Arts & Entertainment, Writing

The Audience

David Mamet

Lesson time 09:28 min

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

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

Topics include: Writing for the Audience • Learning from the Audience • Entertain Them


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...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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