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Arts & Entertainment

Steve's Comedic Inspirations

Steve Martin

Lesson time 9:10 min

Steve became the best by observing the best. Learn about the comedy legends that inspired him to pursue his passion and the impact they had on his craft.

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


You know, by the time 1950 came around I was five, and then in the early '50s we got a television. And television changed everything because, as a kid, there was no access to media at all. Even films, I never even had seen a film. So when the television came in they showed The Little Rascals that I thought were hilarious, but more importantly were Laurel and Hardy. And Laurel and Hardy are, if you haven't heard of them or haven't seen them, they're comedy geniuses. They were very gentle. One was tall and, you know, one was kind of overweight, and one was thin. And they're still revered in the comedy world. And I really think they influenced me quite a bit. I was born in Texas. We would drive from Texas to California and back and forth a couple of times. And we would listen to Jack Benny on the radio, who I believed influenced me a lot. I think he influenced Johnny Carson quite a bit. His timing. He was self-deprecating, he was kind of vain. And I realize today how much of that-- those qualities of Jack Benny crept into my-- especially my modern day performing. Meaning, currently now. There was Jerry Lewis, who was just zany, and fun, and very skillful, very, very skillful comedian. And doing comedy outside of, you know, what was really going on at the time, more conventional comedies. And there were so many sources of comedy. And what these people did, whether they directly influenced me or indirectly influenced me, they made me love comedy and making people laugh. I mean, let me qualify that. I don't know if it was making people laugh. I don't know-- that sounds-- it sounds altruistic. But there was something about being up on stage and trying to be funny that just made me want to do it. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think I developed a love for physical comedy from watching people like Jerry Lewis, Stan Laurel, and certainly Hardy. They had such delicate moves. And some was just extravagant, like Jerry Lewis. And some was extremely subtle, like Oliver Hardy. And I think both incorporated those-- I incorporated both those styles. You know, it's really physical-- being physical is kind of a freedom of expression. There's a beautiful scene by Jerry Lewis illustrating physical comedy-- and of course, there's Charlie Chaplin, who was unbelievable at physical comedy. There's a beautiful scene by Jerry Lewis where he's in a room with valuable vases on pedestals, which is already odd, but-- and he would back into one and it would fall over. And he would just catch it by its hind end just as it's about to strike the ground and put it up, and back into another one, and turn and then catch. And I don't know the origin of that. Maybe he probably thought it up, but it maybe may have roots in old jugglers. But I don't know how that would work today. I mean, it would be great to see someone revive it. You see physical com...

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.

I watched this course because I have been a fan since the 70s

I did get more than I expected I was looking improve my dialogu when I do script writing. I found a way to bring humour on my day to day life. Thanks

Loved it and the amount thought and talent behind Steve's insight into his world of comedy.

Such an insightful Masterclass. I have taken a few classes on the website and, although every single instructor has been a blessing, Steve Martin's class is by far the most impactful in terms of inspiration, ideas, insightfulness and delivery. A very well done collection of videos that I feel very lucky to have been influenced by.


Brian H.

How much do you let what you know about an artist affect your appreciation of that artist’s work? For example: Should I ignore Wagner’s brilliant operas because I know he was a terrible anti-Semite? When it comes to comedy, you just can’t ignore Bill Cosby’s work, in spite of what we've learned about him. The albums he recorded in the 60s and 70s are stand-up gold.

Faye L.

I really liked the emphasis on team work and letting others get laughs too, because it will reflect back on you - making the end "product" the comedy , stronger (my paraphrase)

Susan T.

Loved Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin .... and all the 50's greats! Thank you Steve for putting laughter in my heart and a smile on my face. You are my all time favourite comedian, and I have seen all your movies (some 2 and 3 times). I worked in the film and TV industry in Toronto and often had lunch or dinner with the 2nd City crew - Martin Short, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara... I saw you in Sudbury a few years ago, for my birthday... I am not a comedian, but when my daughter bought me a year of Master Classes last June 20, Steve Martin's was the first I took... as I felt I needed to 'lighten up'! And I have ended with it! Like a really great gourmet sandwich - with Christina Aguilera, Ron Howard and Margaret Atwood in the middle! I hope one day to meet you in person... Love your energy! Thank you for making this world a whole lot lighter! xoxo


The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny were all great comedic shows. My favorite Laurel & Hardy when they played fathers and childs. Also, the window washers. I just remember laughing. I like laughing. Thinking about it, my inspiration was The Burns & Allen Show, The Honeymooners, Jerry Lewis, Happy Days, GoodTimes, Mary Tyler Moore, Laverne & Shirley, Full House. I could probably go on.... Thank goodness for reruns. Great class.

Bill D.

Mr. Martin was just talking about a scene in which Jerry Lewis catches objects as they fall (I think it was from “The Patsy.”) It reminded me of another master of physical comedy, Jackie Chan, and the scene toward the end of “Rush Hour” in which he fights the bad guys while catching huge Chinese artworks before they fall. The scene itself is amazing, and the ending is just inspired. Look it up. You won’t regret it.

Kevin G.

Change let other cast members get the laugh to audience members. Meaning if you like doing crowd work. Do be afraid to let someone else get the laugh. Engaging the audience is a cheap trick to make them love you.

Michael O.

Intercut sample scenes of what you talk about please - how difficult can that be? Show don't tell!!

Margaret M.

Great lesson! Even hearing him describe old bits by comedians I'm not very familiar with was fun and instructive.

Antoinette C.

I remember my first Improv class... they asked who were your favorite comedians... I was caught off guard and forgot about who I was attracted to as a child. Trail Blazers are who I am attracted to in general. You were my favorite as a teen... we were studying King Tut in school [I totally thought I would be an archeologist '-) too]. Lewis and Lucy as a child... Carlin the more powerless I felt... lol

Robert A.

Decent physical comedy is actually my favorite type of comedy. This sounds funny I know. But I actually grew up on all these classic black and white physical comedy shows like The Three Stooges, I love Lucy, Jerry Lewis, and also 80s physical comedy such as "Perfect Strangers" etc. And thats the type of Comedy I enjoy doing. And what I will continue to do. Awesome lesson!!!. Onward!!!.