Music & 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.
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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.

Enjoyed the explanation and approach to comedy and opening up new ways to view life and situations not only for humor but to maintain my own interest

Excellent Materclass. Steve est un très bon professeur. Il aborde le sujet en profondeur tout en restant simple.

I enjoyed hearing Steve Martin's advice. He is such a personable guy. Lots of fun. Thanks!

There is no one quite like Tom Ha... er, I mean, Steve-0 Martin, yup.


Chava G.

Every comic should aspire to learn this craft from this awesome man, he is real entertainment, like what Einstein is to science. Perception, editing, and collaborative effort and essential respect for the characters are essential pieces to his puzzle. It takes grit, determination, timing, talent, all summed up as love for the craft and a whole lot of writing and practice. Steve Martin, is the mister this sister has chosen as her icon!

Marianne M.

Wonderful, Steve. Thank you very much. All involved. This is one of the very best classes I have seen so far. Rich and accessible and entertaining.

edward B.

One of my favorite pieces of Steve's of all time is with him and Bill Murray on SNL: "What the hell is that?" It reminded me of the "yip yip nope nope" piece on Sesame Street. I like his advice: be authentic, try lots of things, edit, get feedback, collaborate, and especially the idea of going to opposite of the circumstances (go classy in a dump, dumpy in a nice place, etc). and giving the audience time to absorb the joke/bit but getting into the next one before the moment has ultimately finished. keep 'em guessing.

Michael B.

I remember in High School I'd memorize entire comedy routines he'd do. Since then I've seen what a good actor he is and now, after taking his MASTER class (emphasis on how he introduces himself here), I've discovered what a completely real and personable man he is!

Mary A.

Great class. Steve Martin is my favorite celebrity...I've studied his work my entire life. Thank you.

Rob K.

Thank you Steve for a really interesting, entertaining, and informative class!

A fellow student

Steve thank you so much, i can’t express what you’ve done for me. I’ve been trying to do comedy for about three years and now you’ve set me up for future successful experiences no matter good or bad. Thank you Buddy, I owe you one, it was well worth ninety dollars.

Cynthia D.

I didn't know what to expect as this was my first MasterClass. I learned that Mr Martin and I are about the same age and grew up studying the comedy of our times. I didn't know I was studying it, but I was. I wasn't aware of being funny until a wonderful English teacher in 8th grade had me read my themes to the class. I was sweating so loud I couldn't even hear my own voice, but the first laugh....the laugh that came where it was supposed to be, launched me into a lifetime of being "on". I wanted to be a writer for Mel Brooks in the 60's but other than Phyllis Diller (too many people said I laugh just like her), Totie Fields, Carol Burnett...there weren't a lot of female comedians I could relate to. I'd buy LP's of Phyllis Diller's stand-up and memorize it all and do a few bits for my friends. I did all of Cosby's early bits. Aside from all the styles of comedy, some I love, some I dislove, I enjoy the storytellers the most, the storytellers that can tell the story excited or irritated or sarcastic or dorky but tell it so animated that it drew me in itching for the punch line. Loved Buddy Hackett and watched him so close as he'd tell a story, so I ended up telling goofy stories as a mix of Phyllis and Buddy. I never wanted to do stand-up though, I wanted to write it. So listening to Mr Martin's class, I was comforted learning about some things in writing that I found I'd been doing. I felt like I got an A for the day. I learned a few things I haven't been clipping things and keeping it tight instead of I'm doing now. I also found it interesting to hear about his comedy experiences and his writing process as I first saw him on SNL with Akroyd doing the wild n' crazy guys bit that had me on the floor because my grandma was Polish and her family was pretty much just like that, polka, beer, and "Are we having a good time?" "Yes, we have a good time!" "Na Zdrowie!" I still shout "Na Zdrowie" to this day. I'd hoped to get some explanation of how to punch up a story to add funny where I wanted it, without it sounding forced or out of place. I suspect, that is something that comes naturally and can't be taught or even explained. All my life people have told me, "you should write a book, you are hilarious". Got tired of being the unintended entertainment at parties and decided to go home and write. So I did. Never got anywhere with it other than out of my system as I'm a storyteller and not a salesman. I might have enjoyed a couple hints on how to get my work out there instead of dust collection on top of the TV. Mr Martin is a kind, gentle, and silly comedian, a style that has almost vaporized from the comedy scene today as our generation moves on and the young folks rush in to build on the comedy foundations that were built on the gags of Sid Cesar, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Phil Silvers, Imogene Coca, Buddy, Phyllis, Totie, Larry, Moe and Curly, Shemp too, Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason, George Gobel, and so many others....and the writers. I always watch movie credits, looking to see who the writers were. They deserve it.


This was my fist MasterClass and it has been so much fun. It is amazing to spend time with a comedy legend. Thank you for bringing joy to the world and sharing your knowledge.

Dan U.

Such a beautiful man, talent, with so many skill sets...banjo player, writer, educator etc. this course offers a broad outline to what the basic elements are to successful comedy writing and performance for stand ups. Steve Amertin has been successful in movies, Saturday night love, the theatre, writing plays and scripts...he is the quintessential go to person for all things comedy. He was an icon of the eighties and patented his own form of delivery and kept his routines clean. The course offers a superb artist’s journey through the comedic experience to give students a broad outline to success. If I may help complete this journey,(not to come across as a braggadocio) there are great books on Amazon to read as well as try to take away some points and those can’t buy stage presence, patrented catch phrases, body language, expressions or actual acts. Well excuuuuse me, king tut...born..somewhere, TWO WILD AND CRAAAZY GUYS! Hopefully if you have a really good performer you experience the intimacy, hilarity, you make the social connection and think to yourself....yea....that is what a person like this would say or do or how it plays out in such and such a culture, the impersonations, clever wordage, body language, and of extreme importance....technique. I sure would like to meet Steve Martin....I got some damb good material to ssssshhhhare.