Film & TV

Performing Stand-Up Comedy

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 17:32 min

Don't let nerves or inexperience stop you from getting up on stage. Judd educates you on how to work the crowd, overcome stage fright, and find value in every performance.

Judd Apatow
Teaches Comedy
Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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In order to be a good stand up, you have to get a lot of stage time. And so a lot of the work of it is, you know, knowing where you can get up. Every time you get up, you'll get better. When I moved to Los Angeles, I couldn't get on at any of the clubs, like the Improv or the Laugh Factory. I wasn't good enough. So I had to do open mics for a year. And I would drive far away. And this is a, you know, it's a simple lesson. But again, it's about hard work. Which is I realized that they were open mics at comedy clubs where there weren't that many comedians signing up. But they were far away. So if you tried to do it at the Comedy Store or the Improv, there's a zillion people trying to get on. But if you drove an hour away to Orange County, there were 12 people trying to get on. And you could do seven minutes instead of two minutes. So I would drive really far to get stage time for no money for a long time. Because I knew that it was valuable. So for me, it was always about making that extra effort and being smart about what you needed to accomplish. When I started out, I was living with Adam Sandler in the valley. And he was a bit of a rising star at the Improv. Budd Friedman saw him in New York and said if you move to LA, I'll put you on stage a lot. And so he moved to LA. And we lived together. But he was getting, you know, pretty good spots and a lot of spots. I wasn't in at the Improv. And I would perform outside of LA. I would drive far away to get spots anywhere. And then at some point, I thought I think I'm ready to show Budd Friedman my set. And I did. And he kind of liked it but didn't love it. But I was asked to come back in six months. They saw some promise. And then I left, didn't go to the Improv for six months, really worked hard on it, and then I got in at the Improv. And they would use me as an MC four or five nights a week. So I was able to go on between every comedian and see everybody's act. But I also was forced to try to figure a way to be funny in-between acts, which was very difficult. So if Jerry Seinfeld got off and Ellen Degeneres is about to go out and I was on for 20 seconds in the middle, I had to figure out, how can I get the crowd to pay attention in this transition and to get a laugh somehow? That's how I would try out material, in-between everybody. And sometimes, these situations, which seem awful, really help you get stronger. Even now, I feel like I'm much more comfortable in front of people because I MCd all those hours and had to be a host. And it wasn't considered the great thing to do at the club. But it actually paid off for me as I'm just very hostly now. The audience wants to believe you know what you're doing. And if you carry yourself like you know what you're doing, it will all go better. But it's very hard to learn how to do that. Because you actually have to get good at it in order to have the feeling of knowing what you're doing. So then you look like you know w...

Get serious about comedy

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I've learned so much about comedy, Judd is a great teacher. More like this, please!

My Apatow is great teacher. Ive worked in tv development (in drama) fir 20 yrs. I got so much out of every lesson. Loved practicality and examples

Hearing Judd's insider information really helped. I really enjoyed it. Would have loved for his experiences to be more in depth and would have paid more for that.

Such a treasure trove of experience and wisdom. Thanks for sharing with us, Judd!



This is something I will never do personally, but the process is interesting. Sebastian has been my favorite stand up comic for years. It is great that the industry has finally recognized him. We knew him, even before his gig with Vince Vaughn's Comedian Travel Cade.

Amadeus M.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sick in the Head is a fantastic read. This chapter is filled with really sound advice.

James M.

Really great and honest advice. You have to prepared to be rubbish and not care which is not an easy thing. That said if you can tame your ego (doing BJJ can really help) you will be amazed how brave you can become.

A G.

Oh no 7 years to find my character and voice There is a a good chance I will have Alzheimer’s and not remember who the hell I am or why I am on stage by then!!! Someone should have told me this 7 year thing before I was an old lady.

Jim C.

He's very methodical and has a plan. Applicable to many careers. Not sure a lot of people do this for anything. Like Queen, they want it all and they want it now.

Ashley S.

I like the idea of just making the experience a conversational one with the audience and allowing the comedy to come from yourself. It softens my self-imposed idea that performing standup has to be some kind of strict, formulaic joke/punchline for it to work onstage. I also think it's great advice to look like you're enjoying yourself cause just like Amy Poehler says, "No one looks stupid when they're having fun."


great stuff. I've always had a fascination with standups- something I could never do but a craft and skill I've always admired. I started seeing Lenny Bruce on Playboy Penthouse on regular tv when my parents would go out and I could watch and listen-I think I was 9 or 10 and I wasn't always sure what he was saying but, there was something about his tempo-then the spaces and language that I didn't necessarily understand. It didn't matter that I didn't understand. It was a cool guy in a cool space and I didn't feel like a little kid anymore. I also loved hearing you talk about writing for hours to get a good joke-then writing as a job-hours a day. Good stuff. Thanks


The domain for the Norm McDonald transcript expired. Anyone have it to share?

Hap A.

Great lesson, really related to it at the end when he talked about being bad at stand up for awhile just starting out. I did a joke about 3 yrs ago that was "being a stand up is the only job where you can be terrible at it and they actually encourage you to come back. It's not like being a bank teller, you do a shitty job, they won't just hand the money over to you." It fell flat but I still think something is there, need to tweak the second part of it.

Amy J.

I feel like I've been doing stand up my whole life, always able to pull off a punchline, until one day they come out with some bullshit like..... "hahaha Amy remember that one time you said this like that and people laughed, go ahead and tell them that joke" I'm standing there thinking to myself, I say funny shit on a regular basis, what part are you talking about?" That causes a look of confusion and then the joke is dumb and not worth repeating, not worth much than that moment it happened. " I say fucked up shit on a reggy and now I have to repeat how I made them laugh?