Steve Martin Teaches His First Online Course on Comedy

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Can com­e­dy be taught? The ques­tion has no clear answer, but if it can, Steve Mar­tin would sure­ly occu­py the high­est rank of com­e­dy teach­ers. He could prob­a­bly teach a fair few oth­er crafts as well: besides his achieve­ments as an inno­va­tor in stand-up as well as in oth­er forms of com­e­dy — famous­ly appear­ing on Sat­ur­day Night Live so many times that even some of his fans mis­take him for a reg­u­lar cast mem­ber — he’s also estab­lished him­self as an actor, as an essay­ist and nov­el­ist, and even as a respect­ed blue­grass ban­jo play­er. Still, despite his impres­sive artis­tic Renais­sance-man cre­den­tials many of us, at the mere men­tion of Steve Mar­t­in’s name, laugh almost reflex­ive­ly.

Hence his place at the front and cen­ter of “Steve Mar­tin Teach­es Com­e­dy,” a new online course from Mas­ter­class, the edu­ca­tion start­up whose fac­ul­ty ros­ter, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured, also includes the likes of Wern­er Her­zog and Aaron Sorkin. “We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” says Mar­tin in the course’s trail­er above. “We’re going to talk about my spe­cif­ic process, per­form­ing com­e­dy, we’re going to talk about writ­ing.” For a cost of $90, Mas­ter­class pro­vides more than 25 video lessons, a down­load­able work­book with sup­ple­men­tal les­son mate­ri­als, and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to upload your own mate­r­i­al for cri­tiques by the rest of the class as well as maybe — just maybe — by Mar­tin him­self.

Whether or not a mas­ter come­di­an can pass along his knowl­edge as a math or a lan­guage teacher can, any­one who’s paid atten­tion to Mar­t­in’s com­e­dy so far, as well as his reflec­tions on com­e­dy, can sense how much intel­lec­tu­al ener­gy he’s put into fig­ur­ing it all out, even at its extremes of absur­di­ty, for him­self. Stu­dents unwill­ing to fol­low suit need not apply, nor those wor­ried about land­ing agents and get­ting head­shots, for the esteemed instruc­tor makes it clear up front that he grap­ples only with the most impor­tant ques­tion in com­e­dy, as in life: “How do I be good?” You can sign up here. Or you can pur­chase an All-Access Annu­al Pass for every course in the Mas­ter­Class cat­a­log.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Steve Mar­tin Make His First TV Appear­ance: The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour (1968)

Steve Mar­tin & Robin Williams Riff on Math, Physics, Ein­stein & Picas­so in a Heady Com­e­dy Rou­tine (2002)

Steve Mar­tin on the Leg­endary Blue­grass Musi­cian Earl Scrug­gs

Steve Mar­tin Writes a Hymn for Hymn-Less Athe­ists

Steve Mar­tin, “Home Crafts Expert,” Explains the Art of Paper Wadding, Endors­es Bob Ker­rey

Steve Mar­tin Releas­es Blue­grass Album/Animated Video

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • shikha says:

    this is a good means of teach­ing stu­dents as they would not only be able to active­ly par­tic­i­pate but in turn would take inter­est and devel­op a bet­ter under­stand­ing.

  • Lawrence Petch says:

    This should­n’t be here, it is an advert for a paid-for course.

  • Leisureguy says:

    You under­es­ti­mate the range of the posts, which often men­tion (for exam­ple) movies that one must pay to see. Cer­tain­ly Open Cul­ture points to a lot of free stuff, but I for one appre­ci­ate that they point out items of interest—e.g., this course—that are not free.

    I don’t see it as advert but as a pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment.

  • Berit Branch says:


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