Writing a speech should be straightforward. You think of what you want to say, write it down, practice it and you’re done. Because I use images in my talks, it’s more complicated. Yes, I do the aforementioned, but somewhere in the process of crafting a speech, I have to insert cartoons that either illustrate or compliment what I am saying at any given time. This doesn’t necessarily mean drawing new cartoons, although sometimes I will do that if I think there is a particular point that needs a funny image and I don’t have one that fits that point. My vast archive of my own cartoons (thirty years of drawing!) awaits insertion into the presentation, as if they are actors in a play, waiting to be called up. It’s not as if they are auditioning–except indeed some are better than others–it’s whether or not a cartoon fits an idea.
Writing a speech is a creative process in and of itself. I am still learning how to do it, but I enjoy this medium. The ideas I generally want to communicate are not always straightforward, either, so it’s like a puzzle. Getting that right, and getting the right humor to enhance the ideas is challenging. I enjoy connecting with a live audience–it’s is a real thrill. The anticipation of their laughter is nerve wracking (in the possibility of its absence) and intoxicating (perhaps I will “kill”).
Recently, I was fortunate to see two of my idols: Lily Tomlin and Tina Fey. Lily’s was an actual stage performance, while Tina’s was an interview with my New Yorker editor David Remnick. Lily is a genius, moving her body and seamlessly gliding in and out of personaes. Tina was funny, personable, human. I took away from these events as much as I could. In both cases, they connected with the audience beautifully, and I think that is the key.
I will be giving two talks in New York City this spring.
May 4th, Wine and Cheese 6-7, talk and reception 7-8:30. I am the first speaker in a series called “Living Your Dreams.” 2 Park Avenue. For ticket information: 610-757-4667 or
June 25, TEDx Manhattan. Time and place to be announced.