Arts & Entertainment

Jokes and Bits

Steve Martin

Lesson time 15:43 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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Topics include: Make Yourself the Subject • Establish Expectations, Then Twist Them • Add Some Irony • Think Beyond Punchlines • Develop a Bit From One Idea • Use Old Jokes in New Contexts • Go On and On and On...and On


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...

About the Instructor

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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Steve Martin

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

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