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Arts & Entertainment

Gathering Material

Steve Martin

Lesson time 11:23 min

Inspiration is all around you if you know where to look. Steve teaches you how to keep your eyes open and reveals some of the most abundant sources of comedic material.

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


Become informed. Become intelligent. Learn about things. Every time you learn about something, it's a new subject. And you get a greater vocabulary by learning about things. When I was in high school, I was an OK student, you know, C. When I went to college, I upped it because I got suddenly interested. But I went to this high school guidance counselor and he was the first person who ever said to me, he said, you have interest in performing. And I went, oh, you mean you're actually taking that seriously? He said, you should learn about history. Because-- And I went, that makes sense. You know, to learn the facts about the past and I'd have more subject matter. And so the more you learn about things, the greater intellectual vocabulary and hence comedic vocabulary I think you're going to have in today's world. Because you never know what's going to inspire you. I had a friend, I learned so much from this. It's Charles Grodin and, you know, I've always been-- like you go to a cocktail party or on a movie set and two people get into a fight and I would always be the one, like, how do we stop this? How do we stop this? And Charles Grodin said, oh, when two people get in a fight I just sit back and watch. I thought, what a great idea, you know? Instead of trying to fix it, watch it. Because that's real human interaction. Why abort it? Don't abort your ideas when you're on to something or when there's trouble, let it happen. See what happens. You'd be surprised. If you witness an argument and now you know the shape of an argument in your head. Sometime it's going to come back out. When you're doing your two person bit on stage where you're playing two characters, you've seen the shape of that argument and the volatility of it or the subtlety of it. And you're just constantly gathering information whether you like it or not. You have to think, what's it good for? What circumstance is it good for? Is it good for stand up or is it good for saying at a party or at a dinner table? And it also works backwards. If you say something funny at a dinner table, as a working comedian you have to go, hum, usable? Nora Ephron had a saying that was told to her by her mother who was a journalist and Nora Ephron was more than a journalist, but also a journalist. And her mother said, everything is copy. Which means everything you see, hear, experience is usable. Remember, you are a thought machine. You have a thousand, a million thoughts a day. Just learn to observe them a little bit. And say, oh, is that an idea I could use? A million things happen to you every day. And every one of those things that is a possibility is extremely valuable. To lose something because you didn't make a note or didn't write it down, it's tragedy for a performer. I have a friend in Texas. My friend Tony. And he hir...

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.

Formidable ! Thanks a lot ! You've inspired me!

I think Steve is wonderful, not sure if I can use all of his insights for my comedy series but I think it's great if you're starting up as a standup comedian!

Steve is my favorite comedian... hearing his stories and advice was in itself wonderful for me. As a writer, his style and attitude gave me ideas on approach and exposition of materials... it was great.

I love this class, and I intend to go through it again. I love to explore more of it. Steve Martin is kind of genius in his way, and very subtle in his performance. I do not have suggestion about this class, everything is perfect and ready for me to be explored.


Barbara D.

Is this the virtual base jumping Masterclass? I'm ready. I got my wing suit on. Let's jump.

Stuart G.

Stu Gerathy, Grafton, New South Wales, Australia, "You are here, how does the sign know" Brilliant, I love it, timing is everything. That other great Irish Comedian Dave Allan was puzzled by such interesting anomalies. Such as a door in a building that says, do not exit or come in through this door.

Linda H.

I'm definitely an introvert. So this lesson is inspiring me to observe. I feel inclined to pay more attention to things around me. Find more humor outside myself.

Clare H.

Steve this is super inspiring. Scares the living sh** out of me to do a stand up show but would love to do one. Maybe its time to take the leap of faith...

Leaf S.

Ok, Steve, do you actually read these things? Are you out there observing these posts?

Leaf S.

Loved it. My interest, really, is simply in how Steve operates. I'm now an old, retired guy with family history of loving Steve's work. Been to his concerts twice, seen him with Martin Short, bought his music, watched his pictures. Just a plain old fan. And having this glimpse of a person I love and respect is a real delight.


This would be a great lesson to share with my kid. They aren't interested in comedy, but that doesn't matter. Quite a lot of valuable wisdom here.

A fellow student

Very nice, at the same time hes giving life lessons you would say. Comedy like acting deals alot with observation

john B.

Loved this lesson. Steve has always been one of the funniest men alive. And I respect the fact that he has a degree in Philosophy. Few people know that he's smarter than he looks.

David B.

Steve is a great success in the brick and mortar world, and urges new comedians to go to where the people are...which, to him, means LA, New York, Chicago. Brick and mortar places. But increasingly, especially because of the coronavirus, eyeballs, and earballs, are in social media. Facebook, Twitter, and so on. As such, I would add a corollary to Steve's suggestion, and say that it is important, now more than ever, that your being there, is in the virtual worlds, where pandemics and climate change might be less disruptive. Moreover, it reinforces Steve's idea that comedy is a good way for introverts to be social. Social media has always been a way for introverts to be social.