Quotes from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Steve Martin ·  207 pages

Rating: (69.6K votes)


“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“How many people have never raised their hand before?”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



“My most persistent memory of stand - up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding when and what to say next. Enjoyment while performing was rare - enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I just believe that the interesting time in a career is pre-success, what shaped things, how did you get to this point?”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“But Carroll's were more convoluted, and they struck me as funny in a new way:

1) Babies are illogical.
2) Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile.
3) Illogical persons are despised.

Therefore, babies cannot manage crocodiles.

And:

1) No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste.
2) No modern poetry is free from affectation.
3) All of your poems are on the subject of soap bubbles.
4) No affected poetry is popular among people of taste.
5) Only a modern poem would be on the subject of soap bubbles.

Therefore, all your poems are uninteresting.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I opened the show with this line: "I have decided to give the greatest performance of my life! Oh, wait, sorry, that's tomorrow night.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“In my opening seconds, I would say, "It's great to be here," then move to several other spots on the stage and say, "No, it's great to be here!" I would move again: "No, it's great to be here!”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



“...My father muttered something to me, and I responded with a mumbled "What". He shouted, "You heard me," thundered up from his chair, pulled his belt out of its loops, and inflicted a beating that seemed never to end. I curled my arms around my body as he stood over me like a titan and delivered the blows. This was the only incident of its kind in our family. My father was never physically abusive toward my mother or sister and he was never again physically extreme with me. However, this beating and his worsening tendency to rages directed at my mother - which I heard in fright through the thin walls of our home - made me resolve, with icy determination, that only the most formal relationship would exist between my father and me, and for perhaps thirty years, neither he nor I did anything to repair the rift.

The rest of my childhood, we hardly spoke; there was little he said to me that was not critical, and there was little I said back that was not terse or mumbled. When I graduated from high school, he offered to buy me a tuxedo. I refused because I had learned from him to reject all aid and assistance; he detested extravagance and pleaded with us not to give him gifts. I felt, through a convoluted logic, that in my refusal, I was being a good son. I wish now that I had let him buy me a tuxedo, that I had let him be a dad. Having cut myself off from him, and by association the rest of the family, I was incurring psychological debts that would come due years later in the guise of romantic misconnections and a wrongheaded quest for solitude.

I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct. The course was more plodding than heroic.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“Comedy is a distortion of what is happening, and there will always be something happening.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“...teaching is, after all, a form of show business.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



“What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: Like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“But my mother was aglow. She had a continuing fascination with celebrities, and now she had one of her own. She was never moved by what I was doing (in an interview she said, "He writes his own material, I’m always telling him he needs a new writer")…”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“In a sense, this book is not an autobiography but a biography, because I am writing about someone I used to know. Yes, these events are true, yet sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often felt like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream. I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years, but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



“Enjoyment while performing was rare—enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford. After the shows, however, I experienced long hours of elation or misery depending on how the show went, because doing comedy alone onstage is the ego’s last stand.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“One day I was particularly gloomy, and Jim asked me what the matter was. I told him my high school girlfriend (for all of two weeks) had broken up with me. He said, “Oh, that’ll happen a lot.” The knowledge that this horrid grief was simply a part of life’s routine cheered me up almost instantly.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“pinching my swollen fingers in between. Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“You’re nuts, but you’re welcome here.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“In logic class, I opened my textbook—the last place I was expecting to find comic inspiration—and was startled to find that Lewis Carroll, the supremely witty author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was also a logician. He wrote logic textbooks and included argument forms based on the syllogism, normally presented in logic books this way: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. _________________________________ Therefore, Socrates is mortal. But Carroll’s were more convoluted, and they struck me as funny in a new way: 1) Babies are illogical. 2) Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile. 3) Illogical persons are despised. __________________________________________ Therefore, babies cannot manage crocodiles. And: 1) No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste. 2) No modern poetry is free from affectation. 3) All your poems are on the subject of soap bubbles. 4) No affected poetry is popular among people of taste. 5) Only a modern poem would be on the subject of soap bubbles. __________________________________________ Therefore, all your poems are uninteresting.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



“These word games bothered and intrigued me. Appearing to be silly nonsense, on examination they were absolutely logical—yet they were still funny. The comedy doors opened wide, and Lewis Carroll’s clever fancies from the nineteenth century expanded my notion of what comedy could be. I began closing my show by announcing, “I’m not going home tonight; I’m going to Bananaland, a place where only two things are true, only two things: One, all chairs are green; and two, no chairs are green.” Not at Lewis Carroll’s level, but the line worked for my contemporaries, and I loved implying that the one thing I believed in was a contradiction. I also was enamored of the rhythmic poetry of e. e. cummings, and a tantalizing quote from one of his recorded lectures stayed in my head. When asked why he became a poet, he said, “Like the burlesque comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.” The line, with its intriguing reference to comedy, was enigmatic, and it took me ten years to work out its meaning.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“Doing comedy alone onstage is the ego's last stand.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“MY FATHER , GLENN VERNON MARTIN , died in 1997 at age eighty-three, and afterward his friends told me how much they had loved him. They told me how enjoyable he was, how outgoing he was, how funny and caring he was. I was surprised by these descriptions, because the number of funny or caring words that had passed between my father and me was few. He had evidently saved his vibrant personality for use outside the family. When I was seven or eight years old, he suggested we play catch in the front yard. This offer to spend time together was so rare that I was confused about what I was supposed to do. We tossed the ball back and forth with cheerless formality.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life


“When I moved out of the house at eighteen, I rarely called home to check up on my parents or tell them how I was doing. Why? The answer shocks me as I write it: I didn’t know I was supposed to.”
― Steve Martin, quote from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life



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About the author

Steve Martin
Born place: in Waco, Texas, The United States
Born date August 14, 1945
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