It didn’t matter who you were — Martin de Maat believed in you.
Martin was a teacher and administrator at Second City. He died in 2001, about a year before I started taking classes there, but he left behind an indelible legacy.
By all accounts, he was a one-of-a-kind figure — passionate, enthusiastic, inspirational. Martin put everything into his work and encouraged his students to do the same. Apparently he had a favorite saying that went like this:
The Hokey Pokey. Think about it. At the end of the song, what do we learn? What is it all about? [Dramatic pause, delighted grin.] You put your whole self in!
I use this story at the end of my speeches to encourage audiences to be bold, to hold nothing back, to attack their work with passion and conviction. Ultimately it’s about letting go of your fears and inhibitions and believing in yourself.
Martin was a great believer in people. It didn’t matter if you were Chris Farley or David Mamet or one of the many thousands of ordinary accountants, lawyers, students or retirees who have passed through Second City’s doors … Martin saw something unique and valuable in every individual.
That philosophy is captured in something else he would often say, which is inscribed on a plaque at the training center and are the final words of my book:
You are pure potential!