I haven’t really done many book recommendations on the blog, but there are many I’d recommend for anyone interested in humor, writing or cartooning.
The best book I ever read on comedy wasn’t a ‘how-to’ or a compendium of interviews with comedians, it was an autobiography of someone who found something truly unique at a time when nobody else was doing what he was doing.
The book is Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up". It charts his life from early childhood through to his perseverance as a magician, parlaying his skills into live stand-up comedy at a time when nobody else was able to parody what the newly formed ‘norms’ of comedy were.
It’s hear-breaking, funny, riveting, and one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read. I had absolutely no idea Steve Martin started as a magician, much less a touring comedian, when I was coming up as a comic in Australia. I just though he was a goofy rom-com movie actor who did silly films about being the Dad at weddings.
The absurd story of him being forced to perform to no audience so that people might look into the window and ‘see that something’s happening and might come in’ is only topped by the story of his audience that refused to leave, so he took them all outside into an empty swimming pool for an encore.
Interestingly, (and I think about this a lot), When Jerry Seinfeld asked Steve whether he would be successful if he did his act now, he said, “No.” and continued “It was of a time and a place, and that time has passed.”
I would highly recommend watching The Jerk before reading this book. —and if you have any inclination whatsoever to delve into the life of stand-up comedy, read this book before any other book. (You can take his Masterclass over on masterclass.com, too, but that’s a different story.)
Anyway. You can find the book here.