No Excuses.

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Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life might just be the unfunniest book ever written by a comedian. That’s a recommendation. He isn’t going for laughs here. The book isn’t an extension of his act. He’s trying to write the most truthful account he can of how he came to be the most original comic of his time. Martin being a melancholy man, the book has a melancholy tone. Oh, Martin also being a witty man, there’s a smile in it every fourth paragraph or so, but this book is serious. It’s also important, and unputdownable. If you have even a wisp of a thought in your head that you might like it, I can guarantee you that you will.

In the book, he spends a fair number of pages on his time writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The brothers let him perform occasionally, and here, in this clip, you can see him at a formative stage. He wasn’t yet the “excuuuuuse me” absurdist intellectual clown that took the world by storm, but the larval beginnings of that genius are evident:

Later, when his act took shape, Martin always gave full value to his audiences as a standup, and then did the same as an actor in most of his films. He has continued to deliver as a novelist, comic essayist, and screenwriter. Now, in his first attempt at autobiography, he promises to share with us the life experiences that formed him, and the thought processes that led to the creation of his standup persona—and then, remarkably (since the “comedian autobiography” is not a genre known for delivering truth and insight), actually does so. Steve Martin is a man of his word.

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