“Born Standing Up” Quotes

I read Steve Martin’s auto biography of his years doing stand up comedy a little while ago and thought I’d post my favorite quotes from it.

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.” (1)

The comedian’s slang for a successful show is “I murdered them,” which I’m sure came about because you finally realize that the audience is capable of murdering you.” (2)

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 with a few intuitive leaps.” (2-3)

Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.” (53)

Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” (54)

Teaching is a form of show business.” (86)

I concluded that not to continue with comedy would place a question in my mind that would nag me for the rest of my life: Could I have had a career in performing? Everything was dragging me toward the arts; even the study of modern philosophy suggested philosophy was nonsense.” (87)

Comedy is a distortion of what is happening, and there will always be something happening.” (104)

Sign of encouragement… Bill Cosby said that early in his career, when the audience wasn’t laughing, he could hear the waitresses laughing, and they saw the show night after night.” (106)

A laugh forms when the storyteller creates tension, then, with the punch line, releases it.” (110)

I gave myself a rule: Never let them know I was bombing: This is funny, you just haven’t gotten it yet.” (112)

Another rule was to make the audience believe I was fantastic, that my confidence could not be shattered. They had to believe that I didn’t care if they laughed at all, and that this act was going on with or without them.” (112)

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.” (139)

The more physically uncomfortable the audience, the bigger the laughs.” (165)

It is possible to will confidence. My consistent performing schedule had kept me sharp; it would have been difficult to blow it.” (171)

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