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Music & Entertainment

Getting Started in Comedy

Steve Martin

Lesson time 9:31 min

No talent? No problem. Steve shares some ways that anyone can jumpstart their comedic journey. He didn't let a lack of talent slow him down and thinks you shouldn't either.

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

You may think I don't have any talent. I guarantee you I had no talent. None. I couldn't sing, I couldn't dance, I couldn't act. I didn't know how to think of jokes or tell jokes or do anything. I just started doing it because I liked it. And I can remember, I accidentally got a job writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I know that sounds crazy. But I was just a student doing my little comedy act, and I'd written some creative writing nonsense stories. And I submitted them through a friend, and I got hired. And I remember-- because they wanted young people. That was the mantra, you know. Never trust anyone over 30. So they wanted young writers, and I just got lucky. Lucky. And I remember the first day. You know, Mason Williams, the head writer, came over and he was looking at something. He said, OK, now here. Here's your punch line, and I'll just get you to circle it. And then, you draw this line over here, and you just put it at the end. Oh, so that punch line goes at the end. All right. Got it. So don't be intimidated starting with nothing. In fact, if you start with nothing, the work-around can lead you to originality. So the fact that I didn't dance didn't stop me, because I could fake dancing. I could fake dancing and make it funny. And I could fake singing and make it funny. If I had been a real singer or a real dancer, I'd be a real singer or a real dancer. Now, I realize a lot of you people are sitting out there, saying to yourselves, Steve, how can you be so fucking funny? [VIDEO PLAYBACK] There's a gimmick. There's a gimmick to it. I'm being honest with you, there's a gimmick. Before I come on stage, I put a slice of Bologna in each one of my shoes. So when I'm on stage, I feel funny. You know what I mean? People come to me and they say, Steve, is there some way I could be funny, too? [END PLAYBACK] I was thinking, what are the qualities that qualify someone for show business? And I thought, one of them was, when I was starting out-- when you see someone on stage or you see a show, do you think, I wish I was up there? Or if you're a writer and you watch a movie, and you say, I could have written that. That's one thing. Another thing is, are you an introvert? Because many comedians I've talked to, with exceptions-- Martin Short, certainly-- start out as introverts, and this is a way to become something onstage and to get attention. And it just means that there's this well of subconscious that you're suppressing, because you're shy. But on stage, you get to bring that out. What is it? That's the big challenge. What is that mysterious well inside you that you can let out? A friend of mine wrote me, that I went to high school with. He said, I want to be a comedy writer. And I said, well....


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.



Reviews

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

Steve Martin is thoughtful and inspiring. He shares his insights in a deeply humble and encouraging manner. I believe he genuinely wants his students to take the lessons he offers, use them, and do well. There is room for everyone willing to put in the practice and work to be a success!

We live in amazing times where learning from the best is so accessible. There’s nothing better than being inspired all while learning. So grateful.

Many different things. I'm starting to write a comedy. "Starting" is the hardest part and hearing great writers like Steve inspires me....closer to the computer. :)

Great insight! The only thing that could have made it better is if you were to ship Steve Martin to my home, but sadly social distancing has made that impossible. That darn COVID!


Comments

Chip

Love the series and love, love Steve Martin. I really do not have plans to become famous at this point but, it is something that I have always been drawn to. I lived in LA for 20 years and the advice that Steve is imparting is spot on. "Be so good they can't ignore you" Such a brilliant thought that I have thought of many times in the past. Hone your craft, think about comedy all the time, etc. One thought. As I lived in AZ and I know the it takes major effort to move to LA and "be where the action is". It's absolutely true and requires a metric ton of commitment. I had many friends come and go. The ones that were laser focused suceeded. A friend of mine, David Spade comes to mine as I witnessed it first hand. He was like Cortez and burned the boats. There was no way Hollywood would not take him in. That being said, Dane Cook made it massively huge online before anyone really took notice. Youtube/TicToc your way to greatness. You can do it!!

A fellow student

The first two minutes were a let down. It would have been nice to start with the actual introduction which began around 2:00.

Steve J.

I am not interested in being a comedian but felt would be applicable to what I do....I was so right. Love love love the points of 1. Don't be intimidated to start with nothing - fake it.... 2. Go where action is 3. start talking - what ifs 4. think about it all the time. All totally applicable to what ever we may be pursuing.

A fellow student

So much about this first lesson... First it's great to hear Steve talk about comedy. I appreciate his insight from everything I've seen and read. Yet Im sticking on a few of the points. - Be where the action is - I just cant... well not where the real action is. I have children and as a single parent, my choices are limited. However, in my small scope of trying to figure this out, I've joined local improv groups, had my first (and so far only) open mic, and I'm part of a skit writing group. I don't see the type of potential that LA or NY has but it keep my juices flowing - The 'Hire only under 30' hit me hard. Im in my late 40's and it's taking this long to start going forward against the waves. Sure I've done stuff but usually other people are in the limelight. There is that big voice telling me I'm too late to try something like this. - Always think about comedy - This and THIS again. Man, I think about it a lot but mostly dont share any of it. It is what keeps my spirits up. I just assume my thoughts are a little darker in humor to share. Over all, I figure Im against the grain on any level of potential. However, the good part about the price of Masterclass is that I dont think I can refund it so I might as well see what I can get from it.

M S.

Hi, here is an idea for someone who's looking for a new area in humor: spirituality! I'm in the field and have heard literally just a couple of jokes, would love to hear more ;))))

Dennis B.

Its my first Masterclass I have watched and it was a bit slow... Jumping to other classes now to see which one I get hooked on. I just love this idea so much and can't wait for my world to grow! -db

Jackie

Hey, Jackie Allison here. I'm a writer. The first piece of writing I finished was a novel. Every time I skim past that novel in my documents, I wretch. The novel is that bad. I wrote a second. It was better, but not worthy. In between, I took continuing education writing classes, joined writing groups, subscribed to writing publications, etc. I read a lot of books in varied genre. In one author’s credits, she stated that she would never give up until she had a story published in Funny Times. I remembered thinking, it must be difficult to get a story in that publication. I’ll have to check it out. I also read that writing humor was difficult. I thought, I’ll have to try writing humor. I set out to develop a relationship with Funny Times and sent a story a month for the past six years. I’ve had twenty-five stories published in Funny Times. My third novel (MG story, peppered with humor) is on submission. Persistence works. Always thinking of craft, I get it. Learn from everywhere. Why not classes from stand up comedic genius even though I'm a writer? Sudden success? Not usually.You must put in the work. And get lucky. Wish all at least a bit of luck.

A fellow student

What do I like about this lesson? I have been on stage in plays and my parts where funny charakters, I love it when people laugh. Now I developed a storytelling project to empower children and give them a good feeling for the challenges they face. Also I want to make them laugh. And I guide them through theater and music workshops and there is always the room for the "beginners mind" Because creativity is constant development. So what I liked best on this lesson was Steve Martins quote: “Don’t be intimidated starting with nothing. In fact, if you start with nothing, the workaround can lead you to originality.”

Sue

I liked the articles linked in the workbook. In the 2009 New Scientist article, Irish comic Dara O'Briain's comments were intriguing: "The need for external validation is probably the one thing that unifies comedians...Being the funny guy among your friends is a very different skill than being funny to a bunch of total strangers." It was a little disappointing to hear developmental neurobiologist Robert Provine found both sexes laugh more at male comics than females, and Greengross saying. "You should go to amateur nights and see how bad people are. It's a really demanding job."

Sue

I read some reviews of the MasterClass program, and I was surprised at the number of people who said to start with Steve Martin's class. No matter what their background - inspirational speaking, writing biographies, giving business presentations - they all found adding humor improved their work. People are looking for a little relief from the pressures of being a human being in the world today. I love being able to provide that to people, even just for a minute. I appreciated Steve reiterating that he had NO talent! Just desire. Certainly makes the class more inclusive.