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
In 25 video lessons, 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.

Love it. Great analogies, great intelligent approach to the creative process. perhaps a more dynamic student outline to keep the flow along with the class may be helpful. Good exercises, great student community. HF

I feel a lot better now. This is worth it just to hear Mr. Martin open up . Takes the edge off.

This was a great class for me even though I am not an aspiring comedian. It has helped me with my writing and it has been genuinely inspiring. I did not know much about comedy before this course and now I have a more interesting perspective on it. This was fun and I will revisit it again.

I'm thrilled to be taking this with Steve Martin! So inspiring!


Comments

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.

Brent B.

Well, hello there! My name is Brent. I am not entirely sure who plans on reading this, but I'm putting it out there. I'm a film student at full sail university, to be precise I'm pursuing a degree in Digital Cinematography. But I want to be a comedian. I'm happy to hear that most comedians start out as introverts. If that doesn't hit the nail on the head for me nothing does. I'd like to take a moment to say how grateful I am to see so many others are interested in the same things I am. It is great to see a full comment section on this. I'd like to get to know all of you better. Please, say hi, and don't be afraid to click on my name and get to know me better. I'm sure I've failed to fill anything useful out at the time of this posting so I guess I'd better get to work. Good luck everyone!

Erin B.

I'm an English teacher and I'm thinking, how can you really become good at telling anecdotes? I mean, I do when I plan my lesson and usually students really appreciate a well-placed, well-crafted anecdote, but how can I do it off the cuff?

Frances L.

About being where things are. Yes if you're a standup comedian you need to be in a city where comedians are hired. If you're writing jokes for your podcast you need to be on Twitter and iTunes and YouTube. (I hope we're moving away from Facebook because they're just such crappy caretakers of our data.) The internet has democratized some spaces in some ways that your voice can get out there, but it helps to be in a digital space with those who can promote and elevate your voice.

Cynthia K.

But Steve, every day when I wake up I think - how can I make Steve's day just a little brighter? And.... what would Steve like for breakfast if he were here? Even if he were in a different time zone? .... or gee, how could I brighten Steve's day if he were to break a string on his banjo, or lose a beloved finger pick?? Can I put Bb strings on an F# banjo? Is Steve still a 'rambl'n guy? How about if I play all of my really really SAD songs on the banjo instead of the guitar, would they be happy songs? We could start with my very sad Grammy nominated song"So poor I can't even buy road kill" - so it could use some banjo cheering up in a happy key! Oh these questions and more have I! Its showtime folks!!! :-)

Andrew W.

My first Masterclass. Very excited to be learning from the greats. But why the cutaways to Steve talking to . . .who? First, he's talking directly to me. Me! And I'm hanging on his every word. It's personal. And then, for no apparent reason, the editor cuts to him talking to someone else to left-of-frame, out of frame, with a meaningless camera move. I'm a film editor of 40 years experience, from Moviolas, Steenbecks to Non-linear systems. Cuts must have a reason, that are dictated by the timing, and the new action and audio. These cutaways to Steve talking to nobody, are suggesting that the words spoken are now of less importance, because I (the audience) am no longer being addressed directly. Either he is talking to me, or he is not. You can't have it both ways without it looking amateurish. Because there is no good reason for the cuts! I want to feel special all of the time. The wall on the other side of the room isn't special.

Leigh S.

Good points. The discussion feels natural and relaxed. Thank you. I look forward to the next lessons.

Ozzy S.

Steve Martin is Da MAN!!! AND he got a Grammy for banjo playing. What trumps that??!

A fellow student

I loved the listening part. If you surround yourself by interesting people, and everyone is interesting in their own way, you get so many ideas - but to write them down as soon as possible before they slip away. Also, I keep thinking about the bologna in the shoes! So amazing.