In this post, I’m going to review Steve Martin’s MasterClass, summarize the content, share the highlights, give you key tips to get even more out of the experience, and offer my (very few) criticisms.
Steve Martin MasterClass Review in Brief
There are three reasons why you should take Steve Martin’s MasterClass:
1. You will learn Martin’s systematic way to gather material and develop jokes.
2. Martin covers stand-up, sketches, screenplays, playwriting, and comedic speeches.
3. Martin’s experience as one the most successful comedians of his generation as well as a playwright, novelist, actor, and screenwriter, allows him to communicate comedic principles and philosophy at a deeper level.
If you’re considering taking Steve Martin’s MasterClass, click here to check it out.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online tutorial series where top writers, actors, athletes, and musicians offer specialized courses in their craft.
For a reasonable fee, MasterClass gives students unprecedented access to the wisdom and insights of an impressive array of teachers. In the last year, they have produced a number of exceptional classes taught by celebrities including Kevin Spacey, Aaron Sorkin, Shonda Rhimes, Serena Williams, David Mamet, and Dustin Hoffman.
Who is Steve Martin?
Steve Martin is an award-winning comic, writer, musician, actor, and producer known not just for his standup, but also for his plays, movies, books, and music. Martin has won 21 different awards including an Academy Award, a WGA award, an Emmy, and multiple Grammys.
In addition to starring in multiple hit movies such as The Jerk (1979), Father of the Bride (1991), and ¡The Three Amigos! (1986), Martin has also written such films as L.A Story, Roxanne, and the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile.
Who Should Take this Course?
My initial expectation when taking this course was that Martin’s class would be mostly geared towards comedy writers. Now that I’ve finished the course, I would say that this MasterClass is targeted more towards comics (read: stand-up comedians) rather than writers.
However, I also believe that writers and actors will benefit substantially from Martin’s class. Martin’s method of teaching students to find and develop their own comedic voice (in whatever medium they choose to work in) is something that everybody can learn from.
Note: Martin is a terrific teacher with a sophisticated artistic perspective AND if you’re offended by the f-word or jokes about human and/or animal reproductive functions, this is not the class for you.
What Makes this Course Different?
Martin’s goal is to inspire you to find, create, and nourish your own comedic voice, and his perspective comes from hard-won personal experience.
Though most major film schools have at least one professor who teaches comedic writing, it’s rare to encounter teachers who have a primary grounding in standup.
Steve Martin MasterClass Content
Martin’s MasterClass is divided into 25 lessons with over 4 hours of content and comes with a wealth of written materials.
The lessons cover the fundamentals of stand-up comedy including: gathering material, writing jokes, opening, closing, bombing, creating characters, editing, as well as a bonus lesson on how to create humorous speeches when honoring someone.
The MasterClass comes with a 51-page companion workbook in the form of a printable PDF. Although the workbook does suggest splitting the course up over a period of 6 weeks, students can choose to go at their own pace.
In addition to the workbook, students are also given downloadable PDFs of the opening of Martin’s play Comet Story, the full screenplay for Roxanne, and the text of stand-up acts and sketches from the workshop students.
Additional Course Features
Martin’s MasterClass also features:
- Clips from Martin’s old stand-up routines
- A classroom with four students who bring in their work for Martin to evaluate and critique.
- Office Hours in which students can record any questions they may have in video format and send them to Martin
- A Student Hub where students can ask each other stand-up, interact with one another, and test out and critique jokes
Martin’s Teaching Style
In contrast to his stage persona of being “A Wild and Crazy Guy”, Martin is measured, thoughtful and introspective in a classroom setting. Though students might be surprised to see Martin so quiet and withdrawn, the end result is a teacher that captures your attention.
People often have a misperception that comedians have to be on and zany all the time, but what I liked most about Martin’s calm demeanor was that it demonstrated that his stage persona was something that was carefully crafted.
How Martin Starts The Course
Unlike other MasterClass courses, Steve Martin starts off his MasterClass with a series of rapid-fire bits designed to put the viewer at ease before talking about his hopes for the MasterClass:
“What I’m hoping with this MasterClass is that you the student or observer can maybe pick up a little practical knowledge, but more so, be inspired. Know that there’s room for you out there in the world. And know that, at least from my point of view, you don’t have to have a special gift. I had no special gift except I loved being on stage, and I loved comedy and that’s all I had.” –Steve Martin
To Get the Most Out of the Course Ahead of Time
To get the most out of the course ahead of time, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with two key pieces of Martin’s body of work: his 1978 stand-up special A Wild And Crazy Guy, and the movie Roxanne (available on Amazon and Google Play) which Martin both adapted and starred in.
Tips for Taking the Class
Take the course with a notebook and pen in hand. The course is designed to get you to discover more about yourself and what you find funny – you’ll want to listen to it carefully and be ready to pause and record any ideas you get.
“When you put your foot on stage for the first time, it matters, they’re looking at it, they’re analyzing it, whether they know it or not. And you’re speaking at that moment, even if you’re not speaking.”
One of the definite highlights of this course is the comedic group of four students that Steve Martin brings in. In contrast with other MasterClass sessions involving a classroom, Martin’s students take the time to introduce themselves and we get a better sense of who they are.
While half of the students come from a comedy writing background of sketches and satire websites, the other half come from a standup background. The students are also ethnically diverse and that was nice to see.
What’s great about the student group is the fact that while some of the students are further along in their path than others, most of them are just starting off in their comedy career. I also enjoyed the fact that rather than just listening quietly, the students asked Martin questions and were really engaged in the learning process.
Workshopping Nalini’s Act
One of the first pieces of work that Martin analyzes is Nalani’s, an Indian American improv actor with a background in biology. What was fun about watching Nalani’s act was the fact that while she had written out a set, she hadn’t actually been on stage yet; so we have the chance to watch Steve Martin critiquing a first timer.
Part of what made Nalini’s act special was that her material was unique to her background in biology and only something that she could have written. It was both inspiring and helpful to see Steve Martin go line by line to help Nalani bring out the best in her act.
“I was talking yesterday about the importance of education in comedy…. the more you know, the more you can utilize. And the more you become unique because of your specialized knowledge.” -Steve Martin
Seeing Steve Martin’s Old Bits
Another great thing that I enjoyed about Martin’s class was that it was intercut with his old stand-up routines to illustrate key points.
Not Just The Jokes
In this class, Martin takes a holistic look at all the different pieces needed to create a stand-up act. In addition to talking about how to write jokes, Martin also talks about how to find material, deliver jokes, structure your act, profanity, how to deal with nerves, hecklers and more.
“And I thought let’s try to examine comedy. Let’s break it down to nothing. And let’s build it up from scratch and see what it can be.” – Steve Martin
Martin also shares stories about his time in show business, discussing everyone from Carol Burnett to Robin Williams. Martin also takes the time to briefly talk about more current comedians that younger viewers might connect with such as Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Louis CK.
Bonus Class on Speeches
The Steve Martin MasterClass also comes with a bonus lesson on speeches in which he walks you through how to give a speech in honor of someone and features a clip of Martin speaking at an event honoring Tom Hanks. The approach applies to speeches for weddings, receptions, and other events.
“There’s no real answer. There’s no one way to be a painter, there’s no way to solve it. And even if someone solves it, they solved it personally, and someone else comes along and is also fantastic.” – Steve Martin
Born Standing Up
After you’re done with the course, I recommend checking out Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up, which chronicles how he got into show business and why he retired from doing stand-up. It’s one of the best memoirs about show business that I’ve ever read.
Criticisms of the Course
As much as I loved this course, I had a couple areas of concern:
Student Forum is Sparse
Though MasterClass has improved their process of managing the community somewhat, the internal community forum known as “The Hub” still feels inconsistent and difficult to navigate.
Student engagement on the forum is also rather sporadic and can feel unwieldy and distracting. Though the forum has been cleaned up, and now resembles a miniature Reddit in terms of its interface, I haven’t really picked up anything of value from it yet.
More From The Students
While the student workshop was one of the highlights of the class, one thing I would have liked to see more of was students performing their own material.
More Lessons On Writing
In addition to being a gifted comedian, Steve Martin is also a talented writer who has written everything from books to screenplays to plays. I would have loved to see Martin talk more about his writing process.
Is the Course Worth it?
If you are a stand-up comic, absolutely. If you are a comedy writer, yes. If you are an improv actor, yes. If you don’t write comedy, you would be better off with Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass in Screenwriting or Shonda Rhimes MasterClass in Television Writing.
Though he certainly doesn’t look it, Steve Martin is 71 years old, and the lessons presented in this MasterClass represent lessons he has learned over 50 years of show business. The fact that this course represents a lifetime’s worth of knowledge and is only $90 makes this a no-brainer for anyone looking to seriously pursue and study comedy.
Questions About Steve Martin’s MasterClass
Will I Become A Better Writer or Performer After This Course?
Yes. Even if you just watch the course, you’ll learn many practical tips about writing, performing, and discovering your original voice.
Will Steve Martin Watch My Stand-Up/Sketch?
Probably not. But the great thing about standup and sketch comedy is that you don’t need Steve Martin’s approval to know whether it’s good or not – you can go out and test it in front of audiences at open mics.
Am I Being Paid To Recommend This Course?
Yes. If you use this link to purchase the course, at no additional cost to you, I will be paid a small commission. I did not receive free access to the course, but paid for it myself. I would not have signed up to become an affiliate or written this Steve Martin MasterClass review if I didn’t personally believe in the value of this course.
Is There a Money-Back Guarantee?
Yes. MasterClass provides a 30-day money back guarantee.