Friday, December 19, 2014

Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy

I recently finished the book by Steve Martin called "Born Standing Up". He is an excellent writer and a deep thinker.

Early in his career he honed his performing skills at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. He has never been a traditional stand up comic. He mixes absurd humor with magic, juggling, making balloon animals and playing the banjo when he performs. In the 1960s and 1970s he made appearances on daytime talk shows hosted by Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore and more. He became a writer on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Show. A fellow writer on that groundbreaking show was Rob Reiner. Later Steve would work with Rob's father, Carl Reiner, who directed The Jerk. Steve enjoyed being a comedy writer but had a desire to be a performer. He moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico at age 28 and he wanted to escape the crazy environment of Los Angeles. He began to tour the nation extensively and he battled loneliness and dealt with panic attacks. By the mid 1970s he had appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show many times but was still not satisfied with his career.

In 1976 his big break came when Lorne Michaels asked him to host Saturday Night Live. Steve jumped at the chance since he saw the show as being on the cutting edge of comedy, just like his material. He enjoyed working with the cast, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray and more. He released 2 albums and both were enormous hits, the first selling over 1 million copies, and the second one sold more than 2 million. From 1979-1981 he was booked solid to perform in the biggest venues in America. He was at the peak of his career, but was unhappy since he was isolated and alone. The success he had desired had a negative side effect, the loss of privacy. Like most people, Martin craved the approval of his parents. His mother was very proud of his accomplishments. His dad, on the other hand, had one comment after seeing his film The Jerk. He said "He's no Charlie Chaplin". By the early 1980s he was done with standup. He transitioned into films since he grew tired of the traveling.

The book ended too abruptly but it is a good summary of Steve's early career. Maybe he will do a sequel, covering his film career.

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