Chicago Comedy Guide
Tribute to Martin de Maat

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Martin de Maat
"...and there's your laugh."

January 12, 1949 February 15, 2001

Martin de Maat was one of the leading inspirations to a whole generation of performers that developed out of the Chicago comedy scene. As a teacher and artistic director at The Second City, he trained people at every level. This included being the first to mold new talent to helping direct the graduation shows held at the ETC stage.

Martin de MaatWhile wildly different in approach, he and Del Close were perhaps the two main figures of the 80's and 90's Chicago improv comedy scene. Del is often characterized as the father of long form improv, and Martin more for the Second City approach. Both, however, beleived in the organic nature of improv and the importance of supporting your fellow actor. Comedy was meant to come from the character rather than from some witticism done at the expense of the reality of the scene.

Martin started young as a student in a children's program tough by improv guru Viola Spolin. It would seem that Martin had improv in his genes as the beginning of a new generation of improvisers.

Likening decision-making to sitting at a bus stop, he once said that if you miss a bus you don't need to worry, another would be coming on soon.

While he built a reputation as a director and art director in New York City in the 70s, he started as a Second City dishwasher and had begun teaching classes at 18. Working with his aunt, Josephine Forsberg (an assistant to Viola Spolin), he returned in 1984 to teach at the Players Workshop. He was asked by Sheldon Patinkin to join the Second City Training Center and quickly became its artistic for the next 15 years.

Martin passed away among friends and family at the Cabrini Medical Center in New York City from complications due to pneumonia. Even though passing in New York, his medical center had a familiar Chicago name.

A plaque hangs at the entrance to the Second City Training Center that puts it best with one of his most often remembered quotes: "You are pure potential." And that he was. He will be missed.

Innumerous actors owe Martin de Maat for his teachings. Just some are: Sean Abley, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Sean Hayes, Lois Kaz, David Mamet, Tim Meadows, Mick Napier, Todd Rice, Gary Ruderman, Amy Seeley, Brian Stack, Miriam Tolin and Nancy Walls.


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More information on the history of improv is available on the Improv Miami website and information on the history of stand-up is available on our History of Stand-Up page.


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