I have a weird sort of weakness for show-biz memoirs and biographies. I don’t read many of them, but I find myself wanting to read them all. I have no idea why because almost every book of this type disappoints me—the writing isn’t good, the information isn’t new, there’s too much gossip and not enough insight, and so on. But still, these books are a guilty pleasure that I indulge in from time to time.
I hoped Born Standing Up would be a better than average memoir. Steve Martin, after all, has done some actual writing, and I’d read some good reviews. Listening to the audiobook read by Martin himself seemed like it could be especially enjoyable because he could put in the same inflection he used in his bits, making it funnier than it would be in print. So the formula here seems to be a good one.
Unfortunately, Born Standing Up doesn’t quite live up to its potential. It’s simply another average Hollywood memoir with an episodic narrative and an unfortunate amount of name-dropping. And Martin simply doesn’t bring the funny. Just a couple of chuckles that weren’t memorable enough for me to be able to recollect now and share with you. I did appreciate how Martin is generally not gossipy and never mean-spirited, and some of the material on how he built his act is interesting.
If you like Hollywood memoirs and you’re at all interested in Martin’s early comedy or comedy of the 1960s and 1970s in general, Martin’s recollections of his early career will hold some interest. However, I didn’t find that it rose above the pack enough to make it worth seeking out if you’re not a fan of this type of memoir or if you aren’t interested in Martin’s comedy. I’m not sorry I read it, but I wouldn’t have been sorry to miss it either.