As noted in m’colleague’s mini-review, there was a time when Steve Martin’s stand-up talent was such that he could well have been voted the funniest man in the world; he filled huge venues and sold vast numbers of LPs (yes, it was back in the days before CDs and downloads), and in this book he tells you how he did it.
Well, not exactly, as his comedy was far more fragmented and intuitive than that, so it’s not like it worked to a formula which you could learn from this book and then copy – unless the lack of a formula could be seen as an approach in itself, much like I often fear that the ‘ethical relativist’ stance is, in its way, a positive position. But in this book, Steve talks about how his stage act gradually developed, what worked and what didn’t, and how he felt about his success.
If you’re interested in comedy, both the jokes at the front of it and the process that goes into their creation, this book will almost certainly be of interest; his writing is very precise and easy to understand, and the book’s short and to the point – given that it’s a small-sized hardback (a format I really like), the phrase that kept coming to mind as I read it was that it’s ‘a bonsai book’ – there’s not a lot of it, but everything that’s there is there for a reason.
I’ve read a few books purporting to tell you how to write and/or perform comedy, but they’re usually written by people I’ve never heard of, which hardly inspires confidence; this book, though, is written by a man who rose to the very top of the comedy ladder, and who honed his act carefully and thoughtfully for some time before finding success. A great read, and most definitely recommended – but if you have any lingering doubts about whether it’d be for you, you can read the first chapter here.