Top 50+David Mamet Quotes


Who is David Mamet

David Alan Mamet is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. His works are known for their clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and arcane stylized phrasing, as well as for his exploration of masculinity.

As a playwright, he received Tony nominations for Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997).

His recent books include The Old Religion (1997), a novel about the lynching of Leo Frank; Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (2004), a Torah commentary, with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner; The Wicked Son (2006), a study of Jewish self-hatred and antisemitism; and Bambi vs. Godzilla, an acerbic commentary on the movie business.

David Mamet Quotes

1. Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.

2. We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.

3. It’s only words… unless they’re true.

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

5. 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.

6. Every fear hides a wish.

7. People may or may not say what they mean… but they always say something designed to get what they want.

8. 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

9. We’re all put to the test… but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?

10. We all hope. It’s what keeps us alive.

11. Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only.

12. It’s not a lie. It’s a gift for fiction.

13. Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.

14. 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.

15. Everybody makes their own fun. If you don’t make it yourself, it isn’t fun. It’s entertainment.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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?

20. I go out there. I’m out there every day. [Pause] There is nothing out there.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. 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.

28. We can only interpret the behavior of others through the screen we create.

29. 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.

30. Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others.

31. 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.

32. 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.

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. 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.

38. 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.

39. My Alma mater is the Chicago Public Library.

40. 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

41. If I could go back would I do it differently? Well, I can’t go back.

42. 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.

43. 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.

44. An American will fight for three things.’” “…a girl,” Sam said. “Yes. A girl, himself, or ‘to save the world.

45. Accepted nowhere, belonging nowhere, The Human Ant is forced to roam the world, half-ant, half-cow.

46. 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.

47. It is more frightening but it is not less productive to go your own way, to form your own theatre company, to write and stage your own plays, to make your own films. You have an enormously greater chance of eventually presenting yourself to, and eventually appealing to, an audience by striking out on your own, by making your own plays and films, than by submitting to the industrial model of the school and studio.

48. 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.

49. My generation has a giddy delight in dissolution. […] To inspire the
unsophisticated young to demand “change” is an easy and a cheap trick— it was the tactic of the Communist Internationale in the thirties, another “movement.[…] We were self-taught in the sixties to award ourselves merit for membership in a superior group–irrespective of our
group’s accomplishments. We continue to do so, irrespective of accomplishments, individual or communal, having told each other we were special. We learned that all one need do is refrain from trusting
anybody over thirty; that all people are alike, and to judge their behavior was “judgmental”; that property is theft. As we did not investigate these assertions or their implications, we could not act
upon them and felt no need to do so. For we were the culmination of history, superior to all those misguided who had come before, which is to say all humanity. Though we had never met a payroll, fought for an education, obsessed about the rent, raised a child, carried a weapon for our country, or searched for work. Though we had never been in sufficient distress to call upon God, we indicted those who had. And continue to do so.

50. In the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

51. However much our quotidian cares consume us, our dreamtime is too valuable, and will be devoted to problems not susceptible to rational consideration.

52. Don’t call your wife baby

53. The audience wants to be piqued, to be misled, to be disappointed at times, so that it can, finally, be fulfilled. The audience therefore needs the second act to end with a question.

54. The millennia-long evolution of the human family as a means of dealing with the environment was discarded by my generation of fantasists, in favor of a concept not only artificial, but inchoate: “freedom”—the pursuit of which has led to misery.

55. For we rationalize, objectify, and personalize the process of the game exactly as we do that of a play, a drama. For, finally, it is a drama, with meaning for our lives. Why else would we watch it?

56. But shame, a breaking open of the heart before God, leads, so the Rabbis say, to that true self-knowledge necessary for change. For

57. The leaf of the camomile, parboiled in water, conduces to calm. And yet I do not worship it.

58. The political impulse, similarly, must, however manifested, proceed from a universal urge to order social relations. Emotions

59. The audience can endorse the triviality of modern art, but they can’t like it.

60. The man had been the head of the postwar European operation called Aliyah Bet, the clandestine resettlement of the Jewish remnant of the Holocaust in Palestine. He had come to this position as a senior member of the Palmach, the fighting arm of the Haganah, which was the underground Jewish Army in Palestine, under the British Mandate.


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