a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'd Like To Thank My Joke Writer

The most interesting thing about last Monday's Golden Globes (aside from all the gayness, and 8 million people pleading with Drew Barrymore to put on a bra) was the new trend in acceptance speeches.

The best ones not only were funny, they were pre-scripted funny. Winners coming up to the stage to accept their awards were suddenly launching into sketch comedy.

If you missed it, Geena Davis told an anecdote about a little girl coming up to her before the show and telling her that she wanted to be President when she grew up. Then -- beat, wait for it -- Geena admitted it was a lie. Her timing was perfect though, and it got a big laugh.

Hugh Laurie then comes up, with a bit in which he says there were so many people that he needed to thank, that he put everyone's name on little pieces of paper in his pocket, and was just going to pull out three. He pulls out and reads off the (supposed) names of two lowly crew members, throws away a third, and then reads the fourth, the name of his agent, which he says isn't in his handwriting.

The fact that this all worked better than it probably should have isn't the important thing. The important thing is that he felt so confident about winning that he could put together this whole prop-comedy bit.

Then Steve Carell gets up to accept his award, and says that though he didn't write a speech, his wife just gave him one, which he unfolds and reads. Which of course mentions his wife at least three times. Ha.

The problem is that all of this comedy stuff worked so well, that the people who actually just got up and thanked other people came off as drab and boring, so much so that the LA Times even mentioned the not-funny acceptance speeches as a flaw.

Which means award shows are doomed to this now. The bar has officially been raised -- people are going to have to bring the funny when they accept their awards. Reciting the familiar litany of names just isn't going to do it any more.

And I'm thinking that this has to be a good opportunity for writers. Because many actors just aren't that good at coming up with funny words to put in their own mouths.

I'm thinking we need to brainstorm wacky award-accepting bits, and at the end we'll find a way to get the three best to Philip Seymour Hoffman in time for the Oscars. Hopefully he'll pick one, and send the writer a $20 honorarium or a case of Scotch.



At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Chris Soth said...

The smart actors always used writers for such occasions -- it's a tradition that was only recently abandoned, and may be the only hope for this year's awards show to be entertaining...'s hoping!


At 4:41 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

Scott, this sounds like a fun little challenge. I'll put my thinking cap on.

At 5:45 AM, Blogger Webs said...

Hugh Laurie has alwaays been a comedic genius. More Americans are familiar with his work in "Blackadder", but he was brilliant in "Jeeves and Wooster".

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Konrad West said...

Wow, weren't the Globes bizarre. I think we should give out awards for speeches:

Best Speech by an Actor: Hugh Laurie
Best Speech by an Actress: Geena Davis
Worst Speech by an Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Just Plain Weird Award: Sandra Oh

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

How long do the recipients get to speak? A minute?

Imagine if someone just stood there completely silent for the duration.

Could be funny depending on the body language, or just really uncomfortable.

Either way I'd be riveted.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I'm thinking a funny bit would be for a male winner (say, Philip Seymour Hoffman) to walk up to the stage, say that he's grateful, and that he was worried that he'd forget everyone that he had to thank, so he had to write them all down.

Then he rips open his shirt, to reveal all the names written on his chest. In lipstick, or chocolate.

Of course, Hoffman probably has a lot of hair there, so there may need to be some waxing and a 40 Year-Old Virgin joke too.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Shawn said...

Notice how all the funny speeches came from TV actors? Movie actors are too damned highbrow to come up with anything good. Even Clooney's mention of Abramoff fell flat; good idea, poor execution.

How about the winner whips out a Sharpie, signs the Oscar and tosses it back to the crowd?

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Another bit --

The winner comes up to the stage, with a stack of snapshots in his hand.

Wow, this is amazing. Thank you. Wow. I knew I'd be nervous, and I'd forget to thank someone, so I brought pictures of everyone I need to thank, so that I'd remember.

The audience laughs. The Winner holds up the first snapshot.

I have to thank the director, John Beeman, because he's the one who drove this project the whole way. (Second snapshot; a slightly puzzled look on the Winner's face). Okay, this is Ken. I think he was the key grip. He did a great job. (Third snapshot). Ken, the key grip. (He looks at the fourth, goes onto the fifth, freezes in confusion. Looks up at the audience). My dog, Beaner. Thanks Beaner. (Sixth snapshot). My wife, Nancy. Thanks for everything, you were always there for me. (Seventh snapshot). My wife Nancy. (Eighth snapshot). My wife Nancy, with... Ken the key grip?

The Winner flicks through the ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth snapshots, his face getting more and more horrified. He looks at his wife, hides his face, lets out a little sob. Pulls himself together. Puts the pictures away.)

I'd like to think producer Tom Mahoney, screenwriter Bill Taylor, my agent Paul Henry...

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

I didn't watch the GGs, but upon reading about the acceptance speeches, let me say three simple words:

Thank fucking god.

I'm sick to goddamn death of boring name-litany acceptance speeches, especially at the Oscars. The worst offenders are the writers, who typically have the most boring speeches of all. Yes, I know, they aren't usually actors, so they're not used to performing in front of an audience, but they don't even bother to write something. You just won an Academy Award! Can't you be bothered to write a clever acceptance speech?

And if you're getting nominated for an Oscar, you certainly have some actor friends who will help you practice the speech in case you win. Jesus H. Christ.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I should be so lucky to have such problems. :)

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Grubber said...

Hugh Laurie is a bit different though, he does have a writing background.

Very funny guy, glad he won. Loved hearing Sandra Oh's speech, kooky.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Another idea --

The WINNER comes up to the stage, accompanied by the CUTEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD. 5 years old, pigtails, teddy bear.

Wow. This is a great honor, I'd like to introduce Melissa; her father paid $42,000 at a charity auction for her to come with me tonight. Say hi, Melissa.

The Winner offers the mic to Melissa, who just stares at the audience, frozen.

Melissa was a little chatterbox in the limo. We worked up a whole routine, in which we take turns thanking people. Ready, Melissa.

Melissa continues to stare straight ahead. Nothing.

I'd like to thank the director, Joe Smith, and the producers, Lindsey Steele and Amanda Green. Melissa? Your turn.

Melissa continues to stare at the audience.

Okay. I'd like to thank my costar, John Kramer, and my agent, Pablo Jones. Melissa?

Melissa doesn't react at all.

I'd also like to think my partner Pat, who makes my life rock.

The Winner waves the Oscar.

Thanks again.

The Winner looks at Melissa, who is finally looking at her.

Melissa? You want to say something?

Melissa takes the microphone. She looks out at the audience. Deep breath.

George Bush hates black people!

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

I got to agree with Konrad regarding Sandra Oh, except that he put in the wrong category. She was:

Best acceptance speech by someone having a seizure...

I've written award shows and this one had some good bits. It's always disappointing because even though presenters are given the script revisions hours prior, they think that they can just wing it by reading off the teleprompters.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous kristen said...

wow, scott's really on a roll. those are all good, but i'm a big fan of people rending their clothing in public places. so i go with philip seymour hoffman and door #1.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

The WINNER walks up on stage carrying a zip-loc bag with something in it.

I'd like to thank all of the judges for coming to their senses. All of you will be pleased to know that your fingers will be returned to you promptly.

Holds up Zip-loc.

Except for this one. She thought RUNNER-UP was better. Shame.

Takes finger out of baggy and wings it into the crowd.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

I'd like to thank the Spaghetti Monster, for without his guidance, I would not be here today. In my darkest hour, his delicious, yet sinewy tendrils, comforted me and showed me the way. Oh, and I'd like to point out that global warming is a real threat to the Earth, and I would like to encourage more people to become pirates. Thank You.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Konrad West said...

Scott and Thomas, you're ideas are brilliant. You have to promise to do something like that when you guys win a GG, Oscar or whatever.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I'd like to thank the Devil. The sacrifices I've made to him have paid off big-time, and with this victory blood will continue to run in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey. Oh, and Hi Mom!

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Stephen Benson said...

gotta go with melissa! brilliant.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

I would like to thank, in no particular order:
Dr. Martin Luther King for nailing that note on the church door
The Internet
Jack Handey for his inspiration
John F. Kennedy for almost getting away with nailing Maralyn Monroe
Oh, and Jesus.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous nilblogette said...

Awards shows needed to step it up and previous attempts have failed. It all started with turning on the music during long, boring speeches. Then, Academy Awards were practically tossed from the aisles to the winners of less exciting categories. This is a war for ratings people! The TV actors are wise to it, which is why they were the funniest. They should start taking awards away from people if they don't give satisfactory speeches. I think it would be hilarious to watch someone try to take Halle Berry's Oscar away from her.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

I have an even better idea... have a countdown timer visible to both the winner, the audience, and the home viewers. If you're still babbling when it hits zero, alarm klaxons go off and red lights flash until you leave. If you don't leave after 15 seconds, armed goons appear and force you offstage. You're allowed to stay on-stage as long as you can hold off the goons.

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

All we really need to see is the person come up and get their damn award; all the thank yous are because they don't have anything else to do up there.

So let's make it more challenging. Once you are announced as the winner, you go up and have 60 seconds to eat a giant hissing cockroach. If you can't do it, they give the award to the next person on the list, providing that they can do the cockroach challenge.

The TV audience would be on the edge of their seats.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

I love the cockroach idea Scott, but only if it screamed when you bit into it (hissing isn't enough).

Fear Factor: Academy Awards Edition

Well, I have to ask it. Who here would eat a giant hissing cockroach, ass first, to legitimately win an academy award.

If Scott eats it, everyone would be like: "Damn fine script Scott. Not a better piece of writing in all the land." And they would truly mean it, for you hath eaten the cockroach.

Oh. Oh. What if all 5 finalists had to eat a cockroach, and the person who finished first got the Oscar. Who would eat a roach then, knowing that you have a 4 in 5 chance of eating a bug with no reward in site?

At 1:23 AM, Anonymous kristen said...

scott, you kill me. you need to stop reading scripts & write more of them. you're really funny. i hate you.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Shawna said...

So, can we bring back the Gong show for this? Then Gene, Gene, the dancing Machine comes out with the Unknown Comic and carry Julia Roberts off the stage...


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