Music & Entertainment

Growing as a Performer

Steve Martin

Lesson time 12:10 min

Excellence in comedy requires practice just like everything else. Steve examines how to learn from your mistakes, refine your material, and ensure that you are ready to take the next step.

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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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Perseverance over time really mattered to me, really counted. And I think it mattered to other people to, and to other performers. I'm still here. I don't know why. But I'm still here. So why should I waste my energy worrying, worrying, worrying that things are going to go away? And it's something you should worry about when you're starting out, and you have a little success at this. How do you maintain it? You know when I first-- And I think all comedians go through this, may be a little different now-- But after performing for, I don't know, eight, nine years, I get on The Tonight Show. So what do you do when you get on The Tonight Show? You do your best material. You go, hey I killed it on The Tonight Show. That's fantastic. Now they ask you back. What do you do? Your second best material. And then your third best. And then you're out of material. But that's when I started developing new material-- Like I went on once with a comedy act for dogs I did that, and I did a bit where I could tell the audience I can make them laugh simply by reading the phone book. And the bit was I got so desperate I started doing, you know, ridiculous things to make laugh, and slowly started to build it up. And I was much more conscious about having material, and even restructuring old material, or finding ways to get new material. And it's really just working it out. Going out the clubs and working it out. But you know before you take that first TV show-- Which of course, you have to take. A first appearance, you have to take it-- But it be great to have something else, a backlog of more and more material. And I know the comedians today change their material constantly. In the vaudeville days, you did six minutes, the same six minutes, for the rest of your life. And now, you do a comedy special, and you've got to an hour and a half a year. It seems impossible. So you really have to have a catalog, a backlog, a place to go when that thing starts to dry up and even have access to new material, whether you employ your friends or yourself and have a system, a backup system to supply yourself and practice it. [MUSIC PLAYING] I learned early on that rehearsal was very, very important. Let me talk about when we talk about magic. You had to do it a million times. It had to be perfect, had to be perfect. You did it in front of a mirror. And so when I started doing comedy, there is no way to rehearse it because you have to do it in front of an audience. The best thing you can do is-- Even today, I will, if I have a new line or something, I will go over it in my head and go over it, so I don't stumble on it. You don't want to stumble. But there's no way to rehearse except get in front of people. So there really is no rehearsal except experience, which is a probably the best way to do it. I guess if you're rehearsing a...


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.

Thoroughly enjoyable. I thought it was great. I'm not a comedienne (I know this because my husband tells me so all the time, while I'm laughing my ass off). I don't intend to ever do standup or an 'act' but I deeply admire Steve Martin and his array of talent. Thanks Steve. This was a great ride.

Steve is an amazing person and he expressed himself so well as a teacher. I felt that I was being mentored by him in a very personal way. This was a wonderful class.

So great! What I loved about it was that because Steve's such a good storyteller he makes each lesson an adventure.

well. i haven't had a lot of time to reflect but i feel like i'm supposed to be a stand up comic now. that is my calling. byeeeeeeeee! i have to go write material. i mean my "bits". also i'm going to re-watch a bunch of steve martin stuff. xxoo i heart what you do.


Comments

Justin D.

listening to mistakes was a great lesson. My first time out on stage ever was a 3-minute bomb. but my one laugh was the topic I built my bit around. After a few more attempts on stage, I had 5 minutes of material on that one topic. The only joke I kept, despite all being funny and getting laughter, came out of a mistake that was funnier than the original punchline.

Darien B.

I like the idea of how you have to get used to being bad at times and perform in places you wouldn't normally perform and to always find ways to build confidence. I definitely like the bit about organising your jokes that's really important.

Rowan S.

What I love is that much of what he has to say applies to many of the other arts. Actors, directors, writers... a whole gamut of disciplines can learn from these lessons. I'm not a comedian, but this is golden time. Loving it.

Tori O.

Love you Steve. Make more classes. You have a lifetime of experience to share.

Lito

I love comedy so I have one: say Hgslurithj;aldrin;akgjebnslrekjnalkegjbnsljerjhowjeurhfakerjhfhksjehrfvkjgehbsjkhervfserlhjvfjjerlsvfserjlkn

ALICIA S.

Headliners bring the audiences. I may not be a comedian, however... I would like success as an actress. It’s overdue. Make me brighter than a twinkling star 🤩💕

A fellow student

thank you. Here my first attempt in writing comedy:My real forte is in writing lyrics. Here we go: "Thank you. This is my first time so ladies expect a lot. How does a man make a woman he meets into a captive audience like if she was to serve him something? It should be easy: place an order, say, "Thank you; you're doing a great job and here is your tip." I guess the man has to decide what he wants from the girl he greets. Once you figure out how to capture her; you will need to learn how to make her fall in love with you. That means you come from a stage or bring her upon a stage. You may believe all is from a divine plan and say, "Hey lets make love now because we are made and meant for each other" or you may be existential in your philosophy thinking you create your own destiny and share," Hi lets make love now because we may never see each other again and time is made for this fun." I really believe we are somewhere in between so, "Lets enjoy a drink together forgetting the world and wondering if love is divine." I mean Starbucks has many kinds of coffee." (That's it for now) (I will not use the f word instead of "making love")

Margaret M.

I loved Steve's comedy-for-dogs bit on the Tonight Show. But I felt sorry for the Hollywood dog whose job was to pee on someone on command. He looked terrified, but he still had to do it. Watch the bit; that dog is a lesson in sheer performance terror. I bet when they train a dog to do this for the movies, they can only use it once. You can train the dog to lift his leg on someone with praise and treats, but then he does it in the scene and gets kicked and yelled at by the actor. That's gotta be the end. They probably have to give him away as a pet at that point.

A fellow student

Last class Steve said real comedians don't need to use profanity. Who the fuck is he to judge?

KONRAD R.

Sonny Puzikas, a former Russian Spetsnaz commando recites, that the Russians train you at your absolute worst because during war that is where you go. You don't rise to your best, you fall to your weakest point. Imagine this, knowing you not only know yourself at your absolute worst, but you can get your self out of such situations. Wouldn't knowing this give your the self assurance and grit you need in advance? Isn't this what comedy is about? Completely fucking up and laughing because you're here to talk about it? Arn't we at our best when we are reciting our learning experiences in a humous way? PS. “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” ― W.C. Fields