No Punchlines: Born Standing Up Review

When it comes to Western pop culture, specifically towards the iconic figures and currently popular celebrities, I usually find myself out of the loop. So when I picked up Steve Martin’s memoir, it wasn’t because of Steve Martin. I just simply wanted to read a memoir. (Or I guess listen, since it was an audiobook.)

Well, that introduction sure isn’t giving him any credit.

For those who aren’t familiar, Steve Martin is an actor, writer, musician, and former stand up comedian. His stand up comedy career was what brought him to fame and was at its highs in the ’70s, to the point where an entire arena would be packed. He then moved on to writing and acting in films. I may have seen a few of his movies in the past (I vaguely remember watching Cheaper by the Dozen when I was little), but it’s been a long time so I don’t remember.

Born Standing Up is a memoir he wrote (and voiced for the audiobook version). It focuses on his early career as a stand up comedian, from his first gigs to the moment he called it quits.

Even though the memoir covers his legacy in stand up comedy, this is not a comedic book. Don’t go in assuming that it would be. Right from the beginning, he tells the readers that this is a reflectional piece. He keeps his word, recounting his experiences in a serious manner and tone of voice. There are times where he would share a joke from his comedy skits, but he’d tell it with a flat delivery.

I’m not sure how I think about the book. In terms of content matter, I think it’s done well. It’s very insightful and honest towards his journey with showbiz and the efforts he had to make to get to where he was at his prime. He makes it clear that it was not an easy feat. He didn’t become popular overnight. He had to work for it and see through many discouraging failures in his career.

The thing is that I personally didn’t enjoy it that much. I’m not really sure why. Maybe the subject matter (performing, showbiz) isn’t something I’m particularly interested in. Maybe not knowing anything about Steve Martin prior to reading this memoir hindered my enjoyability. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace at the time. I have no idea. I wanted to like this book, but I found myself zoning out at times when I was listening to the audiobook.

With that, unless you’re a fan of Steve Martin or of memoirs in general, I’m hesitant to recommend it. It’s a well-written memoir and I can appreciate it for that, but it’s also something that didn’t always catch my attention.

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