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A master of ceremonies, or MC (emcee), is the host of an official public or private staged event or other performance. The MC usually presents performers, speaks to the audience, and generally keeps the event moving. An MC may also tell jokes or anecdotes. The MC sometimes also acts as the protocol officer during an official state function. In rap music, an MC is a music artist and/or performer who usually creates and "sings" his own original material (Not to be confused with a DJ, or Disc Jockey, who plays party music and creates music mixes.).


The term originates from the Catholic Church. The Master of Ceremonies is an official of the Papal Court responsible for the proper and smooth conduct of the elegant and elaborate rituals involving the Pope and the Sacred Liturgy. He may also be an official involved in the proper conduct of protocols and ceremonials involving the Roman Pontiff, the Papal Court, and other dignitaries and potentates. Examples of official liturgical books prescribing the rules and regulations of liturgical celebrations are Cæremoniale Romanum and Cæremoniale Episcoporum.

The office of the Master of Ceremonies itself is very old. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the most ancient ceremonials and rituals of the Catholic Church are the so-called Ordines Romani. Names of Masters of Ceremonies are known since the late Middle Ages (15th century) and the Renaissance (16th century). However, copies of books prescribing the forms of rituals, rites and customs of pontifical ceremonies are known to have been given to Charles Martel in the 8th century. The rules and rituals themselves are known to have been compiled or written by the pontifical masters of ceremonies whose contents date back to the time of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) with modifications and additions made by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). It is reasonable to assume that the ceremonials themselves pre-date Gelasius I and the origins of the Master of Ceremonies may have developed from the time Emperor Constantine the Great gave the Lateran Palacemarker to the popes (324) or from the time Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire (380), and was influenced no doubt by imperial practices, customs and norms. However, documentary evidence from the late Roman period are scarce or lost. The ceremonies and practices of the Byzantine emperors are also known to have influenced the papal court. The accumulation of elaboration and complication since the Renaissance and Baroque eras were carried well into the 20th century until some of the ceremonies (i.e. the court, the rituals and norms) were simplified or completely eliminated by Pope Paul VI in the 1970s after Vatican II; much of the Renaissance pomp and ceremony has been completely abandoned by the popes of the modern era.

At a large Catholic church or cathedral, the Master of Ceremonies organises and rehearses the proceedings and ritual of each Mass. He may also have responsibility for the physical security of the place of worship during the liturgy. At major festivities such as Christmas and Easter, when the liturgies are long and complex, the Master of Ceremonies plays a vital role in ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

The current papal Master of Ceremonies is Monsignor Guido Marini who succeeded Archbishop Piero Marini to whom he is not related.

Master of Ceremonies at weddings and private affairs have also been in charge of the coordination of events. Wedding MCs will often work directly with catering staff to ensure the event runs smoothly.


Historically certain European royal courts maintained senior offices known as Masters of Ceremonies (or some variants thereof), responsible for conducting stately ceremonies such as coronations and receptions of foreign ambassadors. Examples included:

Comedy clubs

In Comedy Clubs, MCs are traditionally known as a Compere (From the French). The Compere of a comedy show is the host of the evening's events, charged with a variety of responsibilities. These typically include making announcements, introducing the other comedians of the evening, and interacting with the crowd for such events as birthdays, anniversaries, and other parties. An MC can be applied to comedy clubs and just about any public event.


Emcee is also the name of a character in the musical Cabaret, portrayed by Joel Grey in the film version and more recently Alan Cumming on stage. The character Emcee is the master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin in the musical. The UK tour production in 2009 used dancer Wayne Sleep, while the 1998 Broadway revival starred Adam Pascal in this role.

Boy Scouts of America

In the Boy Scouts of America, the Master of Ceremonies is an adult or a scout who leads a Court of Honor, specifically an Eagle Scout Court of Honor (one which is held to present a scout with an Eagle Scout rank). It is optional to award merit badges or rank advancements at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor, rather than making the rest of the troop wait for another, non-Eagle, Court of Honor.

Hip hop culture

In the late 1970s, the term MC (master of ceremonies), also known as a rapper, became associated with the role in hip hop music and culture. An MC uses rhyming verses, whether pre-written or freestyled, to introduce and praise the DJ he or she works with, to hype up the crowd, to pay homage to his own stature, or to comment on society. As hip hop progressed, the title MC has been thought to mean a number of acronyms such as Microphone Controller, Mic Checka, Music Commentator, and one who Moves the Crowd, notably through Rakim's lyrics on the matter ("Eric B. easy on the cut and no mistakes allowed/ 'Cuz to me, 'MC' means 'move the crowd'"). Some use this word interchangeably with the term rapper, while for others the term denotes a conception and demonstration of the role indicative of skill and of connection to the wider culture, while the latter term does not.

Uncertainty over the acronym's expansion may be considered evidence for the ubiquity of the acronym: the full master of ceremonies is very rarely used in the hip-hop scene. This confusion prompted the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest to include this statement in the liner notes to their 1993 album, Midnight Marauders:
The use of the term MC when referring to a rhymer originates from the dance halls of Jamaicamarker. At each event, there would be an announcer or master of ceremonies who would introduce the different musical acts and would say a toast in style of a rhyme, directed at the audience and to the performers. He would also make announcements such as the schedule of other events or advertisements from local sponsors. The term MC continued to be used by the children of women who moved to New York to work as maids in the 1970s. These MCs eventually created a new style of music called hip-hop based on the rhyming they used to do in Jamaica and the breakbeats used in records. MC has also recently been accepted to refer to all who engineer music.

MC Hammer began using MC even before his famous career started to mean "Master of Ceremonies" (while serving in the Navy during the early 1980s), as well as an abbreviation for emcee. In his ministry career, he later announced it meant "Man of Christ".

Most recently, the term "Netcee" (internet emcee) has taken the title role of MC in the hip hop subculture of online freestyle battling. The use of the term by standard hip hop artists though is that ofa form of disrespect, claiming such persons are inevitably stuck in this role.


The MC introduces each of the opposing boxers into the ring and asks the audience to stand for the national anthem/national anthems of the boxer's native country (or country they may be representing).


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