The 5 Comedy Rules to Nailing Your Best Man Speech
1 – Know What To Avoid
A best-man speech should be met with laughter, nods of recognition, and maybe even applause. It should not be met with groans. So let’s start with what you need to avoid in your best man’s speech.
If you think a joke sounds familiar, it probably is. To you and to EVERYONE ELSE at the wedding.
Jokes like… ‘My name’s Mike, John’s best man. And John’s told me if I do a good job today I can be best man next time too’.
Sure, it may even raise a giggle, but come on. If a line could be in another best man’s speech it shouldn’t be in yours. It’s as simple as that.
- Anything edgy -Think Chris Rock at the Oscars. It’s just not worth the risk. Some punchlines ain’t worth the punch.
- A tasteless joke – 74% of people said they want their wedding speeches ‘clean’ in a recent Guides for Brides poll, and that’s a young demographic. A subtle hint of blue humour is fine. But if you’re delving into the intricacies of the groom’s sexlife for a fourteenth time in seven minutes, it’s probably too much.
- Anything about exes – While you and the groom might find it funny, the in-laws might not think it’s appropriate.
- A long lead-up to a punchline – If it takes too long to get to the laugh, drop it. Jokes are funnier the punchier they are.
- ‘In’ jokes – Do you really want people to feel like they’re not part of the party?
- Any of the old wedding gags – ‘Let me tell you that is not the first time today I have risen from a warm seat with a bit of paper in my hand.’ And so on . . .
- Anything based on outdated assumptions or prejudices – ‘What’s the difference between in-laws and out-laws? Outlaws are wanted.’ Etc, etc.
- Religious or cultural jokes – Only ever appropriate if they’re yours to make.
- Politics or contentious issues – You may take it for granted that the people you love feel the same way as you about ‘the big stuff’ but that’s rarely the case. For example, an anti-vax joke may go down well with a portion of your audience but you can’t assume everyone will appreciate it. Avoid playing to your own echo chamber.
2 – Say What You See
Courts of law aren’t necessarily the funniest places on earth. But, when writing a speech, ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’ is a pretty good mantra to stick to.
Most good comedy is based on observation. As Homer (Simpson) quite accurately points out ‘It’s funny cause it’s true’.
Yes, a good gag can be great. But when you’re celebrating someone’s life, the more personal and based in reality something is, the funnier it will be to everyone who knows him.
So get your friends round, chat to his family, interrogate his partner and get as much dirt down on the paper as you can! He collected beanie babies as a child – great. He’s seen Westlife three times – brilliant. He once broke his hand playing Football Manager. ALL gold.
Sure, ‘this ‘observational humour’ is more effort than typing ‘best man jokes’ into Google but on the wedding day, you’ll know it’s been worth it.
- What are the groom’s passions / hobbies / guilty pleasures?
- Do they have any unusual habits / party tricks /claims to fame?
- What are they surprisingly good at?
- And bad at?
- Do they have any bad or annoying habits (not responding to texts etc)?
- Have they taught you anything over the years? (comedy or otherwise)
3 – Get Story-Hunting
Of course, a good best man speech isn’t just about observations and one-liners, it’s about good storytelling.
Ask Ed & Tom (the comedy speechwriting duo who work @ Speechy) say ‘The first thing we do when writing a best man speech is hunt out the best stories. Three or four ideally. We literally just bash them out, whack them on the page, and go from there. Once you have a basis to work with you can work on the finesse and discover the overall speech narrative’.
Don’t bother with…
- The stag / bachelor party – Sure, thank your teams for organizing them, and feel free to allude to any bad behaviour but do not consider this an ‘anecdote’. Stag dos often involve drinking too much and someone embarrassing themselves.
- Long or complicated stories – Generally (and there are exceptions), you need to be able to tell the story within about 100 words
Look for stories that…
- Illustrate one of the groom’s core characteristics in action
- Are funny or poignant and thought-provoking
- Are easy to follow
- Have a point. A good story needs a clear, central message that fits with the theme of the rest of the speech
4 – Use Self-Deprecation
Self-deprecation is a brilliant tool to utilise. Arguably, the strongest, most powerful form of comedy. It’s also the safest.
Sometimes, the people who you think will be good sports aren’t. The only thing that’s 100% safe for you to take the piss out of, is yourself.
Not only is it safe, it’s sensible. Studies have shown that people who use self-deprecating humour are seen as more humble and consequently more emotional intelligent and attractive. Yes, physically attractive.
5 – Deliver Like A Pro
Take your time with the material. Let it breathe. Don’t rush it. Timing is everything in comedy, but as a general tip, slow your delivery a little so you don’t rush your set-up into your punchline.
You don’t need to memorise your speech, but make sure you’re familiar with the flow of it so you only need to glance at your notes, rather than read them word-for-word. This gives you more space for gesticulations and eye contact – two big weapons in the performer’s armour.
Just like all stand-ups, keep a glass of water next to you, for tactical sips as the audience are cracking up.
The most important thing though is to look like you’re enjoying it. Smile throughtout. It’s literally infectious.