Music & 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.

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.


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

I loved that quote about standing in front of an audience, "The ego's last stand."

I really enjoyed Steve Martin master class. I found him to be very intelligent. I picked up a lot of tips from him. Like not to be comparing yourself to other comedians. Sometimes we are ahead of people and sometimes we are behind.

The best part for me was observing Steve's stand-up. I never saw his stand-up before but only movies and listened to his audio book. The Vegas show was fun but not the same as his old stand-up. I think reviewing others will help me find a style. Notes from class will help me. The writing tips for books or plays or whatever were great also.

Steve Martin is so funny and I think he's a really great comedian. His class was amazing because it was so fun and I found it so easy to listen to him. I really enjoyed learning tips and getting advice on how I can become a comedian myself oneday.


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:)


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.


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