Read: Born Standing Up
I enjoy reading light autobiographies, especially about comedians. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin is a quick read about Martin’s stand-up comedy years. He quit stand-up abruptly in 1981, only resuming again (sort of, since he was teaming with Martin Short) after this book was written. A couple of takeaways…
Martin wrote his girlfriend:
“I have decided my act is going to go avant-garde. It is the only way to do what I want.”
I'm not sure what I meant, but I wanted to use the lingo. and it was seductive to make these pronouncements. Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.
Sometimes you need to fake yourself out before you make it. 😅
The perception is that a comedian “made it” if they got an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Martin didn't feel that was quite accurate. He was sixteen shows in before Carson really warmed up to him, and sixteen shows in before a Carson appearance had a noticeable impact on Martins career and recognizability.
I chose to do a bit [where] I speed-talked a Vegas nightclub act in two minutes. Appearing on the show was Sammy Davis, Jr., who, while still performing energetically, had also become a historic showbiz figure. I was whizzing along, singing a four-second version of "Ebb Tide," then saying at lightning speed, "Frank Sinatra personal friend of mine Sammy Davis Jr. personal friend of mine Steve Martin I'm a personal friend of mine too and now a little dancin'!" I started a wild flail, which I must say was pretty funny, when a showbiz miracle occurred. The camera cut away to a dimly lit Johnny, precisely as he whirled up from his chair, doubling over with laughter. Suddenly, subliminally, I was endorsed. At the end of the act, Sammy came over and hugged me. I felt like I hadn't been hugged since I was born.
See the clip on YouTube.