Published by: Julia
Steve Martin´s comedy masterclass is a great way to learn the art of stand up, creating comedic characters and writing funny material. It also provides a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the funniest men on the planet.
Steve Martin does not need a long introduction. He is known the world over for his stand up and his many funny movies. Steve was one of the first people to sell out a 44,000-seat stadium in under a day.
What he does not know about comedy, is probably not worth knowing.
The star of ‘The Jerk, ´Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘Father of the Bride’, is a very good teacher. As you would expect, his masterclass is funny as well as informative. This is a masterclass most people will enjoy. Even those who have no intention of pursuing a comedy, writing or acting career.
If you just want to learn how to tell a good joke, this masterclass is right for you.
You don´t need natural talent to get started as a comedian
You may think I don´t have any talent. I guarantee you that I had no talent…I just started doing it because I liked it.Steve Martin Teaches Comedy – Masterclass.com
Most of us never consider trying comedy, simply because we do not believe we can. Yet, even if you do not think you are funny or have any natural talent, Steve believes you can still learn to be a comedian.
Even more surprising is the fact that a lot of the best comedians are actually introverts. They are quite shy. Something they conquer once they find the courage to get on stage. Playing a character enables them to overcome much of their shyness.
Getting started in comedy
If you want to work in the industry, you need to be prepared to move to a city that offers you plenty of opportunities to perform. Ideally, somewhere talent spotters head to.
Combine that with practicing your art and you stand a good chance of having some success. Talk about comedy, explores silly ideas, write jokes and try them out on friends and in your acts. Like so many things in life, practice and consistency are what will get you where you want to go.
Gathering material – sources of comedic inspiration
Steve Martin thinks about comedy every waking moment. But, that does not mean that he does not have any other interests. In this section of the course, he explains how to stay informed, explore new subjects and turn them into material for your act.
I was kind of expecting him to provide me with a list of good sources. Sadly, that was not the case, but nonetheless, it was still a helpful class.
You have a thousand maybe a million thoughts a day. Learn to listen to them.Steve Martin How to Become a Comedian Masterclass
Finding your comedic voice and developing your persona
This is a tricky thing for comedians to do. They need to be true to themselves. But, also make sure that their act is relevant to today´s audience.
Steve explains how realizing this led to the step-change that enabled his career to really take off. In his case, it was as simple as changing the way he dressed. For others, it will be tapping into their cultural background or something else.
Joke structures that work
This lesson was fun. In it, Steve shares some of his best jokes as a way of demonstrating some of the best ways to structure your jokes. For example, making yourself the subject, using irony or giving old jokes a new context so they can work for today´s audience.
Turning your jokes into a comedy act
Coming up with ideas for jokes is not always that difficult. Once you start seeing the world in a different way, you will come up with ideas virtually every day.
The tricky bit is crafting them into an act. Steve shows you how to theme your jokes and weave them together into a great act. It is a complex subject, so this video is quite long, but it covers a lot of ground.
I personally got quite a bit from this lesson. As a writer, I often struggle to smoothly make the transition between two ideas. To take my audience with me. I have found that using Steve´s callback tip has made it far easier for me to do this.
How to deliver the perfect joke
When it comes to jokes delivery is everything. Get that wrong and even a brilliant joke will fail miserably. So, in this section, Steve takes you through:
- the right delivery for the venue and audience
- working out whether a joke is appropriate
In an increasingly politically correct world, working out whether a joke is acceptable or not, is quite tricky. Fortunately, Steve devotes an entire lesson to this challenge.
His profanity and morality video provides a framework to help you to decide what is appropriate and what is not. However, you will need to work out where the line is for you, your audience and the society you live and work in.
Developing a strong opening and conclusion for your comedy act
Without a strong opening, you will lose your audience. First impressions really count. Your first few sentences set the tone.
But, you also need a strong finish. Without one, the chances are that most of the audience will not remember your act.
Unfortunately, I did not feel that Steve really explained how to do either of these things. All he seemed to do is to share a few examples.
Dealing with nerves, hecklers, and bombing
Every now and again you are going to have a bad show. Even Steve does. But, there are steps you can take to ensure that these are rare. Steve explains how to:
- avoid the most common pitfalls
- manage stage fright
- turn bombing to your advantage
- deal with hecklers without encouraging them
Preparation is essential. But learning to adapt is just as important. Having a few fun ways to deal with hecklers in mind will help you to respond quickly and appropriately. Practicing your coping skills also helps. This means you will need to push yourself a little to put yourself into
Writing comedy for the screen
Steve has acted in 50 films and is also a screenwriter. As you will see, when you take Steve´s comedy masterclass writing comedy for the screen is quite different from creating a standup set. The basic skills are the same, but you have to arrange things differently and put the emphasis elsewhere. You also have to think visually.
Screenwriting case studies
Steve is a very good writer. He has written several books. But, in this masterclass, he talks mainly about his screenwriting. He uses case studies of Roxanne and Meteor Shower as examples when covering this subject.
But, I was a bit disappointed with them. These videos were great fun to watch but were not in-depth enough for me. Personally, I would have preferred it if he had made a separate masterclass to cover the subject of screenwriting. Several of the other masterclass experts have done this already. So, you never know, Steve Martin may do the same.
If he does I will be able to use my all-access masterclass pass to take that course too, without having to pay a single dime more to do so. The all-access pass enables you to take every class on the platform for the price you would pay if you bought just two individual masterclasses. The masterclass all-access pass offers great value for money and would make a wonderful present for someone special.
How to create comedy characters
Over the years, Steve has created some iconic comedic characters. Who can forget his Cyrano de Bergerac in Roxanne?
Using Meteor Shower as an example, Steve shows you some practical ways to develop your character. How to do it fairly quickly and continually work to keep them fresh and relevant for new audiences.
Efficiently editing your work
Steve Martin is a prolific writer. He has produced a huge body of work. Being able to work at this pace is rare. It is only possible because, over the years, Steve has honed the editing process. He had found ways to work quickly and still produce great results.
This section of the course is invaluable. Across two lessons, he takes you through his entire editing process. I can personally vouch for many of the tips he shares in this section. For example, reading your work aloud really does enable you to pick up on mistakes or awkward sections that you would otherwise miss.
Where Steve Martin gets his inspiration
I really enjoyed this part of the course. It was great to hear about where Steve gets his inspiration. Even as a child he was a big comedy fan.
Unsurprisingly, his physical comedy skills were heavily influenced by Jerry Lewis and, of course, Laurel and Hardy. During the video, he shares a few of his favorite sketches with his students.
Before taking this masterclass I had never listened to Jack Benny. I found a few of his skits on YouTube and thoroughly enjoyed his gentle approach to comedy. It is always worth taking the time to do a few of the exercises in the workbooks. I find that doing so enables me to get a lot more out of each masterclass.
Additional learning materials
Like every other of the masterclass experts, Steve provides a workbook for his students (see my masterclass overview review here, for more information).
Unfortunately, his workbook is not that detailed. But, he does go the extra mile by providing extra material in a slightly different format. For example, the excerpts of both the Roxanne and Meteor Shower scripts are quite helpful. Being able to read along makes the videos that refer to those scripts, much easier to follow and learn from.
How to weave comedy into a speech
Comedy is fun, but, it is also powerful. Using it in a speech helps to make what you say more memorable. It gets the audience on your side, which makes it more likely that your message will get through.
Steve finishes off his comedy course by offering some advice on speech writing. That was a great addition and an appropriate way to wrap up what I found to be an excellent masterclass.
Although, if I had a criticism to make it would be that this course is a bit on the long side. It is 5 hours in total. But, it has been put together in a way that makes it easy to dip in and out of. Most of the videos include bookmarks and the workbook provides a good overview of what each video contains. So, don´t let that put you off.
This masterclass is entertaining as well as informative. It would make an excellent gift for a Steve Martin fan or someone who likes comedy.
A chance to learn from some of Steve Martin´s other students
Throughout his video comedy course, Steve sits down with groups of young comedians and listens to their acts. He then provides them with guidance on how to develop and improve their acts. Personally, I am not sure how beneficial this way of learning actually is. But, I know that a lot of people will respond well to this format.