My previous posting dealt with a very good speech by Lord Monckton, and I ended with a commitment to return to him “very soon”. When someone has worked this hard on a skill he is evidently striving for perfection, so my way of paying homage is to deploy my finest nit-picking tweezers. At the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, that took place in July of this year, Monckton delivered a keynote speech.
We join just as James Taylor leaves the podium after delivering an introduction that was deliberately over the top. I know this, because I have viewed much longer video material from which this was taken. To give you a flavour, Taylor began with, “AAAAND NOOOOW …” I’m sure you get the idea: unrestrained hilarity was promised. You may also notice that some members of the audience are climbing to their feet before he has even started. It is not given to many to receive standing ovations before their speeches. Monckton, it is fair to say, is among friends.
I mention all that in order to preface a stricture that is well established in showbiz… Do not believe your own publicity.
I shall add some rules of my own shortly, but first let me specifically address what I regard as Monckton’s key weakness. Having a natural flair for humour he has tasted the most seductive fruit known to speakers – it’s called laughter. His throw-away humour is good, and nearly always works. When it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter because he threw it away. Where he starts to fall apart is in trying to give comedy centre stage. That is an activity to be left exclusively to standup comedians, who had to go through an apprenticeship you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Here are some of my rules for humour, and he breaks all of them in the first thirteen and a half minutes of this speech.
- Don’t repeat a gag: it’s never funny the second time.
- Always keep humour subservient to your message.
- With throw-away humour you maintain strength: when it becomes overt, humour begins to beg laughter; and a craving for baksheesh is inherently weak.
- NEVER try to spoof a famous comedy sketch, least of all one from Monty Python.
It is at 13:30, or very shortly after, that this speech gets going. Humour, now relegated to secondary status, gets funnier and the speech gets very strong. There’s a clear moral. Avoid being seen to be trying to be funny. Make humour seem almost accidental.
One further little observation that is pertinent at 30:10 – instead of asking for a round of applause for yourself, learn some claptrap techniques.
I don’t suppose Monckton has received, for many years, so much criticism on his speaking. It’s his own fault: he shouldn’t be so good.