There are a select few people out in the world who I consider to be flat-out awesome. Call it what you will – my idols, my favorite people, the people I know would be best friends with me if we could just meet, whatever. It’s people like Ray Charles; Martin Scorsese; B.B. King; Stephen King (no relation to B.B.); but perhaps more than anyone, Steve Martin. He’s a musician, songwriter, actor, writer, and up until just a few years ago when Dane Cook broke his record (really? Dane Cook?), he had the highest-selling comedy albums of all time.
I tell you that so you understand this is not an unbiased book review. To be honest, it’s not going to be much of a book review at all. But I’ll get to that.
As a native of Southern California, it was fascinating to read about young Steve getting his first job at Disneyland right after it opened. He was all of thirteen and would ride his bike there everyday after school to work at the magic shop inside the hallowed grounds. He quickly became fascinated with how the more experienced magicians (the adults) would get laughs from the customers and learned everything he could from them.
The small magic shop couldn’t contain his performing bug, so he eventually moved up the road to the Birdcage Theater inside Knott’s Berry Farm. If you’ve never heard of it, Knott’s is a bit like Disneyland’s little brother. He worked there for a few years before leaving to attend college and begin working on a stand up routine.
That is merely the tip of the iceberg, and I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys Steve Martin, stand up comedy, show business, the L.A./Hollywood scene of the late sixties, or tales of the pursuit and achievement of one’s dreams turning out to be different than imagined. He explains why he quit stand up never to look back, and I found it quite interesting.
The real reason I wanted to discuss this book, however, is this: as I was reading, he was discussing how excited he was about pretty much everything going on in his life in his early twenties – his thirst for knowledge, his never-ending quest to perfect his stand up, and his willingness to jump at any chance to learn something or do something new. At one point during a road trip to New York, he wrote his girlfriend a postcard about how he’d had a breakthrough regarding the direction of his comedy routine and made broad proclamations as to what he was going to do about it. Then there was this line:
“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”
That line stuck in my head with such force that the next few sentences I read didn’t even register. I had to stop reading for a minute and go back and read the sentence again.
“…there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”
Truth be told, it came as quite a relief. Since I started trying to take my writing more and more seriously, I’ve been constantly trying to keep myself grounded. I’ve known from the get go the chances are slim to none I’ll ever make money writing, but I would still find my mind wandering to magical lands where my books were published and some people even paid money to read them. What’s more, they actually liked them.
I tried not to dwell on such thoughts; the way it seems to be spelled out is as follows: writers write, edit, rewrite, edit, revise, edit, edit their edits, submit, repeat. Success could happen but you couldn’t worry about it, you just keep writing.
I understand that philosophy, and I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with that. But for some of us, you’ve got to allow a little leeway to daydream some. You’ve got to believe there’s at least some chance you could be hugely successful someday, and thanks to Mr. Martin I know it’s okay to picture myself doing readings and book signings once in a while. Who knows, with enough commitment, dedication, and hard work, someday some of it may not turn out to be a delusion after all.
PS – If you enjoy comedy and haven’t seen Bowfinger, check it out. I’d say it’s one of the most underrated comedies of all time.
PSS – I’ve added another (very) short story titled Blue Skies to my Readwave page. You can check it out, as well as my other short stories, here.