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Arts & Entertainment

The Audience

David Mamet

Lesson time 9:29 min

Learn how David reveres his audiences, what they are looking for when they come to the theatre, and how to learn from them.

David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
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There's not a lot that we can learn as humans, right? Because we're stupid. We really are. And myself more than anyone else. Billy Wilder was a great great-- there wasn't a better director and there wasn't a better screenwriter. And he said, the audience, individually-- they're idiots. Collectively, they're a genius. And that's been my experience. Individually, they, like me, are idiots, right? But collectively, you cannot fool them. And I've done my stuff in every medium that I know of all around the world. I've never met a dumb audience. Never. Because the lights go out and the button gets pushed. OK, tell me a story, right? And if you interesting them, they'll follow along. And if it's funny, they'll laugh. And if it's not funny, they won't, right? And if it's stunning, they'll gasp. You can extort a standing ovation out of any audience in the world. You can extort it, right? But you can't extort a laugh out of them. And you can't extort a gasp out of them. They do that-- boy, you've done something. I learned something really important years and years ago. I think we're in the same studio where Sidney Lumet shot the movie, The Verdict, with Paul Newman. And Sidney asked me to write a couple other movies for him. And one of them was the autobiography of Malcolm X. That script never got made and eventually, Spike Lee made his version. But I really loved doing research. And one of the research that I did was reading from the Quran in English. I got a big kick out of it. And one thing that Quran says-- or the prophet Muhammad says-- he says, I'm leaving now. But I'm going to leave you two teachers. There's a speaking teacher and a silent teacher. The speaking teacher is this book, the Quran. And the silent teacher is death. I thought, well, OK, you know? And then I started thinking about drama. I thought, how do you teach people about drama. And there's only two things that can teach the people about drama. There's the silent teacher and the speaking teacher. And the speaking teacher is the audience. You cannot learn how to write drama without writing plays when you get on in front of an audience and getting humiliated. Because nothing makes any sense until you do that. Until you've used your consciousness and you said, this will kill them. This is the best thing anybody ever wrote. It's going to grab them by the throat and they won't be able to look up. And then you watch the audience go to sleep and you're humiliated. You found you were in error. You have to try again. And if you're easily shamed, you're not going to learn. So that's the speaking teacher, the audience. You cannot learn to write drama without an audience. And the silent teacher is the empty page. You've got to look at that empty page and say, man, somebody is trying t...

Write great drama

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.


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

Yes I beleive it has helped I will listen to it again. He brings a bit of reality to the subject and is inspiring.

I'm not a writer, but Mamet's dialog and methods gave me great insights into his craft. There were so many notes I took to capture elements that I felt broke through the boundary of profession or industry.

So enjoyable. I laughed all the way through. Such a great storyteller. Just what I needed. I'm stepping outside my writing comfort zone to venture into screenwriting and fiction. I've been published many years in non-fiction and reporting. So it is a big challenge for me to look through that different lense.

The class was very helpful to me because it's a reminder that the art of creation is in the discipline and the work ethic of the practitioner.


Roy S.

This is a fantastic, I've always had this notion, and Mr. Mamet just confirmed it in a very equivalent way. excellent!

laura J.

The movie Verdict and The Edge both had me by the second, the Edge was totally a gasping moment, I never saw it coming. Just ordered one of his books..

Bahman M.

Sorry, but the guy who spoke prose all his life without knowing it was not Tartuffe. It was Monsieur Jourdain in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.


I love the revelation that writing is not creation but discovery. People laughed at P. J. Travers when she would tell them that she did not create Mary Poppins, she discovered her.

Saagar S.

Chapter 19 : The Audience By far the best lesson I have had the experience of watching, listening & understanding in the field of Arts & ENTERTAINMENT. Not only as a writer but also as a filmmaker.


This serves well for so much of writing and speaking. Essence or nitpicking exactitude. When you're sitting around the campfire, there's no competition. No better way to kill the rhythm and essence of a story than jolting backstory and mind numbing detail.


Truly inspiring and profound Mr Mamet. One must always to strive keeping the audience as a reliable ally.

Michael U.

I find David Mamet very insightful and inspiring especially when it comes to the audience. I too have been at that point where I thought I wrote the most brilliant and deep dialogue any writer since Shakespeare has ever written. Had actors at the local theater do a reading in front of an audience and it was HORRIBLE. The director made them stop after ten pages of the most boring, chaotic dialogue that only meant something to me. Yes, I was humiliated but as it was noted in this lesson, the audience is right. I forgot that they were there to be entertained not taught, preached too or help me relive something in my life.

David M.

All about what's at stake. And then the audience tells you if anything's at stake for them. And then being clever enough to make them laugh or sincere enough to make them cry. And the horribleness of being wrong. Drama. I like the idea of death being a teacher. Why turn it into an empty page?

Pato C.

A great comfort! If I honestly think the Story is interesting to me, knowing that yes, it is about my experiences and imagination; but NOT strictly about my life, then I distance myself from the writer and become another person around the fire, listening to the Story among everyone else... That's so comforting, it takes the pressure off and forces you to enjoy the process.Thanks David.