Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Ending With Weight

David Sedaris

Lesson time 18:10 min

Humor isn’t memorable when it doesn’t mean something. David teaches you how to turn your essay from a purely comedic piece into writing with meaning.

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

Topics include: Turn the End Around • Workshop the Ending • "The Spirit World": End With Truth


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Often when I read aloud from my diary, people laugh, and then they don't remember anything anymore. I remember my sister Amy used to be at Second City, and I would go to her shows, and I would laugh and laugh and laugh. But when I left, I couldn't remember anything. So I feel like sorrow often gives weight to the humor and makes it more memorable. But you don't want to be formulaic about it, because then it just becomes a gimmick, and it doesn't mean anything anymore. But I think I'm naturally drawn to kind of what's sad, or grim, or depressing about something. And when I find it, when I can put my hands on it, and I can put it in an essay, those are the essays that people remember. And I want the essays to mean something. It's not always going to happen. There's nothing wrong with just laughing. But I think the difference is when I've started out as a writer, I just wanted people to laugh. And then after a while, I thought, well, OK. I know I know how to do that. What if I try for something more? What if I try to move people, in a way? What if I try to engage them in that way? And I wasn't so desperate. Like, I look at some of my earlier writing, and I just see someone who's so desperate for a laugh. And I want to say to that person, gosh, just calm down. It's OK. My father said to me a million times, don't force it. And he was talking about me trying to force a knob back onto the television, or trying to-- but it is good advice. Don't force it. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm often asked what writers I admire, and there are any number of writers that I admire. But a person who really had a profound impact on me was Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi Goldberg did a Broadway show in 1983 or 1984, and I remember it aired on on HBO. And we had a tape of it, and I must have watched that tape 40 times. And what I liked was that she did different characters. And then you would laugh, and you would laugh, and you would laugh. And then something would happen, and you would feel like such a monster for having laughed. And you would just think, oh my god. What kind of person am I? It wasn't so distracting that you were unable to continue with what she was saying, but I love laughter that kind of turns around and becomes something else, like a joke that becomes a finger that points at you. It's a worthwhile question, what kind of person am I? And I don't mean to be the kind of author that says to people, what kind of person are you? I don't want to be a scold. I don't want to be a nag. But often, I'm the one in the essay. I'm the example of somebody who was laughing and laughing. And then I realize, oh, maybe it's not such a joke after all. So there's a sound the audience makes, and there's a way I feel reading it out loud, there's no greater pleasure than reading the correct ending out loud in front of an audience for the first time, and having it work, and you just feel like a king. Even if you realize, OK, I still need to ...

About the Instructor

With essays in The New Yorker, bestselling books like Calypso, tours, and readings on NPR, David Sedaris is one of the most recognizable essayists alive. Now he teaches you the art of personal storytelling. Learn how David crafts attention-grabbing openings, satisfying endings, and meaning from the mundane—and how he uses humor to connect with others and process the difficult and sometimes dark aspects of everyday life.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

David Sedaris

NYT–bestselling author David Sedaris teaches you how to turn everyday moments into seriously funny stories that connect with audiences.

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