Music & 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
In 25 video lessons, Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.
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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.

I was able to use a lot of the subjects / discussion in my comedy troupe. I tended to share a lot of what Steve shared to make my troupe, and my own comedy better. Hey I even tried stand-up for the first time....thankfully it was successful.

I have done comedy on and off for a number of years, mostly as a juggler. Even though I thought I knew a fair amount about joke-writing, timing, and performing, this class was Gold! I can't wait to go though it again. If this is the level of other masterclasses, I will undoubtedly be purchasing another one.

I loved it!!! I´m no comedian but I learned tons!! :)

I have come away feeling deeply inspired to continue pursuing comedic writing and performance, and look forward to my next opportunity to refine my craft.


A fellow student

Fantastic MasterClass So much gold here ! As a professional Magician this master class applies to any performance Thank you Steve

A fellow student

Thank you so much Steve .. this was such a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing one’s true spirit and passions ... developing and perfecting one’s craft is an embodiment of self ... never giving up and excepting nothing but excellence..

Kassi K.

As a millennial-who-went-to-art-school-so-now-cannot-afford-health-insurance-to-be-properly-diagnoised-with-dyslexia-so-naturally-im-self-diagnoised-so-why-pay-for-validation the "Intelli gint" joke is gold.


Age brings experience that turns into wisdom. Then, you too can be like EE Cummings and mess with other peoples minds so very brilliantly. I hope you’re not doing any mind f*-kery in this series of lessons, because I probably would’ve be able to handle it. Good class.

Nadine J.

I'm enjoying this class so much. My biggest takeaway from Lesson 8 was the part near the end, with Steve Martin's story of the time he was going on the David Letterman show to accompany Earl Scruggs on the banjo. Steve and some of the other musicians figured Earl wouldn't want to play his own most wildly popular song, Foggy Mountain, figuring he might have over-played it, so to speak (my words not his) so they suggested a bunch of other songs before the show. But Earl said, apparently with a southern drawl, if Steve's impersonation is correct, "I always should go with yer best." In other words, play the song the people want to hear, when you're on stage in front of the people. But for most of us starting out, in whatever industry (for example in my case, writing), I'd like to add that it's impossible to know what is "best" until you test it out on an audience. So at first, you kind of have to "go with your all." It would be the same in comedy, I imagine. You're going to have to verbally "publish" a lot of "bad" jokes alongside the "good" ones; i.e. jokes that either fall flat or that people aren't going to "get." But that's the only way you can see what *does* get the laughs, or the claps, or the likes – and finding that out is the key, I suppose, to knowing what is going to get the appreciation, in the form of success, including ticket sales. I wrote about a gazillion words, before having the guts to publish some of my writing online. Then, when I finally started "testing" it, I got really surprised by what jived with the people out there. What jived was either 1) pieces I spent a long time working into a concise, highly readable format — i.e. instructional/informational pieces about writing, or 2) completely off the cuff pieces I wrote in the space of about 5 minutes. Anything else has taken a very particular person to "like" it and be able to respond to it right away. Doesn't mean unpopular work doesn't still have value, to a few copacetic people out there who intrinsically understand or appreciate what you're trying to do or show. It's like younger Steve Martin's joke, in one of the flashbacks of this lesson, about the ethics of yelling "movie" in a crowded firehouse: people may need to hear that line a few times for it to sink in. A bunch of us are just smiling bemusedly in the moment, thinking to ourselves 'WTF... this guy's so funny but I don't really know why. It must be because he's so "intelli-ghent" or "innutheinnullectualkinnu." Anyhoo. All in all, this course is more helpful to me than some of the writing classes I've taken. As well as far more of the ones I haven't taken.

Michael O.

Discovered this while researching drones, may be interest.


How do you grok and or figure out your Gestalt? Am I safe to say, in other words, how do you channel your inner Jung? Timing x Precision = efficacy Smoothness = Speed ( Not that kind of speed ) Gestalt in motion is synergy. It's like the cat clawing the furniture and igniting grandmas coffee cup of 90 prof via a static spark. BowFinger Tension: Robin Williams on German Comedy Knock, know, We ask the questions!

A fellow student

I can't imagine doing stand up comedy. To have the instruction from a master is really cool.

Marilyn R.

i am anything but funny so becoming a comedian is only natural I just recorded my first stand up and it lasted an incredibly amazing 2 minute experience, i don't know anything else thats more painful to experience for that long amount of time. but really it's just embarrassing. cheers to growth

A fellow student

Hey Steve !!!!! are you out there cause I am watching you. No the master class I am following you !!! On Facebook!!! and Twitter ..... Well and I am ringing your doorbell and you are not home. Oh well at least I think this is your house, I have tried three houses already according to the guidebook this is your house ;). Just kidding, you really are an inspiration as a comedian. I love all of your techniques never knew funny can be so scientific. You never use bad words or crazy themes and I can really respect that because you are still hilarious. I once had the privilege and honor to hang out with Robin Williams onset for a couple of hours. He was the funniest person I ever met and I walked away with much better abs then when I first had met him. He really taught me that comedy in conversation in business or family is helpful and better than diplomacy or politics. It wasn't until I met another friend Andres who's father was a doctor in a third world country that I really had an epiphany. He told me a story how his father arrived at a bus accident where people were dying from their injuries and were succumbing to death because of the shock and severity of injuries. His father upon arriving on the scene began to make people laugh which kept them from going into shock and saved a-lot of people. His story made me realize that laughter is no laughing matter is life and death, and comedy is survival.