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.

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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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.


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

It reminds me how good laughter is. Thank you.

Excellent content and delivery. Enjoyed every chapter and will apply his advice on every component of writing, delivery, criticism, jokes & bits.

I learned how far the depths of comedy go. Thanks, Steve!

Comedically I don't have any room for improvement and this class helped me to reaffirm that. I'm going to watch it again and again just to remind myself how funny I am. ps. Werner Herzog looks like he needs a nap


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.


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


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?


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


I have never done any stand-up but I have done many live public presentations. I used to bring extensive notes with me to every presentation. One day, I did a slideshow but there was a technical issue and my notes wouldn't load. I freaked out for a minute, then got on with it. I talked for an hour and a half and probably could have kept on talking for hours if the place wasn't trying to close up for the night. That was the last time I brought notes to a presentation. The trick, I learned that night, was knowing the material. I knew my stuff (and didn't even realize it at the time) and the words came, and the confidence followed. Not relying on my notes also forced me to pay more attention to the audience, which made for a better presentation. Instead of looking at my computer screen, I was looking at them--and talking to them, and seeing their faces, and hearing their responses. It allowed me to get out of my head and acknowledge them. I can "wing it" pretty easily and be informative, but I don't know if I could wing it and be funny. When Steve talks about going with the mistakes, that takes more than practiced material--you need to be a quick, creative thinker and able to play off the audience or the circumstances and make up material on the fly. I can see how getting in front of an audience as often as possible would help you hone that skill, and how having a lot of experiences, in general, would give you more "places to go" in your head to find the funny in the moment. Great lesson ... got me thinking!

Rich G.

My dream was to perform standup in a Drive-In but thought all they closed on purpose to stop me.