Muhammad Ali died June 3, 2016. The eulogy at his Memorial Service was spoken by the man he called “little brother”, Billy Crystal.
In my training, I take considerable pains to stress that if you use humour in a speech you should do so sparingly. Stand-up comedy has one very dangerous quality: the better it’s done, the easier it looks. Normal humans should not be fooled, but beware this hugely difficult genre. I then go on to give them a few guidelines at sliding a little humour unobtrusively into an otherwise serious speech.
So it is of particular interest when a successful and skilled stand-up comedian delivers a speech at an ostensibly solemn occasion.
At the four-second point he gets his first laugh, and at 14 seconds he harvests a huge one. It is only when that has subsided that we get the Hierarchical Hello. Billy Crystal knows what he’s doing.
For that reason there’s no point in my adding anything else. Just watch it: it’s wonderful.
Six and a half years ago I began this blog for a simple reason. I had already spent more than twenty years helping people speak in public (most of it as a full-time occupation), and had become obsessed with analysing speeches to see what the speaker was doing wrong, or right, or how could it be better, and so on. The internet was a wonderful tool for me to exploit this obsession.
What I hadn’t foreseen was how much insight into the world this activity would give me. This is post number 421, and you can more than double that number for speeches I have watched but not shared. Today we have a speech which I would prefer not to have watched, but could not live with myself if I did not share.
Let’s get the rhetor stuff out of the way. If Anni Cyrus came to me for help with her public speaking I might spend a few minutes discussing ways she could make herself more comfortable with the medium, but the bottom line would be to change essentially nothing. Her discomfort increases her effectiveness. I hope she forgives me that bad news.
The video blurb describes her as a Sharia “survivor”. That word is not idle hyperbole.
I started covering a notepad in points of shock, but gave up. This speech is a continuum of shock. My earnest advice to the reader is to watch it. All of it. Force yourself to watch it all. You need to know. We all need to know what she is telling us. (The shock may persuade you not to believe it.)
They – whoever “they” are – don’t seem to want us to know this stuff. I rather expect this video to disappear – it was published in November 2018. I half expect to have nasty labels attached to me for daring to share it, but some things are more important.
I habitually attach a hyperlink to the first time a speaker’s name appears on my postings. Those links take you either to how they describe themselves on their own websites or to a Wikipedia page about them. Neither seems to be available on line. That is strange – or perhaps it isn’t.
In her opening remarks she tells us how she has read lists of distinguished people who have spoken in this hall, and how privileged she feels to be added to them. A cynic might put this down to simpering artificial modesty, till she unknowingly has what I call a Neil Armstrong Moment. She talks about Hitler having managed to influence “a cultured people like America”. We know what she means, as does the audience being far too well-mannered to react, so she continues not knowing what she said. I am meanwhile noting her significant stress.
The stronger the story, the less need there is to ‘sell’ it. In this case ‘selling’ it would detract. We can imagine all sorts of ways Schloss could enhance her narration, but the story neither needs nor wants it. Speaking in almost a monotone to pin-drop silence she tells us how a man succeeded in seducing much of the world’s establishment in his attempt to subjugate Europe under centralised control, and started a Word War in the process.
She speaks of the spread of antisemitism, culminating in the robbing of the Jewish race of everything from its property to very nearly its existence. Indeed all but its dignity which they refused to make available to be stolen.
Many of us, particularly we older ones, have heard much of this many times before; but still it catches the breath with horror.
Fleeing Vienna, where she was born, her family reached Amsterdam. She was eleven years old and was befriended by another little girl called Anne Frank, whose family were destined to influence her later life.
I could tell you more, but she tells it better. So I urge you to sit through the ghastly but strangely uplifting story, including her somehow surviving Auschwitz.
When Evan Sayet was the introducer in a recent posting examining a speech by Geert Wilders, I observed that it had been a couple of years since a speech of Sayet’s had been on this blog and perhaps it was time for another. Now is that time.
He is introduced by someone called John whose surname I have been unable to find. The introduction, including all the customary housekeeping details like urging the audience to switch off their cellphones, takes a smidgeon less than three and a half minutes. For my purposes the most interesting snippet is the very first sentence which reveals that Evan Sayet writes his own introduction. That is what I urge my trainees to do.
The speech is about ten minutes long and, at 13:10 he throws it out to questions.
At the very end of his video, after the last of the questions, Sayet boasts that there was no TelePrompter. I am surprised – not that he shoots from the hip, which is what all proper speakers do – but because when he first starts speaking, after fielding a quick question from the floor, his eyes fix upon a spot just below the camera.
Eyes intent upon transmitting look slightly different from eyes intent upon receiving, and my impression in those first few seconds was that they were the latter. I assumed that this prompting was to carry him past The Hump (yes, even speakers as experienced and adept as this have a Hump). I felt I was right when, around a minute later, he got on a roll, his eyes stopped staring at that spot, and never returned. There was never another moment in this speech when he looked to me to be prompted.
He speaks very well, which is hardly surprising when you consider how much he speaks. In fact his voice is here suffering from over-use, and he could use some help in this respect. For my ear, coming from the other side of the Atlantic, the speed with which he speaks causes some loss of comprehension here and there, but this could be a cunning device to persuade me to buy the book. (It worked.)
I am not too transatlantic to pick up, at 12:12, the significance of the words, “You didn’t build that.” It is a notorious Obama quote.
But another transatlantic difficulty I do have is in following his sports analogies. He’s an American addressing other Americans, while I am a foreign eavesdropper, so it’s hardly his fault. But it does highlight something about parallels like this. Sports analogies are brilliantly effective so long as your audience knows what the hell you’re talking about.
The speech, and therefore presumably the book that I look forward to receiving, concerns how and why today’s media promotes messages that are not just untrue, but the precise opposite of the truth. The reasoning is very interesting, and I look forward to absorbing it at my own pace. It’s important because, as he says …