Music & Entertainment

Editing (cont'd)

Steve Martin

Lesson time 15:25 min

With particular emphasis on the life of a written piece once it's in the hands of actors and directors, Steve continues discussing his editing practices. He then puts his critical eye into action to analyze Beth's sketch.

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In movies lines aren't as precious because, you know, often, in order to make it feel real, the line is not so written. It's much more conversational. Sometimes you get a great line and you want to keep it that way, but a lot of times I would look over best lines from the movies of 2008 and you'd look down the list and it would be, "Let's get out of here!", you know, and they're really talking about the moment in the movie, not the line. You only test dialogue by running it with the actors, and I remember a scene in a movie I did, which I wrote, called Simples Twist of Fate-- it was not a big hit or anything-- and I had a scene that was between two characters, I wasn't in it, and I was having trouble making the links-- I needed to get like three points made in this scene, which is always trouble, and I thought, OK, here's point one, here's point two. It's not it's not flowing great but also, on the other hand, I'm thinking this is the way people talk. They kind of jump around a little bit, they change the subject. So I made an excuse and said, OK, that will be fine, and they went off to shoot the scene-- I wasn't there-- and when it came back it had been changed, more correctly, by the actors because they were having trouble leaping from one thought to the next as actors, and it worked out fine, but I find if an actor's having trouble, I'm suspicious of the line. I always investigate the line. If they can't remember it for some reason it means maybe it's not following correctly. So, I really just listen to the flow of the conversation and also the actor's trouble could indicate a problem with the line. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hey, let's take a look at this sketch that Beth wrote that I found very funny and it's really good. It's about some very smug people having a creepy upper-class memory and I'm looking at it and I'm going well, OK, it's five pages, and I did feel that maybe there's like one beat too many that, you know, you get the idea. Now you're just reiterating the idea, but anyway, this is Remember the Titanic. They're sitting on a lawn, what a lovely breeze, Isabela says, "Hey, that reminds me of the time we took that trip on that ocean liner. What was that called? Oh yes, the RMS Titanic. What a what a fine trip that was." "Oh, yes, the Titanic. That was the spring of 1945. Do I remember that correctly?" "Oh, yes, remember Evelyn? That's the year you started wearing those lovely long necklaces." "Oh, yes, but remember how they were always getting caught on the soup ladles in the parlor? What a disaster." "But ladies, let's not forget-- that trip wasn't all fun and games." "Oh, yes, you and Evelyn got into that lover's spat." "I got so mad I threw a half full cup of tea at you." "Yes, but luckily something caused the ship to jerk sharply and you missed, throwing the cup overboard." "Oh, thank heavens I didn't hurt you." Sorry, I'm not doing justice to you...

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.

Compile your thoughts, get them down, edit, edit, edit, test, edit some more. Keep notes on things that are funny and work them into bits.

Thank you, Mr. Martin, for your years of comedy and storytelling. Not only do I feel I know comedy better, but I know you and myself better now. Peace, Namasté, Munay, and all That Jazz, Brandt

The Process. I very much appreciate Steve Martin taking the time and putting forth the energy to share his insights in this class. Thank you.

I've been a commercial photographer for 25 years and grew up LMAO to Steve Martin, wearing the grooves out of my "Let's Get Small" album. I wanted to see what he had to say and found just about everything he said about comedy and writing applying directly to what I do as a photographer. Incredibly valuable advice told with heart. Thank you Steve Martin!!!


Jesse P.

The trick leg line could come before the boat race to introduce the concept and cut out the back and forth of questions even more. loved the story though.

Tori O.

Great script and analysis, but that ending, Steve...hysterical. You're the man!!

Chris W.

I love that Steve Martin will criticize. I’ve seen this convention of an instructor sitting with prospects, and all the others seem unwilling to give a hard negative. You can’t learn from somebody who won’t tell it how it is. I’d rather have people be merciless and help me then worry about my ego.

David M.

I'm not qualified to critique Beth's Titantic sketch but I will say I really like it!

Kevin M.

I think it would be funny if beth added a line like , "I'll send my sister an invitation but don't be surprised if she gives us the cold shoulder"

Margaret M.

With Beth's piece, the point is that wealthy, upper-class people are oblivious to the life-and-death concerns of less well off people--but there's no "aha" that connects it to contemporary concerns. I think the piece would work well as a two-layered family history thing. Wealthy contemporary people are talking obliviously about health care and immigration, say, and then the ancestral portraits on the walls come alive (like the posters did in that SNL sketch with Pete Davidson) to discuss the Titanic in the same terms.

Michael O.

Making hay out of great misfortune can bomb quickly. Beth's scene engaged as original in a black humor vein. And it was genuinely funny. Not sure I tracked Steve's specific edits. I have edited and rearranged in the manner he prescribes, much to the benefit of many a project.

Colleen D.

It was fun reading those famous lines. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to create something that could be as memorable as those on the list? We just need to keep creating and who knows? This class has been great! I've learned so much from Steve and of all the time with students I do feel I got the most from this last one with Beth. Thanks, Steve!

A fellow student

The word Titanic in Beth's scene should go to the very end and no mention it before. That's the final punch line.

Mia S.

"It's so great to be able to take a piece - you've written it carefully and long, you've - what I call 'exploiting the idea.' Then go, 'OK - now wouldn't this line really be responsive to this sentence rather than all this stuff in-between? It can really make your day, watching it and going - Oh, those three lines that were just OK are gone. 'Oh you have a great sense of humor.' No, the audience does. They're the ones who are determining this and everything you do as a performer, entertainer, and even artist is about response. There's a kind of cliche, 'I'm just going to write this for myself!' Really? Why? Because eventually somebody's going to read it or watch it or listen to it, and it's going to be absorbed and interpreted. Don't ever kid yourself to think, 'This is just for me.' A joke isn't real unless there's an audience. Listen to the audience, the audience is your editor. You hardly even have to think. You test a comedy movie, you need to test a movie just to see if laughs, or if the audience understands what's happening. 'The so-and-so scene is too long.' Oh, they don't like that scene. It's just information that is constantly coming at you; you are constantly being fed information of how to edit. The great thing about comedy is there's this actual test: laughter."