I’m always a little wary of books such as these, but they make for effective presents. Had I spent my own money on this collection of cartoons and anecdotes in cartoon form, I might be a little disappointed. Having received it as a gift, however, renders it a mildly pleasant afternoon’s diversion and a keepsake for my bookshelf.
The book is split roughly in two, with the first comprising Martin’s reflections on his most famous film roles, including The Jerk, Parenthood, Three Amigos, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Martin discusses his uneasy transition into film after his stand-up act began to grow stale and his struggle to act naturally on camera. He tells talk-show style anecdotes about his directors, like Carl Reiner and John Hughes, and his co-stars, like Diane Keaton and Lily Tomlin. Though the names are impressive, the anecdotes themselves are mostly too gentle and minor to be truly laugh-out loud funny.
The second half is labeled “Diversions” and consists mostly of New Yorker-style one-panel cartoons. Typically for New Yorker cartoons, some of these are very funny, most elicit a slight, knowing chuckle, and others make a reference you don’t quite understand.
On the whole, I do wish there was more to recommend Number One is Walking. Surely someone who’s been as famous for so long as Steve Martin has more outrageous and amusing stories to tell.