In theory, it should be a doddle: Stand-up comedian does short speech to appreciative, relatively sober crowd. The event is a guaranteed stag/hen party-free night and unless things get out of hand, no vaguely humanoid inflatables will be waved about. Any heckling will be good natured and very likely to add to the atmosphere.
And yet, writing the best man speech for my older brother’s wedding has proven more difficult than I thought. How do you sum up a 32-year relationship in a few hundred words? Admittedly I remember very little of the first few years. Like Led Zeppelin, the 70s were a blur for me. There are anecdotes aplenty after that, but what will the guests find suitable or interesting?

Whatever I say, I have to mention nice things about the couple. That won’t be a stretch in this case. But as a comedian, saying something sincere without putting in a ‘not really’-style gag at the end of it is hard to do. Years of seeing audiences stiffen slightly when a comedian “gets serious for a second’” conditions you to make a joke of nearly everything. Surely the audience will want more – they’ll be expecting it, won’t they?

Well for a start, they are guests, not an audience and this is a wedding day, not a gig. In fact, the hardest thing for a preternaturally self-obsessed comedian like me to realise is that the day is NOT ABOUT ME. Which is probably why history books do not furnish us with too many details about the role of the best man down through the years. We can presume that Adam didn’t have one, being a bit of a loner before he met Eve. It’s likely that his stag-night was also a non-event.

Did Strongbow’s best man say: “And of course I’d like to thank Aoife’s father Dermot McMurrough for the spread as well as giving us a platform for a future invasion of the country. We have been made so welcome and I’ve a feeling we’ll eventually become more Irish than the Irish themselves. Actually that reminds of the time me and Stronners went wassailing and the silly bugger left his suit of armour in the tavern….

Many books have been written about Henry VIII’s wives. But what about his six best men? Or did Henry retain the same man for each because Sir Ledge of Legendbury was such a whizzer at organising the stag-night. If so, did he use this classic line in speeches No. 2 to No. 6; “Harry has promised me that if I do a good job as best man this time, he’ll have me back for the next one.

Having given the matter some thought, here are my top tips for best manliness that I intend to try and follow:

  • If you run into trouble, retreat to Base Camp Toast. This involves saying: “But all joking aside, please raise your glasses to the bride and groom.”
  • Do not forget, many guests dread the speeches. They will be taking bets as to how long the speeches last and will quite happily lose a tenner if the lowest guess wins.
  • You will be fondly remembered if you are brief.
  • Stay sober until the speech is over. Wedding venues are generally brightly lit so your glassy eyes and swaying body will be very visible.
  • Do not slag off the bride.
  • Do not slag off the bride.
  • Do not slag off the bride’s family.
  • Do not slag off the bride’s family.
  • In theory, anecdotes about the groom doing something silly are acceptable because an audience likes to laugh at what eejits men can be, but these anecdotes must be within certain boundaries. Standing on a rake and being hit in the nose by the handle is funny. The groom standing on a neighbour’s rake while barricaded in his shed because he was “demented on Snakebite” can cause doubts to form.
  • If someone dares you on the stag-night to include a particular joke or story in the best man’s speech, don’t forget it’s not legally binding. Even if they double-dare you.
  • If no one is laughing at your jokes, do not assume it’s because your jokes are too gentle and they are waiting for you to break out the hardcore stuff. It’s because your jokes aren’t funny. See Base Camp Toast tip for correct next move.
  • If you’re not funny, be sweet. A sweet line might be: “I’m so glad that two of my favourite people found each other”. But be careful. If you already have your own spouse, do not say “my two favourite people”.
  • Don’t swear. A well-chosen word of Anglo Saxon origin in a boozy dark comedy club may heighten the effect of a joke. In the sanitised bow-wrapped-chairs and bouqueted atmosphere of a wedding, a swear-word soars through the air and lands on everyone’s plate like a turd. (An exception here may be a gentle anecdote about a normally strait-laced aunt who once used a mild curse when a horse trod on her best hat.)
  • Some advise the best man to just be himself. It is better to get a second opinion on this to confirm whether ‘yourself’ is actually a persona that is suitable for public consumption.

Above all, relax, learn off the important names and a couple of compliments and mean what you say. And you’ll be the best a man can get.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *