Arts & Entertainment


Steve Martin

Lesson time 12:10 min

Steve believes that editing is one of a comedian's most powerful tools. In these lessons, he breaks down his own editing processes and illustrates how it can turn something good into something great.

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

Topics include: Speed Through the First Draft • Read to Your Dog • Ditch the Fancy Words • Step Away for Objectivity • Spare the Audience Predictable Scenes • Don’t Cut Out the Heart • Leave in Refrigerator Laughs • Source Feedback One Person at a Time • Find an Experienced Editor


Editing is one of your most powerful tools to success. Changing, subtlety reorganizing, taking out, its thrilling! I don't think you want to start editing right away, although sometimes internal editing helps you-- like if you're writing a paragraph-- helps you get to the next breath and you go, oh my god, this whole half of this paragraph really needs to be up here, and you're helping establish the flow of it, so sometimes I do edit. But if you're writing an opus, you just want to keep writing and don't let your critical mind come in too soon. I always speed through a first draft. And the reason I speed through it is I just want to get the whole thing. The whole picture. Because I know that this is going to undergo 50 edits, 50 drafts. And I just like to have the overall thing because I can start changing things internally. Like I say, I can't think of all the little notations and tweaks that I'm going to understand about it later. For me, I'm creating something to help me understand what it's about. And then you start to look and say, OK, I see the shape this is taking, so that means that this scene is extraneous, and this scene actually is more important than I thought. [MUSIC PLAYING] I find a great thing that helps me in writing prose, especially fictional prose, is reading it aloud. To yourself. I always-- I'll just admit it-- I actually would read it to my dog. And you can hear things that you don't pick up by reading. You can hear the flow of that sentence, you can feel if something's stopping the reader. And when I'm listening to myself as a comedian or watching a movie that I'm in, I always listen to where it slows down. I always think, it's slow-- you can smell it where it's slowing down, and you can smell it as a reader reading your own work, especially if you're reading it aloud. You go, am I interested in this? [MUSIC PLAYING] When someone writes effortlessly, it's the greatest thing in the world. And I have so many friends who-- I have a lot of friends in the art world-- and we kind of make fun of art prose that is gobbledygook. That uses words that you're trying to understand what the meaning is, it just sounds so smarty pants and no information is transmitted. No emotion is transmitted. It's all intellectual information, and the real good art writers I know, like Peter Schjeldahl, Deborah Solomon, Adam Gopnik, they're very clear. They make it fun to read. It's emotional. There's no fancy words unless they're necessary, and I just prefer that style of writing. And I believe that style of writing can be simultaneously very smart and very accessible. And I would say that's what you shoot for. That's what you shoot for in comedy, a kind of clarity, but with a twist. [MUSIC PLAYING] I feel that time helps you understand what's relevant and what's irrelevant or what can be better. You write it, you read it, yo...

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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