From Steve Martin's MasterClass

Jokes and Bits

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.

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

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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.

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

Steve Martin

Teaches Comedy

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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. [LAUGHTER] 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-- [LAUGHTER] 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.

Loved every second of it. Engaging and thought provoking. Inspired me to do my first public reading. Did not realize it was to any audience of Drag Queens. No wonder I felt so under dressed. Did another reading to a group of friends. The Drag Queens were nicer to me. Thank you Mr. Martin for sharing your perspective with us - it was a gift.

That's a good question, and one I intend to answer.

Much food for thought and tons of inspiration. As a novelist/writer this helps a lot!

Steve's approach to comedy is something I find so very interesting. It's opened up many ideas I would never have thought about.

Comments

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:)

ALICIA S.

Revisit... Revisited... Not funny, funny now. That’s smart advice, if I remember it. I could remember it. Yeah, it easy. Loved the clip

Vickie R.

Even thought I was a cheerleader back in my once all boy Catholic school, I somehow found my photo in the photography club at Chaminade Prep here in the Valley? But I was NEVER a member of the photog club or any other club for that matter. So our new yearbooks came out and I see this strange photo of me surrounded by all these really great photogs . Some of the school's best. And for some reason instead of at least using my REAL name they called me "Jame Speakerwire?" Till this day I do NOT KNOW HOW on earth they came with that crazy name. ANd no one would ever tell me. Strangest thing ever and I know they must have photo shopped me to get me into that photo. Most of my story inspirations come from my real everyday life, my friends, family, cats and dog named Cogniac and cat named BEA after Beatrice of England, Prince Andrew's pretty daughter. Only BEA my beloved black and white female cat has this unfortunate MUSTACHE that looks like a Hitler mustache? How funny is that? ANd she even knows how to salute her right paw in a HEIL HITLER salute? Think BEA was a trained animal actor actually. Going to start an instagram account of Cogniac and BEA and then start doing my cartooning of the two since I originally started out my career as a cartoonist.

Mihaela C.

I'm really appreciating this masterclass so far. I was never a fan of jokes that dint make sense because I just thought that the comedian was not funny, seen from this new perspective tho, I feel I have acquired a certain appreciation for this humor.

KONRAD R.

Interesting in that when he says it was all about him, he was the message and this is the message or related to Thich Nat Hans say, you are the message! As they say in sales, people buy you and not the product or service, necessarily. Imagine , Quizi Motto selling master pieces at Christys, wouldn't that be a riot? It the back, starting at One million dollars ( Pinky to lip, Dr.Evil lost stair ) You are the vestal from which the wine leeks! Irony being soft, try that logic in down town Boston! Further, the bit about the balloon trick. It brings up the line from Napoleon, there is a fine line between the ridicules and sublime. I would like to add in, there is a fine line between stupid and ridiculous. Is it true what Cervantes said, that often the wisest in the room is the clown? Pretty abstract and interesting! Mr. Martins bit on tension, isn't he really talking about catharsis, and doesn't this bring up Napoleons saying that he cries for man to keep from crying for him and the Charlie Chaplin's saying that life up close is a tragedy and from a far a comedy? Isn't life a weird mean between Agony and ecstasy ? “The cleverest character in comedy is the clown, for he who would make people take him for a fool, must not be one.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Tyler S.

That scene from "the Jerk" got me crackin up good. That is definitely a Masterclass in how to go on and on and on.

A fellow student

Great class. I learned about keeping old jokes. When i wrote my first play i created a character as a comedian and he used my old jokes.

tahiya M.

This class is worth the price of the entire subscription. This is real insight, teaching, making people understand. There is a great difference between someone who just knows something and someone who can teach what they know. It's rare.

A fellow student

Go on and on and on... reminds me of what a great teacher told me in improv class. DOUBLE DOWN! It seems we really have to convince ourselves more than anyone, eventually the smart ones will catch up!

Annie L.

Am I the only one who had to look up "pontificate"? Maybe that's why his pope joke didn't work. Or maybe I'm just dum.