David Mamet on why you should never ask, "What do you do for a living?"

Video of David Mamet explaining why you should never ask someone "What do you do for a living?"

Feels like the premise to a bit almost. And it's an interesting concept that bringing sectarian politics to the stage is "burdening" the audience. Plus, I love how he has no prob taking it to Charlie.

For kicks, here's some classic Mamet/Baldwin action:


Matteson said...

Is it really so obtuse to ask someone you've just met what they do for a living? In Mamet's mind it's an opportunity to prejudge, but to me it's just small talk meant to find out how a person spends half their waking hours. Usually people that bristle a this are people that aren't proud of what they do. I've had someone say to me, "I hate that question, because how I make money doesn't define who I am." Which is fine, but what should I ask people when I first meet them? "What is your essence?" "Define for me who you are?"

If you're not into your job just say, "Well, I do X to make money, but what I'm really interested in is Y." And then we can talk about Y. To make money, I work for a company that sells office furniture, which is a subject no one, including myself, wants to talk about. So when people ask what I do, I say, "I'm trying to be a writer, and in the mean time I make money working for a company that sells office furniture."

Anyone that would judge me completely by what I do for a living is so shallow I wouldn't want to be their friend anyway.

myq said...

It seems like that IS his greater point: "don't judge someone by what they do for a living."

And if you can have a meaningful, interesting discussion with someone WITHOUT asking them what they do for a living, then great.

I always ask people "what do you do in life" or "what do you do that you like" because it leaves it more open for them to answer either with their job or anything else they want to say. And depending how they answer, THEN I can judge them.

Unless it's from the stage. Then I stick with "what do you do," and if someone said "I'm trying to be a writer and I make money working for a furniture company," I would judge you as someone whose answer is too lengthy.

Matteson said...

Yes... I would never use that answer at a comedy show.

soce said...

If you're interested in dating someone, it can be nice to know whether or not they are gainfully employed. If you're just meeting someone at a party, it's nice to have some sort of handle on them. I prefer to ask for an in-depth analysis on their favorite color.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

soce if you're looking for dating prospects, I have learned the following from chick flicks: you should ask about kids. And whether he makes pizza for his kids. And whether you can watch them blissfully in the kitchen doorway.

Speaking of questions you're not supposed to ask, if you find out someone has a dead family member avoid asking how they died. You may THINK it's cancer, but it's probably suicide.

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