Ideas and Musings

The Gift of Masterclass


A couple of years ago, a friend and I got the Masterclass deal of 2 subscriptions for the price of 1. It’s a nice way to try something without the full commitment. If you don’t know, Masterclass are the classes that the greats are teaching. It started out more about performance and writing but has grown into many other subjects such as food, design, business, science, music, and politics.

When I first started, I took classes with Judd Apatow, Steve Martin, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Sedaris. Each fabulous.

It’s a gift.

But I found myself letting Masterclass go. Even though I continued my subscription, I just wasn’t taking the classes like I intended, like I wanted.


I got to Usher’s class in “The Art of Performance” and I started feeling pressure.

If I’m not actually performing, am I doing Usher’s class justice? I felt like if I didn’t use it, I was somehow wasting my time, and their time. I wasn’t doing the homework; I didn’t get on our Crackbook group and post a video of myself performing.

It just felt weird. Like I didn’t have a right to be there among all those greats. (Yeah, like many people, I have self-esteem issues.)


Then Covid-19 reared its head, and I went back to Masterclass. I’m obsessed with learning and if I’m not going down to ComedySportz, I have to do something!

I learned about “Makeup and Beauty” with Bobbi Brown. Acting with Helen Mirren. Writing with David Mamut. And “The Art of Negotiation” with Chris Voss.

Now you may ask, Karin, how much can I learn in a 2 to 5 hour class? Especially if I don’t do the homework! Okay, the cooking classes are more skill based. And maybe the Chess and Poker classes. I haven’t taken those yet.

The answer is both “a lot” and “not much.” A lot of information is given and some of it is technical skills. But really, we can all get those technical skills elsewhere.

No, what we actually learn is:

  • The Greats are people too.
  • They all went through Dante’s Hell to get to where they’re at.
  • They share their histories and how they got to where they are.
  • They share their thought processes, ideas, assumptions, and conclusions.
  • They share their secrets, many secrets…

It feels like they are talking to me, like they are mentors.

Is Samuel L. Jackson going to talk to me about how to hold my script in auditions? No! He will talk to me about how he approaches a role, how he rarely says “no” to an opportunity, and how to act on the set. He’ll show the use of status in a scene. It’s higher level than practicing holding your script at eye level. He doesn’t like holding the script at all and says it sends a message that you are not prepared.

It’s like sitting down for an interview, a conversation, with them, and listening to their secrets.

It was so inspiring to listen to RuPaul, “Self-Expression and Authenticity” talk about how I’m also fabulous.

Or to completely disagree with Tan France (Queer Eye) about how skinny jeans are the best. I think that it’s a very rare person who can look good in skinny jeans. I like flares and bell-bottoms myself. And it’s okay! He says right up front that I’m going to disagree with him and that’s okay because it’s all about how it makes you feel. So, if I feel my sexiest in bell-bottoms, it’s just fine!

They are like very generous friends who inspire me! I should write some thank you notes…

But that’s just one Gift of Masterclass…

Another World

Once I got over the shame of not doing the homework and just started taking classes, the world opened up for me. I take classes on things I don’t often even think about.

I had better appreciation for high fashion after Anna Wintour’s “Creativity and Leadership” class.

I learned more about the scientific process, and communication, with Neil deGrasse Tyson and his class “Scientific Thinking and Communication”.

I became more interested in, and plan to read more about, Economics with Paul Krugman.

And the beautiful part of all of this is that because these instructors are so open about themselves and their mastery, none of the classes are just about the subject in the title. No, they contain life lessons.

I’ve read over and over about how we should read subjects outside our normal life. That it will expand our minds. Malcolm Gladwell said it again in “Writing.” And I’ve finally started looking up and reading about things that I don’t normally read about. They are right, it does expand the mind.

At the moment, I’m in Annie Leibovitz’s class on Photography. Anyone who knows me knows my face isn’t in a camera. I’m just not a picture taker. But it doesn’t matter! I still can see inside her head and gain a larger appreciation for photography and what really goes into it. I get to see how she sees the world and her place in it.

I’ve recently gotten a subscription to “The New Yorker” which not only has top notch writing, but the writers write on a variety of subjects. So many things to learn! And they are not the short sound bites that you see in so many other publications. There’s meat to the articles.

I extended my subscription to Masterclass and I now have a list of classes I’m going to take. Even if I don’t take up Skateboarding, there are lessons there for me! IE “How an Outcast Becomes an Icon”, that sounds pretty good to me!

Excuse me, it’s time to go hang with David Lynch….that’s the Gift of Masterclass.

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