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Ricky Gervais’ guide to writing a killer speech

Ricky’s stint hosting the Golden Globes has earned him a reputation as one of the funniest (and most feared) men in Hollywood. Here’s how he does it.

  • Ricky Gervais' guide to writing a killer speech

    My main piece of advice is just to be honest

    If you’re being genuine then you can’t lose. People might not like what you say, but at least you can’t be accused of making something up. If you try to be something you’re not, or if you try too hard to please people and you don’t mean it, they’ll like you even less.

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    I don’t really get nerves beforehand

    I’m never nervous about whether a joke is good; I’m never nervous whether they’re going to love it or hate it; the only thing I’m nervous about is if I’ll f*ck it up. It’s the only thing I care about. I don’t want to be the guy who misses the penalty. If you score the goal, it doesn’t matter if they liked your run-up. You scored. So as long as I score I don’t give a f*ck whether they like the joke or if they’re angry at it. If they say, “This group of people will go mad at that joke,” I think, “Well as long as I tell it right, f*ck ’em.”

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    I’ve never fluffed a line, but I have nightmares about it

    Like, “F*ck me, what if I fluff that line on the night? Did I say his name right? Oh God, I’ve said Jennifer Lawrence instead of Jennifer Lopez.” That’s the only thing that freaks me out. The best way of ensuring that doesn’t happen: just rehearse.

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    You’re better off telling anecdotes than one-liners

    With a one-liner, you get 15 seconds to tell it, four seconds of laughter, and then you’ve got to start again. It’s intense. And if someone coughs at the wrong time, it’s ruined. But you can get seven minutes of laughter out of an anecdote. Actually, with a narrative you can be hooked for an hour and not want it to end. I’d rather see Louis CK or Billy Connolly shuffle out and tell you what a f*cking bad day they’ve had than listen to a one-liner that’s as good if you read it as if a comedian tells it. I want a piece of the person speaking. I want their soul.

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    You want people to know that your speech is bespoke

    Not repeated or copied, but written specifically for the occasion. The jokes I’d tell on The 11 O’Clock Show or the Golden Globes were for that time. That show. People know I couldn’t have told a joke about Jennifer Lopez and The Rock at the Golden Globes before, because I didn’t know that Jennifer Lopez was going to walk out with The Rock until I’d seen it happen. It’s fun to think, “What’s the best joke I can do on this day about this person?” I like that constraint.

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    Always stay relatable to your audience

    If I’m presenting an awards ceremony, surrounded by my peers, I can’t come out and say, “All right George, see you tomorrow.” It’s nauseating. I’m the fat, sweaty slob sat at home, who isn’t collecting an award, who isn’t a millionaire. Which is easy for me.

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    The only way to get people’s attention is if they think you might slag them off

    The Golden Globes audience is drinking and talking the whole way through. And it gets worse as the night goes on. At the start, everyone is paying attention because they still think they might win; by the end, three-quarters of them have lost. All I can do is threaten to say something about them, so they think, “I’ve got to hear this because I’ll have to tell my lawyer tomorrow.” So at least they shut up while I’m on.

    (Images: Rex/Getty)