I dare anyone to watch "The Jerk" and then see a stack of phone books delivered and not think of the line "The new phone books are here!". Steve Martin has created some really famous lines in his time that come back to you when reading this book such as "Excuuuuse me" and, of course, "I'm a wild and crazy guy". I may have to pull out the 45 of King Tut I have at home. But I digress.
I thought I would read this one to change the mood from the darker books I've been reading lately. I hate to say it, but Martin's life was not that funny. He had a pretty sad home life growing up. Without thinking about it before reading this memoir, comedy is pretty isolating - you don't tour with a group and you spend a lot of time by yourself. And if you think his act was spontaneous forget it. The man reviewed and critiqued every act, movement and joke to perfect his act. What seems like an explosion onto the comedy scene was really working a craft since childhood.
That said this is a good memoir. It's spare but I liked the fact that it only concentrated on his stand-up and did not go into his writing or movies as much. The progression from idolizing performers to wanting to be one and moving from magic to comedy is captured. Martin is a smart guy and ideas learned in philosophy classes became a comedy act with no punch lines. An interesting read that will stay with me for a while because it makes me wonder if creative people often come from none too happy backgrounds.
**Earlier this year I went to see an Edward Hopper exhibit at the Art Institute. They had a movie about Hopper in the middle of the exhibition and I thought I recognized the narrator's voice. I asked a docent on my way out if it was Steve Martin and it was him. He's a big art fan and a fan of Hopper and I guess visited the exhibit a few times.