Friday, January 6, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Carrie Fisher roasts George Lucas

Boy, did we ever lose Carrie Fisher too soon. Fisher, who died at 60 late in 2016, was the child of Hollywood royalty, actors Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; Reynolds died the day after Fisher in one of the year's tragic one-two punches. Fisher also was an accomplished actor, screenwriter, humorist, and memoirist.

All of those skills came into play in a 2005 speech roasting Star Wars director George Lucas for the American Film Institute award he was being given. Nearly everything in it is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I've no doubt that Fisher wrote this herself: It is emblematic of her sardonic wit. And while it's tough to move a Hollywood audience of A-listers at yet another awards banquet, this speech stole the show in every way.

The speech is short, so I've had it transcribed for you below. Do watch the video at the end of this post to get the essential timing and delivery. What can you learn from this famous speech?

  • In a sardonic awards speech, one thing must ring true: Fisher's genuine praise for Lucas is in the second-to-last paragraph. It's wrapped, before and after, with fun and a roasting spirit, but the lines in the middle are a heartfelt salute to her friend and director. If you are honoring someone, even with a hearty helping of jest, don't forget the praise. Every speech has a job to do, and this paragraph does that job.
  • If there are in-jokes, include content all can appreciate: Most of this crowd would have seen the films to which Fisher refers, but this speech also includes content that's funny even if you weren't a fan of the franchise. Who wouldn't laugh at having their image made up as a shampoo bottle or Pez dispenser? This talk manages to offer an intimate, heartfelt tribute along with amusing perspective that a wider audience can appreciate.
  • Pace yourself: This speech is a series of jokes, designed to be told one after the other, an old-school method of delivery. But while it feels short and fast, clocking in at about 4 minutes, Fisher's delivery is nearly exactly at the 120 words per minute rate I recommend for most speakers. It's well paced, so that you can hear what she is saying and appreciate the content. Go and do likewise.

Here's the transcript:
Hi, I’m Mrs. Han Solo, and I’m an alcoholic. I’m an alcoholic because George Lucas ruined my life. I mean that in the nicest possible way. 
Fifty-seven years ago, I did his little ‘Star Wars’ film, a cult film that then went on to redefine what they laughingly referred to as “the face of cinema.” And now, sixty-five years later, people are still asking me if I knew it was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, I knew! We all knew. The only one who didn’t know was George. We kept it from him, because we wanted to see what his face looked like when it changed expression. [laughing audience] 
George is a sadist. But, like any abused child wearing a metal bikini chained to a giant slug about to die, I keep coming back for more. [applause] 
Only a man like George could bring us whole new worlds populated by vivid extraordinary characters, and providing Mark and Harrison and myself with enough fan mail, and even a small merry band of stalkers [laughing] – it’s lovely – keeping us entertained for the rest of our unnatural lives. [applause] 
George, the fact that you made me into a little doll that my first husband could stick pins into – a shampoo bottle where people could twist my head off and pour liquid out of my neck – “lather up with Leia and you’ll feel like a princess yourself!” [applause] … and yes, the little Pez dispensers so my daughter Billie could pull my head back and pull the wafer out of my neck every time she doesn’t want to do her homework – I suppose I don’t mind. 
And though amongst your many possessions you have owned my likeness lo these many years, so that every time I look in the mirror I have to send you a check for a couple of bucks.  
Not to mention you had the unmitigated gall to let that chick – the new girl, who plays my mother, Queen Armadillo, or whatever her name is? – she wears a new hairstyle and outfit practically every time she walks through a door! I mean, I bet she even got to wear a bra, even though you told me I couldn’t, “because there was no underwear in space!” 
I’m only slightly bitter, because YOU, my formerly silent friend, are an extraordinary talent, and let’s face it, an artist – the like of which is seen perhaps once in a generation, who helps define that generation – and who deserves every award I now spend the latter half of my Leia-laden life helping to hurl your way!  
And in conclusion, your honor, I hope I slept with you to get the job, because if not, who the hell was that guy?


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