Monday, January 11, 2016

A terrible realisation. It's the Golden Globes today, and my friend Jess expressed a yearning to go to the kind of event where you dress up and make speeches. I thought… oh no, I was with this idea until the bit about having to listen to people making speeches. This has led me to my terrible realisation…

I cannot abide speeches.

As soon as I allowed this thought to form in my head, I realised it was true. Every time I go to some event where there is mingling, chatting, eating and drinking – especially a book or an exhibition launch – I always feel so resentful at the prospect of having to stop enjoying myself to listen to someone making a speech. And while the speech is going on, I am listening but I am also resenting every moment it keeps going, and longing for it to be over so I can go back to socialising again. Even at my own friends' book launches, I endure the speeches rather than enjoy them.

It seems hypocritical for me to loathe listening to speeches as I don't mind making them myself. It is basically admitting that I like the sound of my own voice but am too narcissistic to listen to other people's. But I really think my beef is with the form and function of the speech, rather than its content or the skill of the speaker. I like storytelling, stand-up comedy, public readings and lectures. But I hate having to listen to a roll-call of acknowledgments, and ritualistic invocations of the nature of the event.

The launches of big exhibitions and festivals are the worst, because every honoured guest gets to make a damn speech, and they always seem to follow the same formula of acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, mentioning every honoured guest by name, saying how pleased they are to be here, and how their organisation or department is so thrilled to be involved with this event because it is so culturally important.

But I also dislike wedding speeches because of course everyone knows the bride and groom are into each other, and have heaps of people in their lives to thank for getting them to this point. We've already had a wedding ceremony where they acknowledged this; why must we endure an entire other ceremony of speech-making?

The only reason award ceremony speeches are charming is the surprise factor: what kind of speech will we hear? Will we hear a charming, unselfconscious speech that the speech-giver did not expect to have to make, and so is humbled to be making? Or will it be a vain, self-satisfied speech? Will we hear some political grandstanding? Will they crack jokes, especially inappropriate jokes? Will they whoop and scream and carry on? Will they mention their loved ones (awww!)? Will they go on too long and have to be played offstage?

Generally, I feel speeches are terrible and I am suddenly quite relieved that I have admitted this to myself, and to my tiny blog audience.


Andrew McDonald – makes perfectly adorkable speeches at his own book launches and at friends' launches
Barack Obama – has a mastery of oratorial tone and a finely tuned ear for code-switching

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