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Talent Cannot Be Taught – Michael Laskin



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Michael Laskin has been a working professional actor for over 40 years in film, television, and the theatre – from SEINFELD to BIG LITTLE LIES and a great deal in between. He has worked extensively off-Broadway, and at some of America’s leading regional theatres, including The Guthrie Theatre, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Geffen Playhouse, The Seattle Repertory Theatre, and The Mixed Blood Theatre Company.

Additionally, he was awarded a Fringe First Award at The Edinburgh Festival for playing “Richard Nixon” in TEA WITH DICK AND GERRY, which went on to a successful run at London’s Roundhouse Theatre. Michael also starred in the Canadian premier of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Talley’s Folly” and his most recent stage work was the American premiere of the one-person play, ALTMAN’S LAST STAND in Los Angeles. A recipient of a Bush Fellowship with The Guthrie Theatre, he was also awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award from The University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s theatre department where he received his bachelor’s degree, Michael also has a masters degree in theatre management from The University of Minnesota. Additionally he’s taught acting at USC, UCLA, Queen’s College-Cambridge (UK), The Actors Centre (London), Art Center College of Design, Kennesaw University, the University of Minnesota, the Hawaii International Film Festival, and South Coast Repertory Co.

He’s had the privilege of working with some of the great artists in film and theatre, including Barry Levinson, Stephen Frears, Walter Matthau, John Sayles, Paul Mazursky, Bob Rafelson, Michael Langham, Robert Duvall, Roy Dotrice, and many others.

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RELATED VIDEOS
Difference Between Talent And Genius – https://youtu.be/KlAqvVJTDU8
Not Talented Enough To Be An Artist? – https://youtu.be/RXpGJvjbaYk
Talent Without Marketing Won’t Get You Far – https://youtu.be/LWGV0Jka2bI
This Is Why The Most Talented Artists Aren’t The Most Successful – https://youtu.be/mT0BEGIUXgQ
Why An Artist Should Follow Their Instincts – https://youtu.be/cM1gZp9GR-k

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43 thoughts on “Talent Cannot Be Taught – Michael Laskin”

  1. Talented is synonymous to passionate and the passion drives one to reach a competence level to where people then call them “talented” and the person is not sure whether to say thank you or be offended

  2. I've always felt that the best singer in the world could be someone who's never sung, or the best painter is someone who never thought to try painting, and so on. Talent for a thing is an intrinsic thing not given only to those who try or believe they deserve it.

  3. 1. I agree.
    2. Technique can be taught.
    3. But the level of skill in expressing or performing technique is a talent.
    4. Talent can be developed.
    5. But exceptional talent is innate, and is not something that can be taught or developed.

  4. When I first saw the title, I vehemently disagreed – but after watching, I totall agree, and was shaking my head emphatically as he explained why he thought talent can't be taught. My twin has a biology degree, I have an art degree – she was in a life drawing class with me at college (we were forced to go to the same school by our parents). I've always had good enough talent as an artist, but drawing totally escapes her. At the end of the semester, when comparing her first-day drawing to her last-day, it was 100% clear she improved vastly, but she was never able to "get" seeing space, light, form, color etc. the way natural artists can. To this day she says it was her most frustrating class because she just never "got" what she was supposed to do. The same was true when I was in basic Biology class with her, I hated every waking moment and struggled to get a B, but I think that was because I didn't care and ergo didn't try. But hey, I ended up being an engineer so I guess I have more science-y math-like talent than I knew (although some aspects are still tough for me after many decades in this job role).

  5. I see this with poetry. At the age of 10, I wrote a decent ekphrastic formal musical poem. I remember working at it, but I never strained and it didn't take long. I understood exactly what I was doing.

    I've spent so much time trying to develop theories about what I do, being able to articulate it, critiquing others who do it. Reading old verse instruction manuals that explain in technical language things I did instinctively at 10. And yes, my poems have gotten better. But I don't think I have become a better poet. I just sharpened my edge a bit with all that work. When I write a poem, it is still the exact same experience I had at 10. It's working with an angel whispering in my ear. Precisely that.

    Sadly, no one enjoys or understands classical poetry anymore, so it's a wasted talent. I can sit here and tell you why those few formal poets who are being published are actually the mediocre poets. Why they will never understand and appreciate my work. But honestly, who cares? I'm sure the world is full of office workers who had the potential to be killer hunters or farmers. The luck of being needed for what you're good at is simply rare. Love is the only thing that bestows happiness anyhow.

    But my experience shows how ultimately, the clever and the bright can be the biggest roadblocks to the truly gifted. Ordinary people will at least look at my poems and nod and say, yeah that's how I think poetry should be, what the hell are these other guys playing at?

    I write stories now, but the closer they get to poetry the better they are. Better, but not necessarily more popular. I'm not sure I have any innate ability to predict how a reader will respond to my stories. That's where I fear my talent fails me. That's why I'm on Wattpad now. I hope reader reactions will tell me what I need to know. If I can't get a decent reader response, I'll probably give up. I'm 40 now.

  6. Of course, talent is completely subjective. Even the most revered artists in the world have critics who think they’re untalented. I would argue that if someone is truly passionate about pursuing a certain artistic field, they probably already have some level of talent. At the very least, they’ve been pleased with their own work enough to keep going. Of course, talent without refinement won’t get you very far. For example, a writer might have a natural gift for poetic rhythm, but if they don’t read and expand their vocabulary, their abilities will be quite limited. It’s also possible that by practicing and studying, people can become more talented over time.

  7. This is such a dumb take. I can only imagine that his inability to acquire skill through focused hard work and a process of continual refinement and development leads him to this conclusion, but it's an absurd one. People who say that talent cannot be taught either lack the patience to reach mastery or they don't understand the process.

  8. Talent absolutely can be developed! The thing about it is that it takes 15 months pre-puberty, and 15 years post-puberty. In the meantime, your understanding of the material stays at zero.

    But if you persevere, it will "click" one day, when you least expect it.

  9. 1. You can’t tell someone if they’re talented or not.
    2. “Talent” is based on what’s popular today.
    3. Talent can definitely be taught, especially by inspirational experiences.

  10. Some people may indeed be a 'natural' at something and can demonstrate a higher baseline level of talent from the get go, but almost any talent can be developed over time if the drive is there and the person isn't disabled in any serious capacity.
    To be fair, Michael's comments seem to be specific to ACTING talent 😛

  11. Mozart, Liszt, Bobby Fischer, child prodigies in any field exist. Prodigies are better at their craft as children than any adult could hope to be, even after decades of intense training and coaching. Practice can make anyone better at a given skill, but talent exists independently of practice.

  12. This reminds me of the conversation between Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Harvey on Comedians in Cards Getting Coffee. They said you can teach a comedian to be an actor, but you can't teach an actor to be a comedian. A comedian has a special and rare talent that makes that a person a comedian, with one of the top aspects being able to see everything as funny. They also talked about classes where comedy is taught and that they were a waste of time and money because if you have to take a class to learn how to be a comic, you'll never be a comic.

  13. This thinking goes along with “only some people are born to rule and it can’t be taught” caste system. I still agree with Julia Cameron. Creativity appears to come naturally to some and everyone else had it squashed out of them as children and need help accessing that part of themselves.

  14. What’s more important than talent is discipline and consistency in getting the work done. Some people are born with natural affinity for something. But that can be nothing without continual work to improve. That is how talent develops into something good…or great…or phenomenal! No one is Michelangelo at birth, you have to hone your abilities with years, weeks, days, hours of work.

  15. I go back and forth on this. But when I think of things like singing (you can't train to sound like Mariah Carey. You either have the potential for it, or you don't) or things like math (what if you have dyscalculia? You could train for years, but you're highly unlikely to reach mastery) I tend to think it is true that some degree of talent simply can't be taught or trained. And it depends on the person. That's why its so, so important to figure out your natural strengths and weaknesses early on so you don't waste your time on something you could never reach mastery in.

  16. I will disagree here. This is something I have spent a long time thinking about.

    I believe anything can be taught. Any skill, any ability, anything. That doesn't mean I believe anyone will learn anything, just that they could. Most people don't have the talent simply because they really don't care, are not willing to put in the work, or just never had a good teacher. Too often we just leave it up to random luck, rather than trying to find out where talent really comes from, and how to develop it.

    I remember people being jealous of my art skill. It seemed like it came naturally to me, and yet I was a late bloomer. I even remember when it kicked in. I watched another kid drawing an eye, and I noticed it was better than the crap I drew, so I copied what he did. I kept improving until a teacher wanted to enter one of my pieces of artwork for a possible college scholarship.

    She ended up not doing that because of a distraction of a tiny human coming out of her. But I'm not sure I cared since that really wasn't my passion. Even today I can think of dozens of ways I could have improved, and learned to take my art to the next level and beyond, but I also would have seen that as torture. Doing it for fun was great, but turning it into something more just sounded like torture.

    The whole reason I popped into this channel is that I believe talent can be learned. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a reason for this channel.

    Most successful actors have been told they have no talent at one time in their life. Most authors have had a script, novel, or story rejected. The big difference between the successful ones and the failures is that the successful ones learned from the criticism, and improved. The unsuccessful ones just gave up.

    I also believe that instinct is a learned skill. Just something we have learned so well that we are doing it automatically. And yes, that can also be trained. I remember all the times I avoided accidents "instinctively". I have looked at drivers actions, and know they are going to do something risky before they do it. But I also know that I was catching subtle clues. I was seeing things that gave me indications that they were going to take some dangerous action. Or I was surprised, and my reflexes kicked in quickly avoiding the accident without causing one. (Yes this seems like something completely different, but it is in fact the same thing.)

  17. I had an argument about this with someone once. In regards to drawing comics, she was saying how there’s no such thing as talent, just hard work. But I agree with this video. People with talent still have to work hard to develop and harness their skills, but it will come naturally to them. I know many that have worked hard at drawing and just can never get it the way someone who is talented will.

  18. I think Seinfeld laughed at the absurdity of that statement. He knows how incompetent and dim-witted Constanza is, contrasted to the seriousness of Michael actually suggesting he'd be fit for that job.
    I obviously wasn't there but taking into account the never ending stupidity of Constanza, I can see how that it'd be funny to appoint him as the head of scouting.

    Great interview!

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