A Master of Ceremonies or MC (sometimes spelled emcee), sometimes called a compère or an MJ for "microphone jockey," 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. The MC sometimes also acts as the protocol officer during an official state function.


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.[1] 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 Palace 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.


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:

  • British Empire - Master of the Ceremonies
  • France - Grand Master of Ceremonies
  • Russian Empire - see Table of Ranks

Comedy clubsEdit

Template:Original research The MC 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.

Boy Scouts of AmericaEdit

Template:Unreferenced 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 an optional requirement, which can be chosen from among several other courts of honor, to receive the communications merit badge.

Hip hop culture Edit


Main article: Rapping

In the early 1970s, the term MC (master of ceremonies, which in hip hop is sometimes changed to mic controller) became associated with what would change to become known as the rapper in hip-hop / rap music and culture. Originally, the term was simply used as Master of Ceremonies. It's believed that the first musician to call himself an MC was Melle Mel from Grandmaster Flash. Traditionally, 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. As hip-hop progressed, the title MC has been thought to mean a number of acronyms such as Microphone Controller, "Microphone Commander", 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, but according to many, they should never cross paths. MC TiMMY, MC LARS and MC HAMMER are some who think differently.

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 on their 1993 Midnight Marauders album:

The use of the term MC when referring to a rhymer originates from the dance halls of Jamaica. 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. Template:Fact