Steve Martin’s writing block as comedy writer for the Smothers Brothers

Comedians are writers too, and fully capable of having genuinely unfunny blocks

While Steve Martin’s engaging book Born Standing Up is primarily about his incredible standup comedy career, it also gives the reader an informative glimpse into the life of a comedy writer.  In addition to being a talented goofball, Martin is also a prolific writer, and not just of standup material. In addition to his memoir, he has written novels, television comedy, plays, songs articles, blogs, screenplays and numerous online pieces.

At one point in Born Standing Up Martin describes his unlikely hiring as a writer on the Smothers Brothers Show, and the uneasiness of suddenly being expected to write funny bits for a popular TV show on a short deadline, without any previous experience. He floundered for a while, and at one point when Tommy Smothers asked him to write an intro for a segment, Martin froze with anxiety and was unable to write a word. He stared at the blank page in his typewriter helplessly, and saw his dream job vanishing.

Finally, in desperation, Martin called up a friend and begged for help. Miraculously, this worked. He presented a gag he got from his friend, and the Smothers brothers liked it. This success allowed him to relax and become a full contributor on the show, and eventually win an Emmy as part of that team of writers. Martin did, however, proceed to endure several years of full-on anxiety attacks that he had to push through in both his writing and performing.

I hand out Steve Martin’s article “Writing is Easy” to students in my classes on overcoming writers block. It’s very funny, and he knows the territory.

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About David Arnot Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Common Writing Block Problems, Famous writers, Mental health and writing blocks, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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