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Speech to Entertain: A Guide
Joann Babin

Rationale and Definition
If your instructor assigned you to do a speech to entertain, you are lucky. Since so many public speaking text book authors declare entertainment as one of the three major goals of a public speech, it is a great skill to practice. It is hard to deny the value of entertainment. Humor has been used to soothe many difficult situations. At a board meeting in San Francisco where there was a heated debate about closing Golden Gate Park to traffic on Saturdays in addition to Sundays, the group in favor of closing the park on Saturday played the old hit song “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago in the background of their video drawing huge laughs from both sides of the issue. In Half Moon Bay, where they had to close down Devil’s Slide affecting several commuters and hurting businesses, Casey Sample, owner of his café, created a special “Devil’s Slide Closure’ menu that includes “deviled eggs” and ‘fallen angel hair pasta”. Casey said, “it is throwing a little humor into the situation. What are you going to do about it”? As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 12, 2006, Kathy Griffin, the star of Bravo’s “My Life on the D-List” filed for divorce from her husband of four and a half years after she discovered he had been taking money from her bank accounts. “Eventually, I end up putting everything into the act. I kind of turn tragedy into comedy and I find that’s a great way for me to kind of deal with it.”

A speech to entertain may be either informative or persuasive in nature, but the supporting materials are selected primarily based on their entertainment value. The speech still must make a valid point or argument, but it can be done using humor. In intercollegiate forensics competition, a speech to inform on a “lighter” topic was typically moved into the speech to entertain category. I remember several years ago, a student did her speech to inform about the Barbie Doll’s history and the message she sent to young girls. Although there were several serious implications, the subject of “Barbie” definitely lent itself to humor, thus falling in the speech to entertain category.

Many speech topics can fall under the goal to inform, to persuade and to entertain. Take, for example, the topic of 911. As an informative speech, one could describe how to use the system. As a persuasive goal, one could examine the problem of long response times. For a speech to entertain, I had a student provide an amusing speech about the miss-use of 911. “Hello, 911? My cat is stuck up in a tree” “Have you ever seen the skeleton of a dead cat up in a tree? It WILL come down!”

What if I am not funny?
Before I go any further, I want to reassure you that a speech to entertain is indeed a speech and should not resemble a stand-up comedy act. If you are thinking that you are not funny and could not possibly pull off a speech that his humorous in nature, I hope I can reassure you by first saying that is most likely not the case. Have you ever had someone laugh hysterically at something you said and had no idea why they were laughing? Humor is extremely subjective. For example, in the first paragraph where I made reference to a Chicago song, many of you may not have heard of that 70’s band! Not too many students will be old enough to get that joke. Perhaps you are old enough to

get that joke but still do not think it is funny. Just like persuasion, where you can not convince everybody in the room, the same is true with attempts at humor. You can prepare yourself by having a wide variety of people hear your speech and give you feedback.

Sadly, many people laugh at the expense of others. I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day where the headline was “Man Stuck in Chimney.” This poor man was locked out of his home and decided to try entering through the chimney. He got stuck. Eventually his neighbors heard his yelling and...
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