Arts & Entertainment

Nerves, Hecklers, and Bombing

Steve Martin

Lesson time 08:37 min

Even Steve Martin has a bad show every now and then. But with his help, you can learn how to avoid common pitfalls, manage your stage fright, and make the most out of bombing.

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

Topics include: Nerves Are Natural • Don’t Look at the Audience • Avoid the Dinner Show • Dealing With Hecklers • Bombing Has Its Benefits


I want to be clear about stage anxiety or stage fright. It's mostly what you call excitement. So it's not real anxiety. Real anxiety will take you off the stage, because it's free floating. It's not-- you're not saying I'm nervous because of the show. You're feeling something otherworldly with real anxiety. So distinguish between just nerves, which I get too, which I really just call excite-- but it's not-- it's no longer anxiety. I did have anxiety in my life. And the only thing that got over that was understanding what it was and time. And so embrace your nerves. And just know that it's really part of it. That's an easy thing to say, not an easy thing to do, because then I would never be nervous. But I still do get nervous. You're just wanting to do well or kicking yourself if you blew lines somehow. When you think about it, you're going out in a very vulnerable situation. It's very natural to have nerves. Never look at the audience. Look over their heads. Look somewhere else. Look into the darkness, maybe, occasionally. Because what you're going to see is people not laughing. I remember being in an arena-- I was talking about this with Jerry Seinfeld the other day-- playing for 18,000 people. And I'd hear the biggest laugh I've ever heard. And I'd look out in the audience, and it would be one out of 20 laughing. Because there's people-- there's people being thoughtful too. They're watching it. I've been to plays where I was aware I wasn't laughing, but I thought it was really funny. And I loved it afterwards. And we talk about that all the time in theater. It's like you think the audience is dead. And then, at the end, they leap to their feet with the biggest roar that you've had that week. I had a really fine agent in the '70s named Marty Klein. I talked about him before. And I'd come off. And I'd say, fantastic. That was fantastic. And he would say, it's OK. And I'd go, really? And then, another night, I'd do what I thought was an average show. And he'd come up and say, that was one of the most special show. So you don't know what people are thinking, what's going on out there. You might be killing them. And there's 10 people going I hate this. Ostensibly, you hear them not laughing, so you think you lost them. But if you don't ever acknowledge that you lost them, they may not know that you lost them or you think you lost them. I used to think-- by the way, at the time, a ticket price was $10. I'd say, these people paid $10 to see this. I've got to deliver. I can't be lax. I want to go out there and make it worth their while. And that's another way to look at your performance. Say, I have an obligation here. So don't undercut yourself by thinking, eh, this is a terrible audience. Deliver. Deliver. Vegas is a great pla...

About the Instructor

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.

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Steve Martin

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

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