Steve Martin, a Mild and Crazy Guy

In a revealing memoir, Steve Martin relives his birth as a comic

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Michael Grecco for TIME

"I thought it was going to be really easy," says Martin of writing his memoir.

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In recalling the '60s and '70s, Martin writes revealingly of his sex life (busy) and his drug life (not so much). But the most poignant passages touch on his estrangement from his father and their reconciliation at the elder man's deathbed. "When I published that part in the New Yorker," Martin says, "I got a great letter from a woman. She said, 'I read your article about your father, and I gave it to my husband, and he read it and didn't say anything. And then he said to me, What's our son's phone number?'" For a moment over lunch, Martin clutches his chest--a dramatic display of emotion for this very inward man who may, at heart, be the kid who stayed all day at Disneyland rather than pedal home to spend time with his dad.

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