Chapter 11 of 25 from Steve Martin

Opening and Closing Your Act

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A strong opening and closing are the keys to a memorable act. Steve talks about the importance of these moments and shows you how to use them to your advantage.

Topics include: Use Your Opening to Set the Tone • Student Session: Workshopping Will’s Opening • End With Purpose • Student Session: Button Up Your Act

Steve Martin

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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I was always interested in comedian's opening lines. And I saw Richard Pryor when I-- it felt like an important moment, the opening. And I saw Richard Pryor one time. And it was the early '70s. And I was still struggling as a comedian. And he was supposed to do two shows at the Troubadour, one at 8:00 and one at 10:30. And now it's 9:30 and he hasn't even shown up. And finally he walks in, and I'm thinking in my conservative comedy sense, oh, he's made the audience really mad. He's an hour and a half late. He's made them really mad. And he goes on, and his opening line is hope I'm funny. And everyone loved him. And he killed. He was so unpredictable. He was what everyone wanted. He's kind of a, I'd say, Bill Murray quality. You just can't pin him down. He feels like an outsider. It's a great quality. I saw a comedian the other night on this special. I think it was a Netflix special. Reggie Watts, he was very, very good, but his opening was crawling through the audience. And they were seated on the floor, so he just crawled over their heads on his way up to the stage. And it gets your attention. Then I saw Sam Kinison once. He was a great stand up comedian in a small club. I saw him at the Comedy Store in Beverly Hills. And he came on-- it was comedian after comedian after comedian. And he came on and he said, you've seen a lot of comedians here tonight. Some really good, some, you know, nice, OK. But there's a difference between them and me. Them, you might want to see again sometime. And it just set off his show in such the right way-- iconoclast. He also was telling the audience, at the same time, I'm going to say some things here that you might not like. [MUSIC PLAYING] I had several openings. When I got started playing arenas, I opened with the magic dime trick. So I'd be in this vast stadium and I'd hold up, see the date on the dime. And then people would laugh. It's a way to acknowledge the circumstance and how strange it is. I had one where I'd come out-- like I said, I'd stand way off mic and start talking, like I thought I was in front of the mic. And people would laugh. Or another thing I did was I'd say good evening. It's great to be here. And then I'd move a few feet. And it's like, no, no, it's great to be here. No, no, no it's great to be here. It's great to be here. And I'd move around. And these sounds stupid when you just say them, but in the spirit of the moment, they were funny. They were funny to me. It was exactly what I wanted to do. [CHEERING] Oh, go away, go away. [CHEERING] Oh, they have these things here, good. I have a little bit of a pet peeve for comedians who come out and say, how we doing tonight? Everybody feeling good? First of all, you've blown one of the most important moments of your show, which...

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 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 to the next level.

Watch, listen, and learn as Steve Martin shares wisdom from his five decades in comedy.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Steve will also critique select student work.

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Steve Martin

Steve Martin Teaches Comedy