“The Horror of it All” by Julie Daggett is an excellent example of a speech developed specifically to entertain. The author successfully uses real anecdotes from her life to paint a funny picture that many of us can relate to. She uses the narrative flow of her speech not to persuade or inform, but rather to take her listeners on an amusing emotional rollercoaster. As the text states, after-dinner speeches of this sort often uses humor, but the humor should develop naturally during the course of the speech. Daggett uses this technique skillfully in her scary movie tale.
Not once during her speech does she come out and tell a one-liner joke to elicit a response from her audience. Instead, she begins by providing a glimpse in to her childhood and develops the story through a series of awkward anecdotes. The ups and downs and personal insights she unleashes are enough to evoke amusement or laughter from her audience. One speechwriting website states that “The first thirty seconds of your speech are probably the most important. In that period of time you must grab the attention of the audience, and engage their interest in what you have to say in your speech.”
The opening of this essay does a great job of hooking the listener in and keeping them focus on her speech. She uses the stark imagery of a dismembered man wandering around looking for his head and hands, and tells it as though he had been in the room with her. She describes herself as a child, being frightened of the film and cowering with fear on her father’s lap. She also juxtaposes illustrative language and descriptive sentences with short bursts such as “They put her in the nuthouse,” which jolt and amuse listeners. Her fathers consoling words can be used to create a mood if whispered to the audience.
“It’s okay, it’s only a movie. ” The author further endears herself to her listeners with the opening lines of the next paragraph. She makes fun of herself and her “scaredy-cat” ways, though she was only a child. The ability to poke fun at oneself often makes a speaker more human and attractive to an audience. It may also make the listener more at ease with recognizing and admitting that trait within themselves. Daggett goes on to give vivid descriptions of herself as a small child, fearing the dark and insisting that the hall light be left on.
She varies her writing style, spelling out “l-i-g-h-t” and answering it with a humorous quote as her younger self pleads with her parents not to leave her in the dark. She uses action words to put listeners there in the scene: “look, look, leap. ” She then transitions logically into the next paragraph as the story moves on through the years. Daggett’s speech takes on an entirely new and exciting feel in the opening of the next paragraph. We now learn that not only is the narrator afraid of horror movies, but she is enticed and excited by them.
Offering up the classic Exorcist as an example that many in the audience can relate to, she lets listeners in on the fact that these movies are a new obsession for this so-called scaredy-cat. Again she uses humorous short lines to jostle the listeners and keep the piece from getting monotonous: “I stayed pretty sane. ” The following lines are some of the funniest in the entire speech, as she becomes convinced she is possessed by Satan, though in reality she is probably just a neurotic hypochondriac obsessed with scary movies. Her use of exaggeration is another unspoken cue to the audience that this piece is meant to be fun.
The speech progresses and moves onward through the author’s teenage years, adhering to the policy that “the points should be organized so that related points follow one another so that each point builds upon the previous one. This will also give your speech a more logical progression, and make the job of the listener a far easier one. ” Again she uses a list of classic fright films to connect with the reader and offers possibly exaggerated incidents of the fallout caused by her need to expose herself to such films. Most people would either go to a scary movie and have fun, or not go at all.
This author forces herself to see the frightening films and ends up causing hundreds of dollars in damage to her vehicle in her attempt to escape the theatre parking lot. The author then seems to bring her story back down to earth, with not-so-funny accounts of the ways in which her horror viewing habit was affecting her life. Boys would not date her, she could not take babysitting jobs, and she could not even do her laundry. Clearly, the audience begins here to wonder what kind of a sick individual would put themselves through such torture. Did the author really enjoy this or was it truly disturbing her?
This tension pulls the audience even further into the speech and keeps them hanging around for the resolution they hope is coming. Now the author uses this buildup in tension to spring an even more tense story on her listeners. She launches into the account of being home with her mother at night, the two of them watching a movie alone in the deep, dark woods. Just as might happen in an actual horror film, the lights suddenly go out. “No rain, no lighting – not even any wind. ” The speaker’s words pull the audience to the edges of their seats and hold them there.
They are now invested in the story and want to know if the worst has happened – if a madman really has made his way into the house to do the pair in. The listeners follow the speaker in looking to her mother for solace. They get a fun and unexpected twist as the mother, seemingly in the same mindset as her monster obsessed daughter, bolts for the garage, making sure to bring the all-important potato chips with her. At this point we don’t know if the mother is truly afraid, or if she is simply feeding her child’s appetite for a good scare.
We laugh as we picture the mother taking her daughter’s advice and driving the car through the closed garage door, and are relieved (or perhaps disappointed) when she gets out and opens it by hand. Either way, the two manage to escape and the audience can breathe a sigh of relief. Daggett wraps up her story by telling about how she has moved on from the childish, horror movie obsessed ways of her childhood. The audience gets a sense of closure on her old habits when they learn the author is now a well adjusted adult, free from the mental hospital.
But, she lets on that she is not fully recovered and still holds superstitions, ending her story with a cliffhanger that, like horror films, leaves the audience looking out behind them. As one author states, “Writing speeches consists of a lot more than finding a few inspirational quotes and possibly a funny story or two. The key to writing good speeches lies in using a theme. ” This essay by Julie Daggett is an excellent example of choosing and sticking to a captivating and hilarious theme.