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.

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

Topics include: Early Influences • Physical Comedy Influences • Learning From Jack Benny and Steve Allen


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...

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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