To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment


Steve Martin

Lesson time 10:19 min

The difference is in the delivery. Steve offers techniques for pacing, physicality, and timing to help you hone those jokes you've written for the stage.

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


The difference between a good joke and a great joke is really nothing. It varies from night to night. Your good joke can become a great joke one night. And a great joke, you know, kind of-- kind of does stand on its own, but, you know, I was thinking of the line, it's credited to Groucho Marx, who said, I would never be a member of a club who would have me as a member. Something like that. I'm paraphrasing. And if you look at it written it's sort of an epigram, and it's amusing. But I started thinking, like, if you put that line in the mouth of another comedian it utterly changes. If you gave it to Chris Rock he'd go, I joined a club, and they let me in. And I-- stop-- I don't know how to be in that club. No way! You know, it would just change everything. And you just think about that. I'm not an impressionist, so, you know, I started to go through how different people would say it, and how that line would be fantastic, or epigrammatic, or just dry. And it's so much-- so much is wrapped up in delivery. [MUSIC PLAYING] I used to do a joke in my act, which was a little inside early on. I would say-- arrogantly I would say, I-- you know, I said, you're probably thinking, how can you be so funny? And I said, well I have the gift that many comedians have and that is called timing. Timing. Timing. Sorry. Timing. And then Carol Carol Burnett had one that she did where-- it takes two people to do it, and she would say-- he would say-- she would say, ask me what the secret of comedy is? And the person would go, what's the secret-- she'd go, timing. So it' probably through a negative example that's more clearly understand what a positive example is. You know, timing in comedy is a word that's thrown around a lot. And when I was younger it was a very big word because Jack Benny was considered, you know, the expert on timing. And all it meant is he knew when to pause, and he knew when to talk, and he knew that he could do nothing and increase a laugh. I mean, he had a great gesture. If he was talking to his character and they'd say something, and he would just turn to camera, or turn to the audience and look, and turn back, and it could extend that laugh. And The most obvious kind of timing is waiting for the laugh to be over, and knowing when to start it up again. But you don't say your next line while they're still laughing, because they can't hear it. But you don't want the laugh to be-- to completely die out before you start talking again. So there's just a moment that's instinctive, I think, for performers when-- you know, when to start again. And there's also timing-- inherent timing within a sentence. I mean, it's also your pattern of speech, like if-- I used to do a joke on our show. I travelled around with a Bluegrass band. I would say, I was backstage. I went into the restroom and there was a sign t...

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.

Steve is very to the point. His tips are valuable and you can use them right away. I'm about to write a webseries, so he makes me wanna stop watching the class and go and write. That's probably the most valuable. Thanks to you and him !

After many courses to build screenwriting skills, Mr. Martin's sharing is brilliant. A natural teacher, his focus is on listening & skill-building.

This is a fascinating insight to a great comedian. I have so many notes, practical tips and ideas for this that I can use. It is excellent.

I have learned that a life in comedy can be very enriching.


Brian H.

0:20 Ha! I first heard this joke (even the “I’m paraphrasing”) in the opening monologue of Woody Allen’s brilliant movie “Annie Hall.”

Miss A.

Love, love love your classes. Learning a lot. When I watch comedians, I now see a lot of the pointers brought out in the classes. Steve - you are fabulous!


Ahaha! I love that unexpected pieces in his speech as one on 1:41 that make me laugh!!

Gary M.

A joke I want to work on timing with: My wife asked "what should I have for dinner"? I told her "seamen". I guess if you consider our politically correct atmosphere, they'd be "sea-people". Can you imagine the outrage if some people heard this? "Seamen! Did you just assume their gender!?"

A fellow student

Absolutely love this lesson. It feels as though we are seated side by side having a coffee. Learning a lot!

David G.

I think delivery on stage is akin to good editing on the page ( sorry, that sounded a bit higher minded than I intended! ) , but, after my first actual set in front of my first actual people, I realized that sometimes I ran over the laughter to get to my next joke because I was so focused on remembering what the next joke I had scripted to say next, and was worried about getting the wording just right . It was my first ever set, and I held onto the mike like it was going to levitate if I didn’t hang onto it with both hands . Next time( hopefully there will be one) I will try to listen more to the audience response and pace myself and my jokes accordingly.

A fellow student

Im enjoying it, I do standup in Chinese in Beijing, and Chinese TV. I was taught in China stop for the laugh, but I'll try the roll over....I want to experiment with this.


I took a tv comedy class, timing and delivery are too important, but you’re in a group. So active listening is the assistant to timing. A comedian in front of an audience living fully in the moment would probably be much more difficult... And you write your own material. That seems gruesome. I applaud your career and accomplishments, Mr Steve Martin.

Nadine J.

I love how Steve Martin is just casually hanging out with us! He's so real. The part that struck me the most was this (hereby transcribed for y'all, you're welcome! ;)): 07:32 "Make it Look Spontaneous" "One of the things you have to learn in the theatre is called 'the illusion of the first time.' [As in] 'this is the first time I've said that.' "Make it look like the first time [you]'ve said that. And by the way, it's not that hard, because we see comedians all the time, we know they've said it a million times. But somehow if you can give it a little 'zing,' — you know, make it look like you're making it up, at that moment — people really respond to a feeling of spontaneity. You know, if they say, 'How much did you ad lib?' And you say [honestly, with point-blank stare], 'None,' they're a little disappointed. They're very excited about the idea of ad-lib. And if you look like you're riffing, that's a little bit of a plus. "When I watch Jerry Seinfeld, I know he's not riffing, because I know he's very precise. But it feels like it. It feels like he's just talking. Just talking and letting these thoughts come out. So I really admire that. And there's of course gradations of it. It can be just the tiniest little moment where you pretend, in a way, [it just] occurs to you. 'Specially, you know, in the middle of a jo—[interrupts himself]—you make it look easy. That's what you're supposed to do. You don't want 'em to say, 'Look how hard he's working.' [laughs] I am a writer not a comedian but I've noticed something similar in my short time writing for an audience, and also observing others do the same. People want a big of magic, they want to jump right into the action and not know too much about how it is done. Margaret Atwood said something like that in her writing Masterclass, i.e. we shouldn't be just "expressing ourselves," we should be "invoking." This seems to indicate use of a similar type of magic as the kind Steve Martin talks about, above. Holding the attention. All the masters seem to know how to do it. And I guess that comes with a lot of hard work and practice.

The Fool

Notice he was teaching stage performance as part of his stage performance, also how to create confidence in public: give your hands something to do. A flag, A flyer, A coupon. A cup. A glass. A gun. Now juggle!