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Arts & Entertainment

Jokes and Bits

Steve Martin

Lesson time 15:42 min

There are a million ways to get someone to laugh. Steve refutes the myth that you need a punchline to be funny and analyzes a number of joke structures that you can use to keep them in stitches.

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Steve Martin
Teaches Comedy
Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.
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I remember when I first started out, I thought, all right, typical joke goes something like-- this guy goes into a bar. That's what they would do, like, in Vegas or something, or say, I saw some people come in here, and they blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I thought, I'm going to turn that around. It's not going to be about anybody else but me. I'm going to say, you know, I walked into a bar the other day. And that little trick started to create a character for me, because it was always about myself. And it was not-- I was not a vessel that was transmitting comedy material about other people. I became a character that had a life and personality. I still remember one of the first jokes I ever wrote for my modern-day act in the '60s or '70s. And my cat was walking across the floor. And the joke was-- ultimately became this. Oh, this is an interesting thing. I gave my cat a bath the other day. I'd always heard you weren't supposed to give cats baths. But my cat came home, and he was really dirty. And I decided to give him a bath. And it was great. If you have a cat, don't worry about it. They love it. He sat there. He enjoyed it. It was fun for me. And the fur would stick to my tongue, but other than that, it was a great-- Mitch Hedberg had a line always makes me laugh. He said, I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to do them, too. And it was-- just had this great twist on it. Both those jokes rely on a kind of misuse of language, or the premise that we already know what you're talking about. When he said, "I used to do drugs," we know exactly what he meant. He used to and he stopped. That's what it means. And then when he completes it, "Well, I still do," you realize, oh, I didn't realize that that sentence can also not mean he stopped. And the line about-- which is not a great joke-- I'm not trying to say it's a great joke about giving my cat a bath. The image that comes in is with the cat in the sink, with soap, and with water. And that image just completely broken by the image of me licking the cat. I'm into language. That's kind of my thing, I guess. You know, being a professional comedian, you have to have a knowledge of language. And that's-- let's face it. Some people have a way with words. Other people-- oh, not have way, I guess. There was a-- oh, yeah, I was going to sit down and play something. I said, I don't really write protest songs. But I've admired the careers of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. And so when this song came to me, I thought, this must be from the heart. It's called, "Let's Keep the Minimum Wage Right Where She's At." Now, I'm not saying that's the funniest joke in the world. But just that little slight twist, that little unexpected thing-- it could be just a look. It could be your own facial response to the line you ju...


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.



Reviews

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

This was an incredible treat! I absolutely loved both the stories and the practical applications. It really spurred so many ideas!

Steve is very to the point. His tips are valuable and you can use them right away. I'm about to write a webseries, so he makes me wanna stop watching the class and go and write. That's probably the most valuable. Thanks to you and him !

This help me feel better about my fears of doing stand up. Just knowing that more about going through the motions and that it's ok to not be perfect.

I received some really invaluable pointers on structuring your act, giving it meaning and using the whole body as a tool to serve performance, not just the lines!


Comments

Brian H.

Why do some things strike us as funny? My wife and I were talking about going to the grocery store, and we have several options in the local area, so I asked where she wanted to go. She meant to say Whole Foods, but it came out, “Whole Wheat!” It looks stupid when you read it, but the two of us laughed for five minutes straight, until we hurt from laughing, and even when we had mostly recovered, it took very little after that to set the laughs off again.

Hunter Z.

Steve is a great comedian. But I don't now, I just don't find his jokes funny

A fellow student

Never would of thought that making jokes out of balloon animals would be funny. Particulary dont find that hilarious, but as he said there are many ways to create laughter. Comedy is a diverse art form

KEVIN C.

Most people are shocked when they find out how bad of an electrician I am. Also I am absolutely loving the class. Need to buy one of those purple jackets to step mine up ;)

Marie M.

When i tried to give five stars to Steves masterclass, the screen broke off after two.... so let me tell you: i loved the class, it deserves all stars one can give and i will see it several times more from the beginning to the end. Thank you for loads of inspiring input!

A fellow student

❤️💩💩💩🕹🖲📲📈📱📊🖨📊🖲📅📼⌚️📈🕹😀😅😇😍😋🤗😏😕🙁😒🤓😜😘🙂😂😃🤣🙃😝😗😎😞☹️😣😔🤡😛😙😉☺️😁😆😌😊😚🉑📳㊗️👨‍👦👩‍👦👨‍👨‍👦👕👘👙👑⛑👟👔🎒👛👧🏻 👙 👖

A fellow student

If you want to see some of Steve's early bits you should check out the Muppet Show where he's featured. He does the balloon bit as well here but due to the format of the Muppet Show you can really the study the bits separately. Fun fact: that laughter in that episode isn't a laugh track but it's the laughter of the Muppets crew for whom he was performing. I really like the advice about omitting the punchline. It can bring an interesting spin on your act. You can also switch between bits with and without punchlines to play with your audience even more.

Dan S.

In college some kids enjoyed air guitar, our group did air comedy to Steve Martin, good times!

Ian C.

Love it Steve! Thanks. :) "Establish expectations - then twist them." I love comedy and magic because they have much in common - the punch line and reveal come from a different perspective (angle/expectation/etc) from the expected one. I seriously enjoy being twisted! False conclusions and irony - great tip. I can't remember who, but someone said that irony can be so ironic and for some reason I love that. Keep 'em coming Steve!

Matthew P.

One of the PDFs for this lesson discussed the various structures of jokes, and I found that very informative. Very good advice here. Plus that balloon routine made me LMAO:)