To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

A Life In the Arts

Steve Martin

Lesson time 10:51 min

Failure, rivalry, bad reviews: being a comedian is hard. Steve teaches you how to roll with the punches and advocates for a life of being in the arts.

Steve Martin
Teaches Comedy
Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.


If you're watching this, you're at least fooling around with the idea of being in the arts. And I highly recommend a life of being in the arts and being with other artists. Because they're funny, have a happy life, they're creative, they think, they learn things. And it's a very exciting life. Whether it's your primary life choice or auxiliary, just opens your horizons. It's good to be in several disciplines because you gain friends in those worlds. If you have an interest in art, you don't have to be an artist, painter, but you can have those friends and they bring new things into your life. Musicians bring new things into your life. Comedians bring new things. Actors, directors. So it's good to be a polymath because you're going to meet so many different kinds of people who are going to affect your life positively and also affect your artistic life positively. You're going to have rivals. You're going to have people you're either jealous of. You're thinking, how did that person-- why do they love that person? Love your rivals. Your rivals make you better. They are going to inspire you to go further and also it's just wasting time because there's nothing you can do about it. No matter where you are, there's going to be somebody better. It's just part of being in show business or part of being in the arts. And you know, the best thing to do is to think of it as you're their compatriots. Get to know them. Find out what's going on. Hover around. You know, you can feed off each other. You can be good, confident, spirited rivals in a sense. But don't let it eat at you. If you're going to let it eat at you, use it. Use that kind of energy to say, what can I do? Don't get yourself down because someone is killing it out there, because it's always going to happen. It's not like you can say, I finally am better than everybody. Because then you just go like this, oh, I didn't see you there. It is hard to be a comedian. First of all, there is the travel, probably traveling alone. There is mostly rejection and failure and isolation, criticism. But looking back on it myself, I thought, I didn't know how hard it was. I only know now how hard it was. There was something about me personally that liked being isolated at that time in my life and liked being alone and was uncomfortable in groups and socially. I had some really close, good friends but I was always shy at a party, introverted. So there was something that suited me about this isolated travel. And like I say, I didn't know it was a struggle at the time. I looked back later I thought, that was a struggle. At the time I was enjoying it and I loved being on the road and I loved talking to people and picking up girls and having a cocktail and then going back to your depressing hotel room alone. I do an impression of what it's like, at least ...

A comedian walks into a classroom...

One of Steve’s first gigs was at the drive-in movies. When the audience liked a joke, they honked. In this comedy class, Steve shares insights from performing for cars and humans over a 50-year career spanning sold-out arenas and blockbuster films. Learn how to find your voice, gather material, develop an act, and take your comedy writing to the next level.


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

Steve's ideas on comedy writing, timing, pacing and performing are also good for dramatic film script writing. Very entertaining as well.

Amazing and funny. I'm so happy he did this. Should be required for funny people young and old.

Actually breaking down and analyzing the components of my favorite all time thinker has awakened areas of my own thought processes in ways I couldn't have imagined. What great fodder and insight. I actually thought then when he finally stepped away from his desk at the end, he would have no pants on, deeming them unnecessary for the shot, then went over and played his banjo. Ha!

Definitely provided me a new way to look at the way I tell jokes. I liked that format of the book and class. Helped inspire me to work more on my comedy to make it more of a reality. Worth the price of admission for sure. Didn't think I could love Steve anymore but this helped move him up a few more notches in my comedy heroes.


Brian H.

7:55 I’m so psyched that you referenced Douglas Hofstadter! I have his book “Gödel, Escher, Bach” within arm’s reach. (Well, upon closer inspection it appears my arm would have to be 5 feet long for that to be technically true, but you get the idea.)

Brad C.

I really like Steve Martin, and I find him funny - but perhaps in a more traditional sense. This was a valuable class, but I feel like he is a bit out of touch with modern comedy. Probably idea advice for someone starting out in the 70's / 80's. . . I'd be interested to have a younger, and maybe more edgy, comedian give a class as well to hear their take. Ari Shaffir? Tim Dillon? Ami Schumer, Etc.

Chava G.

Loving This Master Funnyman Steve Martin. There is a sincerity, an honesty even an integrity that is so the important part of imparting skill, wisdom or technology of succeeding in a life of the arts.

Tori O.

I love everything Steve Martin does. He is the best speaker. He shares the truth.


To be an artist, we must be liberal. Excitement and enthusiasm will take us far. Laugh with me not at me. Acceptance feels great.

Margaret M.

Godel Escher Bach! Steve must have one of THE most amazing lives in the arts, ever.


They say the difference between heaven and hell is as follows: In hell there are these little people going around with spoons fighting and trying to feed themselves. In heaven there are the same little people but they are taking turns feeding each other. I saw Mr.Martin demonstrate this at a reading: Douglas Richard Hofstadter, thought mutations, love this idea!

SunShine M.

I can find absolutely none of these documentaries on Netflix, any suggestions? I did see the one about Joan Rivers and Lenny Bruce. My takeaway is this; I wanna be just like Joan Rivers when I grow up! Not much has changed since her time as far as men don't like funny women butt some women, we just plow through and do it anyway. I LOVED IT when Johnny Carson asked her, "you really think men don't like smart women?" And Joan Rivers said, "what man has ever reached up a woman's skirt looking for a library card?" She paved the way so much. I feel as comedians we owe so much to Lenny Bruce. I'm also very concerned about our current state of affairs with the PC Obsession. I feel like we went full circle and now we are where we started; not being able to say anything and it's terrifying. I have amazing bits that are super funny and I've canned them because I'm scared, we are not allowed to talk about anything anymore. You'll get called racist or whatever. Watching the Lenny Bruce documentary I was shocked to hear him say the "N" word on stage for his set. I'm not saying that's where I want our society to be, I don't have a desire to say it butt our society now scares me. We are not allowed to talk and when it comes to comedy that's pretty scary.

Daniel S.

An artist creates substance from absence, beauty from void. Art can be spoken, writing, drawn, painted, sculpted, built, created, anything really. Art can be talking something that already exists and changing it meaningfully. Making money as an artist is a discipline that few can master. This is as it should be. I create art as a tool for getting out of my head or playing with my imagination. I have been paid for some of my photography or digital art, I designed a card game to help my ESL students reinforce their English lessons, so I got paid a little. But I would never make a living doing it. I like hanging around creatives. It's usually the one time I find my self amoung people as f'd up as I am.

Michael G.

more of a general question, but I am currently an open micr one year in and Im going to be in nyc for a little over a month staying with a friend and doing mics at night but I am wondering whether I should take an improv class or a general acting class, and I am not sure which one would be best, please let me know your thoughts, thank you!