Remember the last edition of my periodic series on celebrity video "Master Classes" whereby people people who can, teach—Ron Howard on movie direction, Steve Martin on comedy, Aaron Sorkin on playwriting? I called these people masters, all right. Masters, as my seventh-grade gym teacher once called us boys, of bation.
These aren't teachers, they're celebrities who enjoy gassing on about their secrets to success. (Their children don't listen to them anymore; perhaps some strangers will.) Yet what they're doing is mostly not educating, as I said. That requires "the thinking, refining, reimagining and patient teaching required to help a group of grown-ups actually learn something new."
I might have gone on to say that proof of these celebrities' windbaggery would be the sorts of genuine talents who you well know would never record themselves mass-mentoring in smug-bites from a literal armchair in a literal dimly lit study. If I were coming up with a list of never-Master-Classers, I could think of a bunch of artists with too much intellectual integrity. Except Itzhak Perlman, Billy Collins, David Lynch and Joyce Carol Oates have all recorded Master Classes!
I suppose we must now look suspiciously on dead masters too, as people who might have been masters of bation. We know Hemingway couldn't have resisted doing one of these, but you hope either Fitzgerald or Faulkner would. Beethoven teaches creative piano-playing while deaf! Napoleon teaches chess for short people! And Leonardo da Vinci—what doesn't he teach!?
Now, one rare living artist who you'd think would understand that what he has can't be taught—partly because of the quirkiness of his talent and point of view and partly because he actually has a sense of humor—is David Sedaris.
(Or as I call the course, Me Teach Shitty One Day.)
With no sense of irony, Sedaris sets out to teach real estate agents his secret to being a recovering alcoholic gay southerner with a narcissistic mother and an utterly peculiar sensibility who hits it big.
He does so by passing on useful lessons like this:
"In this class, I'll talk about connecting with people, and asking questions. I met this woman one time, and I said when was the last time you touched a monkey? And she said, 'Oh, can you smell it on me?'"
"I'll talk about keeping a diary. It begins with a notebook …"
"A huge part of writing is learning to trust yourself. And that just comes with experience."
So, David Sedaris: just another master of bation.
If Bill Murray or Frances McDormand do one of these, I give up.