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Mamet Speak

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Moss: No. What do you mean? Have I talked to him about this... [pause]
Aaronow: Yes. I mean are you actually talking about this, or are we just...
Moss: No, we're just...
Aaronow: We're just "talking" about it.
Moss: We're just speaking about it. [pause] As an idea.
Aaronow: As an idea.
Moss: Yes.
Aaronow: We're not actually talking about it.
Moss: No.
Aaronow: Talking about it as a...
Moss: No.
Aaronow: As a robbery.
Moss: As a "robbery"? No.

American writer David Mamet is probably most famous for his distinctive style of writing fast, clever, edgy dialogue. When a playwright wins a Pulitzer Prize, his style does not often go without imitation. Mamet's often-imitated dialogue style is called Mamet Speak.

Mamet Speak has the following qualities:

  • It is fast. Characters speak in quick succession, frequently cutting each other off, finishing each other's sentences, and repeating themselves whilst the other speaks.
  • It is loaded with jargon. If two characters work in the same field, expect them to use words and concepts specific to that field without stopping or even slowing down to make sure the non-professional audience can follow along. Consequently, expect as little Exposition as possible.
  • It is frequently focused on semantics. Mamet's characters are known for manipulating language itself to get what they want, or at least discussing the importance of their particular language.
  • It is almost always "vulgar". In keeping with Mamet's general domain of tough-talking characters, Cluster F-Bomb is the name of the game. (Roger Ebert once titled a Movie Glossary entry the "Mamet Dammit" while noting that the swears in question usually weren't that mild.)

Compare Rapid-Fire Interrupting, where the interrupting is one-sided. Also related to World of Snark.


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    Comic Books 
  • Brian Michael Bendis does this in all of his works and with most characters (as seen in the image), some even call him the "Mamet of Comics". He variously refers to Mamet as his god, his hero and his go-to source of inspiration.
  • Parodied by Grant Morrison in the second issue of the three-part miniseries The Green Lantern: Blackstars, where Superman briefly slips into Mamet Speak while complaining about the current problems the league is facing. Superman, of course, was being written by Brian Michael Bendis at the time.
    Superman: And then there's this-
    Hal Jordan: This what?
    Superman: This odd effect-
    Hal Jordan: You've lost me- effect?
    Superman: Like the visual track is frozen and the audio's still rolling-
    Hal Jordan: Audio?
    Superman: Audio, yes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Quentin Tarantino has listed David Mamet as one of the key inspirations for his own style of dialogue.
  • Iron Man 2 ramped this up immensely from the first one, in that other characters aside from Tony Stark started doing it.
  • Some of the dialogue in Primer is like this, with characters talking over each other and answering with quick, short lines.
  • Howard Hawks favored a style of dialog similar to Mamet's, especially in terms of speed and overlap. He had to do without the cussing, of course, given that he worked under The Hays Code.
  • Possibly referenced in a couple lines of dialogue from The Toxic Avenger Part II, of all places:
    Apocalypse Inc. Chairman: "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be"... Shakespeare.
    Homeless Woman: "Fuck you"... David Mamet.

  • Invoked in Peter Benchley's Q Clearance. The protagonist, who is normally very erudite and a devotee of Samuel Johnson, is being given a "The Reason You Suck" Speech by his soon-to-be-estranged wife. The narration notes that, as Johnson had nothing to say about this kind of situation, the protagonist falls back on Mamet:
    "Fuck you, Joan of Arc!"
  • Elmore Leonard was doing this years before Mamet.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Naturally, the works of David Mamet himself.
    • Adjusted somewhat in Boston Marriage, which is set in the 19th century instead of contemporary times. It's relatively restrained when it comes to vulgar language, for one thing, leaning more toward the Precision F-Strike than the Cluster F-Bomb (but the f-bomb does indeed get dropped).
  • Joyce Carol Oates' Tone Clusters, while scant on the swearing, contains a great deal of the Gulicks rapidly talking over one another at great length, and constantly repeating one another.
  • The first scene between Roy and Joe in Angels in America contains a lot of this, with Joe's attempts to get a word in edgewise between Roy's onslaughts of speech.
  • Neil La Bute uses a lot of this, particularly in reasons to be pretty and In a Dark, Dark House.
  • Extra Pulp is completely built around this trope. All of the characters speak in short, profanity-ridden sentences that overlap and repeat each other.
  • Parodied in "Speed-the-Play" by David Ives.
  • Ensemble numbers in Stephen Sondheim musicals sometimes approach this, with characters quickly interjecting comments with sixteenth-note precision. In "Another National Anthem" from Assassins, the following lines are sung in quick succession:
    Byck: Yeah, it's never gonna happen, is it? No, sir.
    Czogolsz: Never.
    Byck: No, we're never gonna get the prize—
    Fromme: No one listens.
    Byck: Are we?
    Zangara: Never!
    Byck: No, it doesn't make a bit of difference, does it?
    Others: [variously] Didn't. Ever.
    Byck: Fuck it!
    Others: Spread the word...

    Web Videos 
  • Each episode being only a few minutes long at most, Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'? is rife with constant dialogue back and forths, snappy sentences and a fair amount of cursing.
  • A delicious send-up of a possible dialogue from the upcoming Anne Frank movie is here.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer is a great example, with every character getting in on the fun.
  • Similarly, Bob's Burgers fits this as well.

    Real Life