David Mamet quotes

“Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“It’s only words… unless they’re true.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Every scene should be able to answer three questions: “Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?”
― David Mamet

 

 

“You know, I once read an interesting book which said that, uh, most people lost in the wilds, they, they die of shame. Yeah, see, they die of shame. ‘What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?’ And so they sit there and they… die. Because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives. Thinking.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Every fear hides a wish.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“People may or may not say what they mean… but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“All drama is about lies. All drama is about something that’s hidden. A drama starts because a situation becomes imbalanced by a lie. The lie may be something we tell each other or something we think about ourselves, but the lie imbalances a situation. If you’re cheating on your wife the repression of that puts things out of balance; or if you’re someone you think you’re not, and you think you should be further ahead in your job, that neurotic vision takes over your life and you’re plagued by it until you’re cleansed. At the end of a play the lie is revealed. The better the play the more surprising and inevitable the lie is. Aristotle told us this”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Superman comics are a fable, not of strength, but of disintegration. They appeal to the preadolescent, (sic) mind not because they reiterate grandiose delusions, but because they reiterate a very deep cry for help.
Superman’s two personalities can be integrated only in one thing: only in death. Only Kryptonite cuts through the disguises of both wimp and hero, and affects the man below the disguises.
And what is Kryptonite? Kryptonite is all that remains of his childhood home.
It is the remnants of that destroyed childhood home, and the fear of those remnants, which rule Superman’s life. The possibility that the shards of that destroyed home might surface prevents him from being intimate- they prevent him from sharing the knowledge that the wimp and the hero are one. The fear of his childhood home prevents him from having pleasure.
He fears that to reveal his weakness, and confusion, is, perhaps indirectly, but certainly inevitably, to receive death from the person who received that information.
[…]
Far from being invulnerable, Superman is the most vulnerable of beings, because his childhood was destroyed. He can never reintegrate himself by returning to that home- it is gone. It is gone and he is living among aliens to whom he cannot even reveal his rightful name.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“We’re all put to the test… but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“…My dad, may he rest in
peace, taught me many wonderful things. And one of the things he taught me was never ask a guy what you do for a living.

He said “If you think about it, when you ask a guy, what do you do you do for a living,” you’re saying “how may I gauge the rest of your utterances.” are you smarter than I am? Are you richer than I am, poorer than I am?”

So you ask a guy what do you do for a living, it’s the same thing as
asking a guy, let me know what your politics are before I listen to you so
I know whether or not you’re part of my herd, in which case I can nod
knowingly, or part of the other herd, in which case I can wish you dead.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“We all hope. It’s what keeps us alive.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“It’s not a lie. It’s a gift for fiction.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“We live in oppressive times. We have, as a nation, become our own thought police; but instead of calling the process by which we limit our expression of dissent and wonder ‘censorship,’ we call it ‘concern for commercial viability.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Everybody makes their own fun. If you don’t make it yourself, it isn’t fun. It’s entertainment.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Life in the movie business is like the beginning of a new love affair: it’s full of surprises, and you’re constantly getting fucked.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Art is an expression of joy and awe. It is not an attempt to share one’s virtues and accomplishments with the audience, but an act of selfless spirit.

― David Mamet

 

 

“What is our life: (Pause.) it’s looking forward or it’s looking back. And that’s our life. That’s it. Where is the moment?”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Every reiteration of the idea that _nothing matters_ debases the human spirit.

Every reiteration of the idea that there is no drama in modern life, there is only dramatization, that there is no tragedy, there is only unexplained misfortune, debases us. It denies what we know to be true. In denying what we know, we are as a nation which cannot remember its dreams–like an unhappy person who cannot remember his dreams and so denies that he does dream, and denies that there are such things as dreams.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Fox: It’s lonely at the top.
Gould: But it ain’t crowded.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“I go out there. I’m out there every day. [Pause] There is nothing out there. ”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Anyone can write five people trapped in a snowstorm. The question is how you get them into the snowstorm. It’s hard to write a good play because it’s hard to structure a plot. If you can think of it off the top of your head, so can the audience. To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Society functions in a way much more interesting than the multiple-choice pattern we have been rewarded for succeeding at in school. Success in life comes not from the ability to choose between the four presented answers, but from the rather more difficult and painfully acquired ability to formulate the questions.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“The first rule of tinkering is, of course, ‘save all the parts.’ But in dismantling the social fabric, the parts cannot all be saved, for one of them is time. Time, we were told, is a river flowing endlessly through the universe and one cannot step into the same river twice. Not only can we not undo actions taken in haste and in fear (the Japanese Internment), but those taken from the best reasons, but that have proved destructive (affirmative action); the essential mechanism of societal preservation is not inspiration, but restraint.”
― David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture

 

 

 

“The basis of drama is … is the struggle of the hero towards a specific goal at the end of which he realizes that what kept him from it was, in the lesser drama, civilization and, in the great drama, the discovery of something that he did not set out to discover but which can be seen retrospectively as inevitable. The example Aristotle uses, of course, is Oedipus.”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“My motto is “Be Prepared.” I am told this is also the motto of the Boy Scouts, but, if so, this only proves that they were acting according to my motto earlier than I.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“What is Big Government but the Executive’s cocaine dream, an activity devoted solely to jockeying for position, in which he may find license for malversation, and may take the company treasury and direct it toward those people who will support his continued incumbency–it is within the law. Its street name is ‘earmarks,’ but it is theft.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“We can only interpret the behavior of others through the screen we create.”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“In the meantime: (1) be direct; (2) remember that, being smarter than men, women respond to courtesy and kindness; (3) if you want to know what kind of a wife someone will make, observe her around her father and mother; (4) as to who gets out of the elevator first, I just can’t help you.”
― David Mamet, Some Freaks

 

 

“Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“[A Chinese Restaurant.] Roma is seated alone at the booth.Lingk is at the booth next to him.Roma is talking to him.
* * *

Roma: . . . Eh? What I’m saying, what is our life? (Pause.) It’s looking forward or it’s looking back. And that’s our life. That’s it. Where is the moment? (Pause.) And what is it that we’re afraid of? Loss. What else? (Pause.) The bank closes. We get sick, my wife died on a plane, the stock market collapsed . . . the house burnt down . . . what of these happen . . . ? None of ’em. We worry anyway. What does this mean? I’m not secure. How can I be secure? (Pause.) Through amassing wealth beyond all measure? No. And what’s beyond all measure? That’s a sickness. That’s a trap. There is no measure. Only greed. How can we act? The right way, we would say, to deal with this: “There is a one-in-a million chance that so and so will happen. . . . Fuck it, it won’t happen to me. . . .” No. We know that’s not the right way I think. (Pause.) We say the correct way to deal with this is “There is a one-in-so-and-so chance that this will happen . . . God protect me. I am powerless, let it not happen to me. . . .” But no to that. I say. There’s something else. What is it? “If it happens, AS IT MAY for that is not within our powers, I will deal with it, just as I do today with what draws my concern today.” I say this is how we must act. I do those things which seem correct to me today. I trust myself. And if security concerns me, I do that which today I think will make me secure. And every day I do that, when that day arrives that I need a reserve, (a) odds are that I have it, and (b) the true reserve that I have is the strength that I have of acting each day without fear. (Pause.) According to the dictates of my mind. (Pause.)”
― David Mamet

 

 

“How can I be secure? (Pause.) Through amassing wealth beyond all measure? No. And what’s beyond measure? That’s a sickness. That’s a trap. There is no measure. Only greed.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“I examined my Liberalism and found it like an addiction to roulette. Here, though the odds are plain, and the certainty of loss apparent to anyone with a knowledge of arithmetic, the addict, failing time and again, is convinced he yet is graced with the power to contravene natural laws. The roulette addict, when he invariably comes to grief, does not examine either the nature of roulette, or of his delusion, but retires to develop a new system, and to scheme for more funds.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“It is to a dramatist, which is to say, to an unfrocked psychoanalyst, stunning that that which has sustained the Left in my generation, its avatar, its prime issue, has been abortion. For, whether or not it is regarded as a woman’s right, an unfortunate necessity, or murder, which is to say, irrespective of differing and legitimate political views, to enshrine it as the most important test of the Liberal, is, mythologically, an assertion to the ultimate right of a postreligious Paganism.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Writers are asked, ‘How could you know so much about [fill in the profession]?’ The answer, if the writing satisfies, is that one makes it up. And the job, my job, as a dramatist, was not to write accurately, but to write persuasively. If and when I do my job well, subsequent cowboys, as it were, will talk like me.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“In the sixties, the Commune emerged as a riposte to the nuclear family. This was an autonomic re-creation of not only preindustrial, but pre-agrarian life; it was the Return to Nature, but the Commune, like the colleges from which the idea reemerged, only functioned if Daddy was paying the bills, for the rejection of property can work only in subvention or in slavery. It is only in a summer camp (College or the hippie commune) that the enlightened live on the American Plan—room and board included prepaid—and one is free to frolic all day in the unspoiled woods.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“They were and are children of privilege… the privilege taught, learned, and imbibed, in a “liberal arts education” is the privilege to indict. These children have, in the main, never worked, learned to obey, command, construct, amend, or complete – to actually contribute to the society. They have learned to be shrill, and that their indictment, on the economy, on sex, on race, on the environment, though based on no experience other than hearsay, must trump any discourse, let alone opposition. It occurred to me that I had seen this behavior elsewhere, where it was called developmental difficulty.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“Well, there are those who would say it’s a form of aggression.”
“What is?”
“A surprise.”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“We cannot live in peace without Law. And though law cannot be perfect, it may be just if it is written in ignorance of the identity of the claimants and applied equally to all. Then it is a possession not only of the claimants but of the society, which may now base its actions upon a reasonable assumption of the law’s treatment.

But ‘fairness’ is not only a nonlegal but an antilegal process, for it deals not with universally applicable principles and strictures, but with specific cases, responding to the perceived or proclaimed needs of individual claimants, and their desire for extralegal preference. And it could be said to substitute fairness (a determination which must always be subjective) for justice (the application of the legislated will of the electorate), is to enshrine greed–the greed, in this case, not for wealth, but for preference.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“FAUSTUS. To have fooled the philosopher.
MAGUS. One finds, in my profession, sir, the greater the intellect, the more ease in its misdirection.
FAUSTUS. One finds the same in mine.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“I pray you indulge me for a space, for I am going to set out on a speech which may have some duration, but whose theme may be gleaned from its opening phrase: how dare you.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“My Alma mater is the Chicago Public Library.”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“Matrimony and monogamy have forever been linked with property and inheritance, the nuclear family, in the West, having been decided upon through trial and error as the most effective unit for preservation of both. In”
― David Mamet

 

 

“And there are plays – and books and songs and poems and dances – that are perhaps upsetting or intricate or unusual, that leave you unsure, but which you think about perhaps the next day, and perhaps for a week, and perhaps for the rest of your life.

Because they aren’t clean, they aren’t neat, but there’s something in them that comes from the heart, and, so, goes to the heart.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“And there are plays – and books and songs and poems and dances – that are perhaps upsetting or intricate or unusual, that leave you unsure, but which you think about perhaps the next day, and perhaps for a week, and perhaps for the rest of your life.

Because they aren’t clean, they aren’t neat, but there’s something in them that comes from the heart, and, so, goes to the heart.

What comes from the head is perceived by the audience, the child, the electorate, as manipulative. And we may succumb to the manipulative for a moment because it makes us feel good to side with the powerful. But finally we understand we’re being manipulated. And we resent it.

Tragedy is a celebration not of our eventual triumph but of the truth – it is not a victory but a resignation. Much of its calmative power comes, again, from that operation described by Shakespeare: when remedy is exhausted, so is grief.”
― David Mamet

 

 

 

“The anti-Stratfordians hold that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays—it was another fellow of the same name, or of a different name. In this they invert the megalomaniacal equation and make themselves not the elect, but the superior of the elect. Barred from composing Shakespeare’s plays by a regrettable temporal accident, they, in the fantasy of most every editor, accept the mantle of primum mobile, consign the (falsely named) creator to oblivion, and turn to the adulation of the crowd for their deed of discovery and insight—so much more thoughtful and intellectual than the necessarily sloppy work of the writer.”
― David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

 

 

“If I could go back would I do it differently? Well, I can’t go back.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“The Chicago literary tradition is born not out of its Universities, but out of the sports desk and the city desk of its newspapers. Hemingway revolutionized English prose. His inspiration was the telegraph, whose use, at Western Union, taught this: every word costs something,
This, of course, is the essence of poetry, which is the essence of great prose. Chicagoan literature came from the newspaper, whose purpose, in those days, was to Tell What Happened. Hemingway’s epiphany was reported, earlier, by Keats as ” ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ –that is all ye know earth, and all ye need to know.” I would add to Keats’ summation only this: “Don’t let the other fellow piss on your back and tell you it’s raining.”
I believe one might theoretically forgive one who cheats at business, but never one who cheats at cards; for business adversaries operate at arm’s length, the cardplayer under the strict rules of the game, period.
That was my first political epiphany.
And now, I have written a political book.
What are the qualifications for a Political Writer?
They are, I believe, the same as those of an aspiring critic: an inability to write for the Sports Page.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“The baby boomer generation, my own, is content, if of the Left, to live out our remaining years upon the work and upon the entitlements created by our parents, and to entail the costs upon our children–to tax industry out of the country, to tax wealth away from its historical role and use as the funder of innovation.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, “We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what is going on in this world.” If you’re not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.”
― David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

 

 

“Always be closing.”
― David Mamet

 

 

“An American will fight for three things.’” “…a girl,” Sam said. “Yes. A girl, himself, or ‘to save the world.”
― David Mamet, The Handle and the Hold

 

 

“Accepted nowhere, belonging nowhere, The Human Ant is forced to roam the world, half-ant, half-cow.”
― David Mamet, The Trials of Roderick Spode, “The Human Ant”

 

 

“Today, as in ancient Rome, when all avenues of success have been traveled and all prizes won, the final prize is the delusion of godhead.”
― David Mamet

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