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Arts & Entertainment

Crafting Your Act

Steve Martin

Lesson time 16:29 min

So you've got some jokes - now what? Steve reveals how you can turn your material into a stageworthy act.

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


One book kind of influenced me. It was called Showmanship for Magicians. I was about 15 when I read it, and it was written by a professional who, actually his bio says he quit magic in disgust. But in that, he broke a show down to all the elements that you can use. You have the verbal. You have the visual. And he looked at opera. And he says opera uses costumes. It uses lights. It uses sets. It uses music. Why don't you use it all? Use everything you can. Now, sometimes that's impractical. But what it really means is use every part of your personality that you can. If you want to stand there and tell jokes, that's a style, but you're not really exploiting everything you've got. Maybe your jokes are so powerful that that's the best delivery. Could be. But remember you have physicality, and physicality doesn't have to be this. But even when you're not doing anything, you're physicalizing it. So just think, how can I utilize that to an advantage or to an artistic advantage? When I started really getting into my stand-up, I realized I could visualize the words. Now this really applied to what I was doing because I was very physical. So if I talked and went like this, I could actually express a word with my hands. And as I actually wrote in my book, I said sometimes I realized it wasn't the line that was getting the laugh. It was the gestalt. It was everything all at once that was working. And all these things pulling together becomes precise, where there's nothing left unanswered, nothing left undealt with. Right now, I love being concise. I really like, like I say, having that material to land on, being clean, being clear. When I say clean, I don't mean not dirty. I mean clean, clean lines, clean everything. And I like the precision. There's a quote that I read when I was in college by ee Cummings, and he was talking about being a poet. And he said, people ask me why I'm a poet. And I said, like the vaudeville comedian, I enjoy that precision that creates movement. I looked at it, and I read it, and thought, what does that mean? What does that mean, precision creating movement? And then 25 years later, I started to understand it. That the more precise you are, the less air, the less moments where nothing is happening, precision leads you inexorably to the next moment, and eventually your going moment to moment to moment and you're creating movement for the audience. The thing that gets you precise is performance experience. And suddenly you're not thinking, oh, what comes next? Which can be done if it's done as part of your performance. So, those are always asides. I just want you to know, always asides. They're always exceptions. But basically, the experience, and you start saying that line, and now you've said that line 100 times and subtly it's becoming precise, where the c...

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.

For so many years others have commented that I notice everything and I think too much. Well maybe not. Maybe I was just paying attention.

Already, I've made a few bits for my stand up that I could compile for an act. Looking forward to more Comedy related classes.

It makes me very happy! It’s the best compliment I can give.

Great insights! He names some really important things and brings them out. I feel like I have more to offer and how to craft it. His encouragement towards the end really offers hope. Don't be afraid to bomb (especially if you can learn from it). Just go for it!


Brian H.

I’ve always loved classic silent movie comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and the too often overlooked Harry Langdon. Their physical comedy could be outrageously over-the-top. Comedians would compete to invent the most elaborate and improbable falls. But one of my favorite physical bits was Oliver Hardy’s slow burn. Stan Laurel would do or say something crazy, and Ollie would slowly turn and seethe directly into the camera. Magic!

A fellow student

I really enjoyed his approach to preparing so well that it seems like improv or raffing. Physical comedy can be small and, of course it can be big and physical. Sometimes the pause is the comedy and not in what is said.

A fellow student

Slowly builds up for your act to become good. Really like the line go with your best

A fellow student

I love how in depth he goes into really organizing your own personal show. It's like from beginning to end I got points to implement for a whole half hour show.

A fellow student

Steve martin is a student and scholar of comedy. The contrast of his language and wild physicality creates a special mix of magic and precision.

Joey M.

The discussion point about precision including where the vowels/consonants fall and understanding when to pause relative to noises in the crowd got me thinking: If I'm trying to apply the concept of deliberate practice to a joke, I could pick apart a joke's component parts and analyze their precision separately, not worrying about the parts I have nailed. For instance, working specifically on the pacing/pauses of a joke, not worrying about others. The question that arises there is "what are all the dimensions of a joke that a comedian can isolate and practice"? Beyond the primary ones such as getting the words right, not stumbling, pacing, pauses etc, what are the more subtle dimensions that if perfected take a joke from good to great? I'm thinking of things such as the pitch of one's voice at the end of sentence. Interested to hear others' thoughts on secondary, more subtle aspects of a joke that can be practiced.

Susan T.

Going slow, digesting, but one of the first things that Mr. Martin talked about has stuck with me to the point I can do an entire routine right now. Look at whats going on around you. I am paying a great deal of attention to what is going on around me and I have found some elements of humor which is a blessing right now. If I only had the nerve. I think there's a class on that coming up!

Diana S.

Wow! fascinating lectures explaining the effort that goes on behind the delivery that appears effortless. Great banjo and graphics in the introductions. So many excellent lessons for life. Thank you.

Finn Y.

Beautiful concepts & principles. Comedy can be applied to many fields (e.g Medicine, Marketing, Writing, Politics and more). Anything that requires communication can benefit from humour :)

Paul K.

Much of this can be used for dramatic screenplay writing: Precision creates movement. Use your best stuff. Use every moment. Be ahead of the audience and more. Be about something. Steve even mentions script writing. Very inspiring.