January 18, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Steve Martin one of the funniest comedians of all time. He's also a talented banjo picker in the Earl Scruggs' style. Lately, however, Martin's writing consistently grabs my attention. I'm almost finished with his new memoir, Born Standing Up.
[disclosure - my wife works for the company that publishes this book. Then again, they also publish such intellectual drivel like the recent bestseller, The Secret.]
Martin walked away from standup comedy in 1981. While he was still on top. Born Standing Up offers his personal take on a time, a place, and a person (himself) that no longer exist. It's a fascinating real life story, expressed with astonishing honesty and clarity. When Steve Martin writes about standup comedy - being alone on a stage, in front of an audience that expects you to entertain - he refers to it as "the ego's last stand."
His description of the act is very much how I think an improvising jazz musician must feel at times:
"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."
Fortunately for musicians, silence is an option.
- Josh Jackson
© 2008 WBGO