Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Steve Martin
Reading Order: Book 8
Categories: 2017, Erik Rostad
Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 204
Suggested By: Marc Andreessen
Date Started: February 5, 2017
Date Finished: February 7, 2017

My Thoughts

It was fascinating to read Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life immediately after Outliers. Outliers highlights the 10,000 hour rule, that it takes somewhere around 10,000 hours to become world-class at something. The comedian Steve Martin, in Born Standing Up, writes about the incredible amount of time he put into stand-up comedy routines. He went from performing in front of 4 people (including the staff) to over 40,000 crowds.

I was literally laughing out loud while reading parts of this book and near tears while reading other parts. It was heartbreaking to read about Steve’s relationship with his father for most of his life. His father was an aspiring performer who never made it. He never liked Steve’s comedy and even wrote a negative review of Steve’s SNL performance for his friends to read. I was quite impressed with Steve’s ability to look at his family past and look at it objectively.

Here were some of his one-liners that made me laugh out loud:

Eddie, I discerned, was living with a woman not his wife, the 1955 equivalent of devil worship.

I was now performing at the hectic pace of one show every two or three months.

I was so broke that when I hit a nickel slot for fifty cents, it momentarily changed the quality of my life.

I gingerly went to my television writing instructor at UCLA and told him I had to resign from the class – and school – because I had gotten a job writing for television.

Steve says his approach to comedy is like an opera, where everything is thrown at the audience (singing, acting, an orchestra, a story). We’re used to seeing a comedian talk into a mic. Steve’s stand up shows were not like. Steve would play songs, put bananas on his head, and lead his audience out into the street to continue his act.

It was also amazing to read about Steve’s early life working at Disneyland and the impression different parts of the park made on him. I also liked when he described reading one book (The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham) that changed everything for him and made him intellectually curious, going from a C student to an A student.

Marc Andreessen recommended this book in Tools of Titans. Tim Ferriss also said he is a huge fan of the book. Mark’s favorite quote was regarding success when Steve says:

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

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