Steve Martin was the first American comic I ever heard about. A friend owned a copy of his first album, Let’s Get Small when I was a little kid, and I remember practicing his exaggerated phrasing, like “Excuuuuuse me,” in my own preadolescent attempt at witty rhetoric. Martin has maintained his media presence over the years, appearing frequently on Saturday Night Live in its med-seventies heyday after making a name for himself as a stand-up comedian and writer for the Smother Brothers, in fact appearing at the beginning and end of that show just last week, to spoof Alec Baldwin’s breaking his record for number of times hosting. In the last decade he’s expanded his range, written novels (like Shopgirl), plays and screenplays (inclusing one for Shopgirl). I remember the routines on Let’s Get Small were punctuated occasionally with banjo playing for effect, and in the last several years Martin has released non-comic musical productions like The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo and Rare Bird Alert (with the Steep Canyon Rangers), having been a lifelong devoted student and extremely gifted player of that instrument. Martin also made several appearances on the Tonight Show, had a hippie phase during which he wore a lot of turquoise jewelry, and enjoyed a close relationship with temporarily blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s daughter, Melissa or “Mitzi”. What?
Another alumnus of Saturday Night Live, Steve’s partner in the “two Czech brothers” routines, Dan Aykroyd, has revealed a belief in extraterrestrial intelligence and is the conceptual visionary and brew master of Crystal Head Vodka, each bottle of which is shaped like a human skull in emulation of the Mayan ancients who purportedly knew of the existence of a global map of powerful crystal skulls of powerful origin. I read Born Standing Up after Aykroyd’s recommendation of it on Facebook. He said it was the greatest book that every aspriing comic performance artists had to read or something like that. He called it “The Troubador,” mistaking the LA club where much of the Martin’s early comic action is set, for its title. Martin grew up 2 miles from Disneyland, and gravitated to the option of becoming an entertainer amost immediately, making the transition from magician with a few funny bits at Knott’s Berry farm to discovery of a natural talent for comedy, and dogged pursuit of that ability until he was to a full-blown stand-up well-known professional stand up comic at the top of the scene, culminating in a show at the Nassau Coliseum in New York with forty-five thousand people attending, as if by natural gravitation. Wham blam! The audio book, read by the author, is probably an excellent experience for a Steve Martin fan.