Film & TV

Writing Stand-Up Comedy

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 21:02 min

When it comes to stand-up comedy, Judd's thesis is simple: the more personal you get, the funnier you'll be. Learn how to find, develop, and refine gut-busting stand-up material based on your own experiences.

Judd Apatow
Teaches Comedy
Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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I think that when it comes to joke writing, most people can't dissect why things are funny. There are those exceptions. But for the most part, it's like having an ear for music. So if you listen to a lot and you're funny with your friends and you feel funny in life, you might have developed an interesting sense of humor that can be brought to the stage. I think that if you love stand-up, you probably do the first thing that you should do, which is to watch a lot of it. When I started out, I would have to highlight "TV Guide" at the beginning of the week to see which comedians were on "The Tonight Show" and which comedians are on "Merv Griffin." But now everything is at your fingertips on the internet and on YouTube and website for Comedy Central. So you could see a lot of it, but stand-up really is about coming up with your specific point of view. So there's a lot to learn by watching people. But ultimately, you have to come up with your own angle, or why do it? And that's really about knowing yourself and developing your sense of humor. When I decided to do stand-up again, I started with a bunch of stories that I had done on talk shows that I knew worked. But I actually had forgotten how to write stand-up. And I didn't know how to write stand-up for myself. So one of the first things I did is I listened to a few people a little bit like a comedy scientist. I listened to Patton Oswalt and a few other people just wake up that part of my brain that used to write a lot of stand-up. I tried to figure out comedy structure again, and how are people expressing themselves? How are they setting up their ideas? How are these ideas turning into punchlines? I mean, why are things funny? How does joke structure work? Sometimes people's ideas are absurd. Sometimes they're setting up a complaint. Sometimes they have an answer for how to fix something. Sometimes it's a very personal story, sometimes it's politics-- there's so many ways to be funny on stage. And it is important to come up with a way that's unique to you. I think our sense of humor is built from every experience we've had in our lives. Everyone has a different sense of humor. Some people find things that are really harsh, funny, and some people like a much gentler sense of humor. Some people like "Heehaw," some people like Howard Stern. We all have decided how humor helps us survive this sometimes difficult life, so there is no formula for it. Like all types of writing, stand-up gets better as people get more personal. There are certainly exceptions who are just absurd, but you do find that as stand-ups get older and become more seasoned, they get much more comfortable just telling you about their lives. And that's why people like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford are so strong, because it's become second nature to just talk to you and fill you in on the most intimate aspects of their lives. And that's true for writing. I think the same thing is true for me in ter...

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.

More thoughtful about his work than I gave him credit for. Don't particularly like his films but LOVED his class.

Judd Apatow was one of my favorite teachers, because he is so tangibly real and authentic: he's humble, not full of himself, knows his potential, and willing to share all that he knows. I'm walking away inspired and confident to write something down.

Judd is different than me, but I learned so much from him. I was very impressed with how much he works his ideas.

This Masterclass was clearly a labor of love for Judd. Super real, insightful, and extensive. Thanks Judd, you rock and so did this Masterclass!



i bouhgt the book COMIC INSHGTS by Franklin Ayaje… the last name is indian … sounds like that , i am not planning to study their mental models...or mind structure..

A fellow student

Just watched Patton Oswald’s “weakness is strong” - holy shit - funny as hell. I have a lot of comedy watching to catch up on.

James M.

Great class thank you Judd. Totally agree its a lot about putting in the writing and editing out the crap. I have tried this but then find my good pile gets smaller and smaller and the crap pile gets bigger. I have done a few open mics and I think a lot of the comics I have seen who are good just speak as if they know its funny and that confidence can work. People go to a comedy club to escape the drudge and stress of life. They are wanting you to be funny.

Jinx M.

Really loving this video. I'm definitely the kind of person who needs to write everything down with a proper structure, otherwise my stories take way too many unnecessary twists and turns. So I find it really helpful to have a breakdown of the process (plus, English is not my first language, so preparing in advance is a must).

Jim C.

I love Maria Bamford. One of my favorite comedians.

Drew W.

In 2015 I was failing out of college and wanted to be a comedian. I studied comics and saved a comedy journal in the notes on my phone. The note is still there, its titled "Comedy Pad." After watching this lesson, I tapped on it. There's just a line that reads Eating mom's pound cake

Sharon O.

Novelist in the making... I took a few nuggets from this lesson: make it personal, come at it from different angles, write every day, watch a lot of comedy, and build around the punchline. I find most comedy movies juvenile and I don't enjoy watching them. I'm beginning to understand why my writing isn't very funny. Time to put in the work, and do things like watch the 40 Year Old Virgin. I have avoided this movie for over 10 years. I thought Anchor Man wasnt funny at all. I got my work cut out for me. But I am here... wish me luck.


Woody Allen's standup is GREAT at incorporating many jokes into a longer story. Like "The Vodka Ad" or "The Great Renaldo", or "Where Food Is Dirty". Woody has a great "On Comedy" with Larry Wilde interview from 1965, in which he discusses how he arrives at the longer story. It's a REALLY good piece, very helpful. Also, I will try writing multiple jokes off the same premise.

Amy J.

Judd says to write about personal stories. My Grandma past away this summer. I took care of her during the come back of the Kansas City Royals. The woman lost her husband of sixty five years to diabetes, a heart problem and old. My Grandma suffered from COPD/Emphysema. That was medically controlled. Her Alzheimer's Disease was my main purpose for being her energetic memory. Well into her eighties, I go over there for a home game stretch, I smell old lady, pee and body funk. She needed some love. So I slowly got her undressed, her one boob gone from breast cancer the year I was born. Her hair was dirty and matted to her head. She stood there, I pulled the nightgrown up over her head, yanked down her soaking wet diaper and told her to grab her stripper pole. She grabbed on the pole cemented into the wall for old lady balance, she moved her hips back and forth, her naked ass shaking, old skin shrivled and out from her voice box she sang a tune that sounded a little like a porno. I looked at my Grandma and smacked her ass " yea Grandma bounce it baby" and she did, she bounced her ass like she knew a dollar bill would follow. Shakin it, getting bow chicka bow wow in rythm, I giggled. And then pissed all over my legs, drenching my flip flops, down between my toes. We never laughed so hard and that night, she needed not one but two breathing treatments!!!!


There are a few sound problems but we get through them. So, I'll write a hundred jokes and hope to get one good for every twenty-five if I'm lucky.