He also lists his sexual conquests, nothing graphic, and includes pictures of the ladies after describing the extent of the liaison. I found that kind of weird. If you are looking for modesty and thank you America, look somewhere else. He believes his hard work, creative genius and perseverance brought him his fortune. Which fortune he mentions several times...Let me quote the book:
 “there was a problem. At the age of eighteen, I had absolutely no gifts, I could not sing or dance, and the only acting I did was really just shouting. Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent” and “through the years I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration".
  He drops a lot of names including Jack Benny and Elvis. Proof of this vision of his self importance, several years ago, he hired an archivist to catalog and research his life in anticipation of writing his “memoirs”. He felt his life needed documentation like a US President or other famous dictator. Read the book only if you are a fan or saw him live before he was rich and famous.  

1 comment:

  1. I think it is funny that you accidentally saw Steve Martin before he was famous.

    Also, I think 600 dollars gets us about 1 days worth of tuition.