From Steve Martin's MasterClass

Bonus Case Study: Speeches

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.

Topics include: Steve's Tribute to Tom Hanks at the Museum of Modern Art • Start With Subject, Location, and Circumstance • Test Material Inconspicuously

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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.

Topics include: Steve's Tribute to Tom Hanks at the Museum of Modern Art • Start With Subject, Location, and Circumstance • Test Material Inconspicuously

Steve Martin

Teaches Comedy

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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, [INAUDIBLE] 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. [LAUGHTER] 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. [CHUCKLES] 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. [LAUGHTER] 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-- [LAUGHTER] --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, [INAUDIBLE]. And of course, my two lovely children, [INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE]. 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. ?] [LAUGHTER] 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.

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

This class gave me direction to write stand up comedy and the courage to just be myself.

I’m a comedian and I teach standup in my city. Steve has been a hero of mine since I was a kid, and this class is 100% on target. I only wish I could be in the room with him - this is the next best thing!

Excellent. Steve Martin is a superb communicator. At once erudite and self-deprecating. Highly recommend.

I love Master Class. The Steve Martin course can be used in so many different arenas and not just stand up comedy. Keep up the great work and inspirational service to society Master Class!

Comments

Jeanetta C.

I love these MasterClasses and being able to pop in & out for a lesson without worrying about deadlines! Steve Martin's MasterClass about Humor was enjoyable and will help me include some humor in my writing - which was my goals for this class.

Joel S.

I guess I was mistaken, I was looking for a class from Steve Martin the cordwainer. I was hoping to be able to bring shoes back to the children of my village, last Winter was rough for them.

Gerard

For whatever reason, I wasn't expecting this class to be as good as it is. I learned so much and enjoyed it thoroughly. Steve you are brilliant. Thank you for raising my level. You made a difference. I shall not forget. Thank you.

ALICIA S.

You thought a great Masterclass. Enjoyable, and I took away some good advice that I hope to apply in my acting career. I now view talent in a different light. Everyone has talent in some ways, but it must be nurtured with a string of work to grow stronger... And you Mr Steve Martin are simply amazing. Thanks, and God bless you ✌🏻❤️🙂😎

Santiago M.

Maestro: Because of your class, I got on stage. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/yjZX0kUFpQo

Larae M.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and gifts. I took this course in hopes of getting a better understanding of how to infuse a little levity into the serious form of writing that I do. I came away with so much more than I had ever anticipated. Thanks again!

Connie

Thanks for doing this. I have a grandson who thinks that he would like to be a comedian and he is pretty good for a 14 year old. But I was hoping to find inspiration of how to change his mind. Maybe he is onto something. I especially like how you talked about comedy which doesn't hurt people. I think it takes much more talent to turn out really fun, clean, not hurtful routines than it does to say something sure to get a laugh but not really to produce happiness.

Steven W.

One of my takeaways from this class came from your honesty. You were honest in your comments early on. “Go where the comedy is.” An incredible amount of luck also comes into play. I also appreciated your comments about overcoming a lack of talent. The right place, where the comedy is, and the right time, the right people hearing you, can change your life whether you have talent or not. It is clear that many writers, actors, comedians, and entertainers who have incredible talent will never be discovered. Never become famous. It is also clear that some with no talent will achieve great success.

Mia S.

"Tom Hanks was getting an award at the Museum of Modern Art for his film work, 'Would you speak?' The thing about Tom Hanks is he's genuinely a nice, interesting, charming person. So I'm going to say he's a charming, interesting - then I thought, 'What if I had a huge list of his appealing qualities that I would just keep reiterating, and I would get so bored with?' I would just keep reading, check the length of the pages, order a wine. Naturally, has to turn to insults, got to end with the insults. It was fun, because the idea just came whole, and sometimes you're just stuck writing joke after joke after joke. When you start writing something like that, you think, 'What's it for? Where? What's the circumstance?' You just start from there. Obviously, set the scene in your head, imagine yourself there. Try to write a minute on it, and then try it in front of a friend. I've written the idea, I was surprised because I thought, 'I got a page and a half out of this.' I go down to rehearse it, and they think I'm rehearsing, 'Oh there's where the podium is, there's the mic, is the sound right?' I'm tricking them because I'm actually rehearsing the piece to hear if they laugh, even just the stagehands, the people standing around, I'm listening and you learn - 'Oh, that joke was questionable, I could just easily lose that, I didn't hear anything.' You're kind of checking it out, looking around, feeling even the crew's response. There is a way to check your material before you go on. Your mind is clicking in and going, 'Hey that seemed to either have a good effect or not have a bad effect - maybe I can exploit that.' I just go up to my wife if I have a thought and say, 'You think this is funny?' I'll call Marty Short. If I'm at that point where I said, 'Do you think this is funny?' that means it could go either way. You need an audience to interpret it. If I try something on my wife, on a friend, they think I'm being casual. I'm actually looking at every expression on their face to see if it was working or not."

Mia S.

"Usually when I write jokes now, it's for a situation. I have kind of an accumulated file of stuff that I can go to. One of my favorite bits - I can only use it once in awhile - at the Kennedy Center, 'It would be easy for me to stand up here for the next few minutes, talk about Paul Simon's consummate skill as a songwriter and musician, but this seems to be neither the time nor place.' Then I had another joke I liked, there was this TV show, the American Comedy Awards - there is not American Comedy Awards, it's something a producer made up, so we can put on a show and get paid and everybody work s for free. I thought, 'I should be really funny.' My opening joke was, 'When they called me to tell me I had won the prize, I just walked around for weeks just trying to care.' I realized, as much as I really like that joke, you can't really use it in other situations - other awards are actually kind of high class, you can't really criticize the award you're getting. I can kind of piecemeal things together, which I do - I find old things. 'I have so many people to thank for this... [inaudible mumbling]' So I'm doing a parody of thanking people. Of course, at the end of it, 'I want to thank He who is above us all, and for the money.' I thought it worked really well. Then I thought, 'I'll use it again at this other thing.' Mm, just okay. Might've been, well, they were at tables' - nothing worse than performing for people at round tables, eating. Then half of them have their back to you."