Tuesday, June 30, 2009

what Dads like

Steve Martin had a difficult father. Rare was the praise, frequent were the cold rages and seeming contempt. After more than ten years plugging away at his comedy, Martin was finally seeing success that did more than get him out of debt. His father acted unimpressed, even talking his son down around friends and colleagues. “I suppressed everything I felt about his comments because I couldn’t let him have power of my work,” Martin says.

Martin became a household name, was selling out arenas. Father “remained uncomplimentary … [W]hat I did about it still makes sense to me: I never discussed my work with him again.”

My own parents divorced when I was a toddler; I don’t remember them living together. My dad lived thousands of miles away – me, my brother & my mother in Northern California, Dad in Alaska with his new family. But Mom kept us in contact with letters and phone calls and, when we were kids, Dad usually managed two visits a year. So I had a dad – distant but existent, someone I felt a connection to, better, I suppose, than some I hear about who lived in house. Mom would have my brother & me send our creative work to Dad and he acknowledged it and tried not to say belittling things about it even when it wasn’t to his taste – mostly, it seems, it wasn’t.

When my poetry got more & more “avant-garde,” Dad responded by enthusing about cowboy poetry. “That’s what I really like,” I remember him saying.

I have nothing against cowboy poetry. It’s not something I do. It’s not something that interests me, other than in a vague academic sort of way. Oh, Dad likes that, huh? What he doesn’t like is what I do. So I stopped sending him examples. I stopped talking about it.

source: Born Standing Up: a comic’s life by Steve Martin

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