Arts & Entertainment

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.

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

Topics include: Analyze the Comedians You Love • Get Personal • Consider Situations From Every Angle • Make Lists and Ask Questions • Write Multiple Jokes for Each Premise • Start With a Punch Line, and Build a Story Around It • Be Disciplined About Your Writing • Build Your Act Methodically


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...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

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