Generally speaking, a good wedding speech should sound as if it has been prepared and rehearsed over a long period before the event but the seemingly last-minute addition of a topical icebreaker is perfectly acceptable. What better way to demonstrate that you have been devoting time to your speech right up until the Big Day than by including a joke based on a current news story - especially if it can be cleverly linked to the wedding itself?
TOPICS TO STEER CLEAR OF…
Of course, not every story in the news will be suitable to joke about in a Best Man's speech. You should avoid:
- Politics (unless the gag is non-partisan)
- Dull stories
- Stories which are already so amusing that you cannot hope to top them
- Negative stories (for example, about celebrity divorces!)
That still leaves plenty!
SMALL STORIES CAN YIELD BIG LAUGHS
Don't worry if the news you want to joke about is obscure, perhaps of the type that appears as 50 words in a small box at the bottom of page 27 of a red-top tabloid. As long as your set-up explains the story and is then followed by a strong punchline, the audience won't always have to be familiar with it beforehand.
SOURCES OF NEWS FOR TOPICAL ICEBREAKERS
Ideal news stories to consider for gags for wedding speeches can come from a wide variety of sources but here are some of the best:
- The Sun prints more of the small, quirky stories than any other paper.
- The Express is useful for surveys, research, inventions, etc.
- The Telegraph prints a good range of weird news.
On the web, the 'Odd' section of www.digitalspy.com, the 'Quirkies' page of www.ananova.com and the 'Oddly Enough' page of the UK News on www.yahoo.com can all provide a steady source of bizarre headlines.
'What's hot and what's not'-type articles about trends will often produce stories that can be turned into a useful wedding speech gag:
"A recent study has revealed that 66% of people in Britain are addicted to puzzles - which means that two-thirds of you must be trying to work out what on earth Karen sees in Ted".
HOW TOPICAL JOKES ARE OFTEN WRITTEN
Watch any topical comedy panel game or stand-up show and you will notice that many of the jokes are based on associations. The writer thinks about the person, place or object mentioned in the news story, considers what connections people make with it, and then turns one of these into a joke.
Here is an example (which again demonstrates what can be done with a story from a piece about trends):
"I was pleased to read that, thanks to the efforts of celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal, fondue sets are becoming popular again. So maybe 10 of those wedding gifts will get used after all".
Fondue sets are often associated with being wedding gifts - and not always welcome ones! So one of the associations is actually with weddings - which is a bit of a gift for the writer! But there is also a cliché that couples receive duplicated gifts, so by referring to 10 of them, rather than one, it further adds to the joke.
NEWS STORIES ABOUT WEDDINGS
There is no shortage of news stories that are actually about weddings and married life. Here is an item that lent itself very well to a one-liner:
"I hope that Karen is getting used to now being called Mrs Karen Jones because I read an article this week about how a number of brides these days are reluctant to take the groom's surname. I know this certainly caused a bit of a stir at the recent wedding of my mate Dave Hitler".
That punchline is an example of how you shouldn't be afraid to exaggerate: it uses one of the worst possible surnames a bride could be lumbered with! Prefacing it with the informal, popular, non-Germanic name 'Dave' makes it funnier still.
As an opener for a speech, you could consider the whole business of public speaking itself. This news story's mention of a microphone inspired a topical icebreaker:
"Concert organisers recently pulled the plug on Bruce Springsteen's microphone after he had been performing for three hours. As a reluctant public speaker I'm hoping the same thing will happen to me after three minutes".
A WORD ABOUT WORDPLAY
Sometimes listing associations can throw up a play on words, such as:
"I see that a bakery has been in the news for producing a Guinness-flavoured wedding cake. Sadly, we didn't have one of those today so instead you will just have to rely on this moving speech to supply some boozy 'tiers'".
The tiers/tears pun seems to work but be warned that this sort of gag can produce extreme reactions from audiences, who can be very quick to express their disapproval of corny puns.
And a speaker does not want the audience to groan during a wedding speech any more than the caterer wants to hear them doing so immediately after the seafood starter!
Although some wordplay can be brilliant, it may be risky to rely on it to open an important humorous speech.
A FEW MORE 'RULES'
If you are going to include a list in a joke, then lists of three work best rhythmically, e.g.:
"The groom has done very well to get through today because he has recently been mourning the loss of a man who had a massive impact on him, a man who he regarded as a true hero, a man who made his passage through life so much easier. I am speaking, of course, about the passing of Eugene Polley, the inventor of the TV remote control".
OK, so it's not exactly wedding-related, but it crowbars in a nice bit of male stereotyping (which, incidentally, is far more acceptable than the female version!)
If you are not delivering a list then try to avoid repetition wherever possible (for example, in the 'puzzles' joke earlier, '66%' is referred to in the set-up, 'two-thirds' in the tagline).
Good jokes rely on economy with words (have you ever noticed how brief but effective the gags are in American comedy shows?) Do not include any unnecessary information as it's a distraction for the audience - and you don't want to take their minds off in too many directions. If the news story happened in Lincolnshire then there is no need to mention the fact (unless, of course, you are speaking there, in which case it will make your speech even more personalised).
So start reading, start associating - and then start writing! See this week's best man speech topical icebreakers for ideas!
STOP PRESS: You don't have to restrict yourself to news stories from just the last few days leading up to the wedding. Topical TV and radio comedy shows may only draw from four or five days' headlines but, where public speaking is concerned, you have far more scope because news stories from the past two to three weeks can still be considered current - provided people aren't already sick of them!