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Arts & Entertainment

Bonus Case Study: Speeches

Steve Martin

Lesson time 10:57 min

Featuring exclusive footage of a tribute to Tom Hanks at the Museum of Modern Art, Steve dissects some of his favorite speaking engagements and shares his process for delivering comedy gold in speeches.

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


Usually when I write jokes now, it's for a situation. And I have kind of an accumulated file of stuff that I can go to. Like one of my favorite bits-- I can only use it every once in a while, though I used that it as Paul Simon was getting the Kennedy Center award. And this one of my favorite jokes. I said, "it would be easy"-- and we're at the Kennedy Center. There's the president. There's, you know, tuxes and everything. I said-- It would be easy for me to stand up here for the next few minutes and talk about Paul Simon's consummate skill as a songwriter and musician, but this seems to be neither the time nor place. And then I had another joke that I liked. It was in the '90s. And there was this television show that was an award show called The American Comedy Awards. And by the way, there is no American Comedy Awards. It's something a producer made up. So we can put on a show and get paid, and everybody works for free. Uh huh. [LAUGH} So I thought, if I do this, and I'm getting an American Comedy Award-- I was a little depressed. It was early '90s. I should be really funny. I'll just really work on this to try to make it really funny. So my opening joke was, when they called me to tell me I had won the prize of the American Comedy Awards, I just walked around for weeks just trying to care. But I realized, as much as I really like that joke, I can't really use it in other situations because the American Comedy Awards was kind of a low-class-- --thing. And other awards are actually kind of high class. You can't really criticize the award you're getting. So in other words, I can kind of piecemeal things together, which I like to do. I find old things. Like I think that night, I said I have so many people to thank for this. First of all, my wife, . And of course, my two lovely children, and . My agent, [? Beth Anne. ?] So I'm doing a parody of thanking people. And then of course, at the end of it, I want to thank he who is above us all, and for [? the money. ?] And then I thought it worked really well. And then I thought, ah, I'll use it again this other thing. Mm, you know, it's just OK. They were at tables. There's nothing worse than performing for people at round tables, eating. And then half of them have turned their back to you. It still happens. I did this the other day, actually. I was supposed to introduce-- Tom Hanks was getting an award at the Museum of Modern Art for his film work. And he said, would you speak? And I said, OK. So I thought, wait a minute. The thing about Tom Hanks is he's genuinely a nice, interesting, charming person. So I have to say-- I'm going to say that he's a charming, interesting-- And then I thought, OK, what if I had a huge list of his appealing qual...

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.

The biggest takeaway was that everyone is just a regular person, not some pre-destined star, and hard work and trial and error is what gets them to success. Steve Martin being so honest about his process, wins and losses, breaking down every trick and attempt so humbly truly brought that point home.

Steve Martin was a wonderful instructor! Very inspiring and gave some really great lessons that I'll be able to revisit to hone my stand-up comedy skills.

These segments had information and fun and even more nice. It was a pleasure.

Bravo! I think we all need to hear there's room for us and our creativity.



I enjoyed it quite a lot. I felt the Mr. Martin gave a well rounded and in depth class about his experience of comedy. Thank you very much!

Joanna P.

The way Mr Martin tackled the problem of exposition in writing/creating was a true eye-opener. It was so elegantly brilliant and simple, so natural it made me watch that lesson at least twice. This course is a gem not only for comedy performers, but for everybody who dares to create wordlds through language.

Jennifer F.

I'm a writer, and I found so many moments of creative inspiration in this class. Thanks so much for sharing your talents and experience!

Scott A.

This was my first masterclass. I found it both interesting and inspirational. I am used to the Teaching Company classes in which a great deal of information is crammed into a half hour. This feels much more informal an chatty. Not sure which I prefer yet.

Martin D.

I've been doing comedy for a long time but I still found loads in the lessons to inspire me .hope lockdown isn't getting you down

A fellow student

I enjoyed the class. I learned that there is a broad spectrum of comedy and that you can find humor in any life situation- you just have to search for it. I also enjoyed how Steve conducted a student workshop to improve emerging comedians.

Christopher D.

Steve, What happened to your video Q&A with students? It was one of my favorite parts of the class; now I can't find it anywhere. Are they still available or did you decide to stop doing them? Thanks!

Lucrecia Sarita R.

Mr. Martin, I pray all is well for you and yours. We need you now, more than ever. Watching "Dolemite". Stay safe.

A fellow student

Thaaaank you, this was such a good class! I'm not even a comic nor a writer, just watched this thinking it might have some really good insights into work and life, and it did! Very well thought out course. The little tips sprinkled throughout were useful and not common sense. Mr. Martin clearly put effort and energy into this, and it is commendable!

A fellow student

I really like this course. It had depth, logical order of topics, it had really useful tips and it felt very intimate in the way Steve Martin explained everything. It made you feel he was really talking to you. Thanks for giving me this chance of learning, enjoying and laughing.