From Steve Martin's MasterClass

Steve's Comedic Inspirations

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.

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


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.

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

Steve Martin

Teaches Comedy

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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 wasn't expecting to take Steve Martins Masterclass. I am glad I did! I've learned so much from him and I am extremely thankful for the knowledge he gave me. Thank you again, and I can't wait to implement these teachings toward my career. I'll see you at the top! -Anthony Cooper

I am a student of comedy and enjoy writing gags and performing them in front of people. This online Masterclass helped me enormously. Steve talks about finding your voice. Amongst many things Steve helped me think about and define what that is. It is evolving but its important to know how to communicate whats going on in my head and make it funny in my own way.

Many of Steve's insights have application beyond comedy. I took a great deal from this class

His class was one of the most down to earth, real, helpful classes. I never expected this from him because I always thought he was such a joker before



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!!!.

Nicholas M.

I won't be doing the last part of this activity but that's just because I'd prefer to remain anonymous... except for my name.

Robert M.

had fun doing this my video had trouble loading so i hope its able to be watched i watched it so it did work but i dunno i may have to re do any how

Mia S.

"He made jokes on himself - he didn't do insults, he didn't do put downs, not that there's anything wrong with that. He allowed himself to be the butt of the jokes, and kind of be the arrogant one. I always found that quality hilarious in people when they're arrogant, because it's so arrogant to be arrogant, especially in this world, and especially in comedy, where things can go so wrong from moment to moment to moment. And it's a field that you can never quite master. That's a good thing, because if you could master comedy, it would be boring. If you could sit and write a joke and think of something and go, 'That'll work,' and it works, you're not walking on the edge. And thankfully, comedy can never quite be pinned down. Often, the thing you think is guaranteed to work doesn't work at all. One thing I learned from Jack Benny, and this was written about him - he allowed other cast members on his show to get the laughs too. He wasn't saying, 'No, I've gotta get all the laughs.' And he knew his show became better by letting their peripheral characters or central characters also be funny, and get his goat. If you're even around a laugh, it's also reflecting on you. It's the greatest feeling, we're talking about teamwork. I felt in watching these great performers just a sense of joy. Steve Allen was just so spritely and alive. He was always pounding the deskand being funny and he said, 'The news is traveling so fast today!' - this is 1955 - and he says, 'Throw me a paper!' and somebody throws him a newspaper and it hits the floor and he picks it up, and the headline says, 'Steve Allen Drops Newspaper on National TV'. I still remember these moments - I don't know why I remember them. He said, 'One of my favorite cartoons is two guys in a castle, and they're hung up by their ankles and wrists and one guy says to the other, 'Now here's my plan.'"