Chapter 22 of 25 from Steve Martin

Steve's Comedic Inspirations

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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

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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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.

Reviews

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

Class is fantastic! So much information and learning the little employable tricks is invaluable.

Steve's advice that resonated with me: Make the problem worse. Read to your Dog. Speed through first drafts. Spare the audience predictable scenes.

Parts from his autobiography, but in general v inspiring!

I like to go through the entire class first, and now...I will go through it again.

Comments

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.'"

Mia S.

"In the early '50s, we got a TV, and TV changed everything. Because as a kid, there was no access to media - I had never seen a film. So when the TV came in, they showed The Little Rascals that I thought were hilarious, but more importantly were Laurel and Hardy - comedy geniuses, they were very gentle, one was tall and one was kind of overweight and one was thin, and they're still revered in the comedy world. We would listen to Jack Benny on the radio, I think he influenced Johnny Carson quite a bit - his timing, he was self-deprecating, he was kind of vain, and I realize how many of those qualities crept into my modern-day performing. There was Jerry Lewis, who was just zany. and fun, and very skillful, and doing comedy outside of what was really going on at the time - more conventional comedies. There were so many sources of comedy, and these people did - whether they directly influenced me or indirectly influenced me, they made me love comedy and making people laugh. I don't know if it was making people laugh - 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. I think I developed a love for physical comedy - they had such delicate moves, and some of it was just extravagant, an some was extremely subtle. Being physical is kind of a freedom of expression. There's a beautiful scene by Jerry Lewis, where he's in a room with valuable vases on pedestals, and he would back into one, and it would fall over, and he would catch it. It may have roots in old jugglers... but I don't know how that would work today. Cirque du Soilei is a great example of physical comedy being funny unto itself with no jokes. A clown came out, he had 50 arrows in him, like he'd just been shot. He had srrows all over him, and all he did was come out for 8minutes and die. He'd start to fall and he'd get up then stagger and stagger and he did it for however long and it was just brilliantly funny. Laurel is annoying Hardy in some way, or vice versa. Hardy has a hole in his shoe, and his toe is sticking through it, and Lauren reaches down to his toe and stretches it like this far and snaps it back. It's one of the most unexpected jokes I've ever seen, and surreal, and it worked completely in context and you strangely believed it. There's just great, wonderful little isolated bits that kind of live on."

J.C. S.

That last joke reminds me of the bit Sean O' Sean used to do when he was popular back in 1995. "This new cop is walking his beat for the first time in Brooklyn when one beautiful morning he passes a pet shop on the corner. From an open window he hears - "Hey, hey, hey, hey,hey!" He stops, walks over to the open window and there sits a parrot. He looks at the parrot. The parrot looks back, and says - "Screw You!" The cop sort of smiles, thinks its amusing, and walks on. The next day, same thing. The cop is walking by the pet shop. From the same open window he hears - "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!" He stops, walks over to the open window and stares in at the same parrot. The parrot sneers back, and says "Screw You!" The cop is now less amused than he is miffed. He walks into the Pet Shop, walks up to the counter and slams his fist down on the bell. Out of the back room runs a middle-aged Chinese man. The cop says, "You the owner of this place?" The gentleman says, "yes sir." The cop points to his holster and says, "You see this gun? If that parrot says "screw you" one more time to me or anyone else through that open window, I'm going to take this gun and blow his head, off - you hear me?" The gentleman says "Yes sir, I promise he'll never say "screw you" to anyone ever again." The cop turns and storms out. The next day the cop is walking by the pet shop and from the open window he hears - "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!" He puts his hand on his holster and walks over to the window. He peers in, waiting for the parrot to say something. The parrot stares back at him, smiles, and says in little more than a whisper - "You know!"

Christopher S.

When Steve mentions that last bit with the guys shackled, I instantly thought "Three Amigos!"

Transcript

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...