For many Americans with a can-do, forward ho! attitude, the coronavirus lockdown has opened a gaping opportunity to devote and invest newly available hours to a course of self-improvement, honoring a tradition that goes back to Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father of personal betterment and kite-flying. Why waste homebound hours stupefying in front of Netflix and Hulu when you could scarf up a new skill, start your own puppet theater, practice mime in front of a mirror, or create new sauces to give meals a festive olé?
This is where MasterClass meets the moment. A luxury-class online subscription service founded in 2015 (an all-access pass runs $180 a year), MasterClass has come into its own this coronavirus season, offering an all-star all-you-can-consume Renaissance smorgasbord of edu-tainment—home-schooling with celebrity panache. Instead of YouTube classes in basic algebra taught in front of a whiteboard to the institutional drone of an air-conditioning unit and fluorescent lights, it presents niftily packaged courses for budding creatives hosted by some of the most illustrious pros in their fields: Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard (directing), Natalie Portman (acting), David Sedaris (humor writing), and Chris Voss (an F.B.I. hostage negotiator offering insights into how to defuse tense standoffs with bank robbers and sullen teenagers). With more than 80 courses to sample and additional ones joining the arcade to freshen the mix, deciding which classes to choose can be something of a dartboard toss or brow-furrowing dilemma. Even I, the Play-Doh replica of a Renaissance man, had to do some Judicious Pruning to set up my spring-summer curriculum at the College of Quarantina.