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So you think you’re funny? That question must have greeted (and terrified) thousands of aspiring comedy performers over the years. If you harbour dreams of becoming the next Billy Connolly or Ricky Gervais then you might want to check out the Masterclass course that’s taught by comedy legend Steve Martin.
Martin is, of course, a legend of comedy, having appeared in countless movies and TV shows as wel as performing stand-up. If you were going to choose anyone to teach you how to be funny, he would be the kind of mentor you would choose.
We’ll take a closer look at the course here, and see if it really can make you as funny as one of the all-time greats of comedy. Read on to find out more about the Steve Martin Masterclass course.
When it comes to comedy performance, Steve Martin has a pedigree that few can match. His career stretches right back to the 1960s, when he cut his comedic teeth writing scripts for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The 1970s would see him touring his solo show, performing his characteristic routines in front of packed houses. In the 1980s, he would become a star of multiple Hollywood movies. In 2004, the TV channel Comedy Central would rank him sixth in their list of all-time great stand-up comedians.
That sketch covers the basics of Martin’s career. The man has enjoyed such as glittering and varied career in comedy that it is hard to cover it all here. But Martin’s reputation and influence on comedy, not just in his native USA but across the world, has been massive. Ironic and slightly off-beat, Martin is a subtler performer than many would assume. His golden period of stand-up comedy was in the 1970s, when he made frequent appearances on TV shows as well as playing his own gigs. Viewers of shows like The Muppet Show and Saturday Night Live would have been very familiar with martin during this period.
But he really shot to stardom in the 1980s, when he reached his long-term goal of starring in films. He had played in minor roles in a number of films in the 1970s, before his big film break came in 1979 with The Jerk. Later, films like Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains and The Three Amigos would help to cement his status as a film star comedy actor as well as a great stand-up.
Since then, Martin has become part of Hollywood royalty, and has hosted the Academy Awards in 2001, 2003 and 2010 (with Alex Baldwin). He has also enjoyed a successful writing career, scripting plays and, in 2007, a memoir entitled Born Standing Up. In 2010, his novel An Object of Beuaty was published.
Martin is also a musician, being a keen banjo player. The banjo featured prominently in his stand-up act during the 70s, and the instrument has been an object of much self-mocking humour from Martin too. In 2009, he released his first all-music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2010, and featured performances from guests such as Dolly Parton.
So now you know all about Steve Martin, what does his Masterclass course contain? We’ll look at that next.
The Steve Martin course on comedy is not the longest Masterclass course we have seen. There are 12 lessons in total, and each of these is 12 minutes long. That is quite a lot shorter than the Gordon Ramsey course on cookery, and also shorter than Stephen Curry’s basketball course. We suspect that this is because there is much less emphasis on practical skills in this course, and more focus on insight and advice. After all, it is harder to teach someone to be funny than it is to make scrambled eggs.
Martin encourages his students to understand that anything in life is usable as a source of comic material. Students are also given advice on developing a comic persona. This is not a course where you have to spend a massive amount of time practicing skills, as you do with Stephen Curry’s course or Gordon Ramsey’s. Rather, this is a course that gives you insight into how to think like a comedian. The time commitment you need is therefore rather different to the more practical courses that Masterclass offers.
The Steve Martin Masterclass course costs £85 as a single package, or you can subscribe to Masterclass for £14.17 a month for an all access pass to the courses. The first of the 12 video classes is Martin introducing himself and his work, and you’ll get to hear him play his banjo too.
The next three lessons deal with esoteric and artistic aspects of becoming a comedian. You are given advice on how to gather material from the world around you, as well as on finding your comedic voice and developing a persona to use in your performances. After that, Martin moves onto the more practical aspects of performance, giving advice on joke telling, delivery and crafting your act. Crucially, one lesson is devoted to opening and closing your act, with Martin highlighting that these are the two most crucial moments of a show.
The last third of the course deals with how you refine your act, reflect and improve as a performer over time. He also gives advice on how to deal with hecklers, how to cope when your act bombs, and also what a life in the arts is generally like. A lot is packed into those 12 lessons.
Becoming a successful stand-up comedian is a very difficult thing to do. You can tell that just from the fact that there are not very many successful professional comedians. Steve Martin, however, is one of the most successful of all time. If you’re going to learn how to be funny from anyone, he would be a good choice of tutor.
We have to say that were impressed with this course. Martin does not hold back when it comes to telling it like it is, and some of his insights are very valuable indeed, especially when it comes to opening and closing shows. The advice on how to deal with hecklers is also particularly useful, as it shows how much resilience you have to show to become successful in a trade like comedy.
Overall, we would recommend this course as one of the best that Masterclass offers. We were expecting it to perhaps be a little bit too vague and opaque in its content, but this is a course that offers genuinely insightful tutoring. Taking the course will not turn you into the next Steve Martin, but it will certainly put you on the right road towards emulating at least some of the great man’s glittering career.