Arts & Entertainment

Crafting Your Act

Steve Martin

Lesson time 16:28 min

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

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

Topics include: Use Everything You’ve Got • Precision Creates Movement • Use Every Moment • Create Unity with Callbacks • Give Your Act Meaning • Don’t Overstate Your Message • Try New Material Incrementally • Go With Your Best


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...

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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