Arts & Entertainment

Profanity and Morality

Steve Martin

Lesson time 09:15 min

Steve discusses the questions that face every comedian when it comes to vulgarity and political correctness.

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

Topics include: Foul Material • Consider Kind Comedy • Identify Your Morality • Student Session: Workshopping Will’s Act (cont’d)


Certain performers can do foul material. It's fantastic. Richard Pryor-- I'm not saying that it was foul, I mean, not by today's standards-- but it can be. It could be so funny, and somebody else has it, and it's vulgar in some way, and I mind it. And other performers, it's just up to the performer, but I don't have any judgment on the type of material. It could be completely dirty or completely clean. I don't care. That's not how it works. It's all about this thing called comedy and how you make that work. And I hate to sit here and go, there's no real answer. I could just give you directions. That's what's so great about it. There's no one way to be a painter. There's no way to solve it. And even if somebody solves it, they solved it personally. And someone else comes along and is also fantastic. [MUSIC PLAYING] There is definitely an argument for your position on political correctness. And you can violate it, I think, to a degree, or not violate it, which I think is actually preferable, because I think there's a lot to PC that is good. And there's a lot happening that is not so good. People are probably too easily offended, but we're in that sort of backlash stage of people being offensive. So I think that'll all settle out. And sometimes I've seen artists break boundaries and went, ooh, and then later, you kind of thought it was funny. But when you break that boundary, when you say I'm going to talk about this, you're defining yourself. And it's about your-- and this is not judgmental. It's about what your morality is. So you're kind of defining your morality. When Madonna came on the scene, she was really pushing a morality boundary, talking about vaginas, and this, and the way she dressed, and the religious things. But now that's sort of common. It became almost passe. So this is a question that is almost unanswerable. Because you'll know, if you're a non-PC person, you're going to learn very quickly how far you can go. So I'd just be very careful there. If you're going to test it, make sure you test it privately so it doesn't stick with you. And today, something can stick with you forever. [MUSIC PLAYING] It's very-- relatively easy to do comedy that insults people, because there's always us and them. And I think that's perfect when you're young. As I get older and I've had more experience, you become more empathetic to people. And now like a thing that would have meant nothing to me, you know, 30 years ago, I go mmm, somewhere there's someone watching who might be overweight, who might be this or that. And I start to feel for them. But it's not the purview of the young to become too sensitive I would think. But it's very interesting to think of what is kind comedy? And kind comedy would usually reflect back on yourself. You would make fun of yourself rather than other peopl...

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Steve Martin

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

Explore the Class
Sign Up