Welcome back to the continuing saga of planning our daughter Casey’s wedding to her fiancé Alex at the Norwalk Aquarium.
But I’m not a natural public speaker. I have no trouble with public writing, but public speaking makes me nervous, primarily because the public is right there in the room with you.
Also, being funny in writing is way different than being funny standing up in front of a crowd. That’s because of the damned public again, looking at you and possibly not laughing. If you don’t chuckle at these posts, I won’t know about it. If people don’t laugh when I’m speaking, there are very awkward silences in the places where the script I wrote for myself says “Wait for laughter.”
About 40 years ago, I took one stab at stand-up comedy at an open-mike night in Greenwich Village. It was the single most horrifying experience of my life. I know they say you’re supposed to face your fears, but these fears actually had faces. And the faces had sort of blank, “WTF” expressions on them, even though, back then, there was no such acronym as “WTF.”
Fortunately, however, I had a confidence-builder a couple of years ago. I gave a eulogy at a memorial service for a dear friend, and I killed! So I knew I could get a few yuks, especially since the audience at the wedding would likely be much more inebriated than the one at the memorial.
I had the first draft of my speech written by June. I showed it to my wife Barbara (just as I show these wedding posts to Casey before publishing them) in case there was anything offensive in it. Both Barb and Casey know that I deal with a constant internal struggle between good jokes and good taste, and that the fight sometimes needs a referee.
But, while Barbara had no trouble with the humor, she did have a larger issue. She pointed out that my toast was missing the most important part, namely, the toast.
“You never say ‘raise your glasses,’” she said.
“Oh,” I replied.
“Why don’t I do that part?” she added. “I’ll be standing there with you anyway.”
I readily agreed because I liked the ending I already had. Plus I hate working with props.
I began honing the timing of my speech, editing here and there, committing it to memory and then practicing some more so it wouldn’t seem so rehearsed. I also updated it as the need arose, like when I had to add a reference to getting prepaid parking tickets if you used the garage.
With a few weeks left, I had it down, and it was a matter of doing quick passes at it when I was alone in the house or driving in the car (if you were in the next lane, you would have thought I was having a very animated hands-free conversation.)
Meanwhile, Barbara has been working on the best way to say “Raise your glasses…”
I worry about the segue, though; I need to have the perfect last line for a smooth transition to Barb. Right now, I’m considering, “And now, please make sure your glasses are on the table…”
Anyway, after 31 years of marriage, Barb and I are a pretty good team, so I’m sure it will work out fine.
Of course, if we’re really horrible, somebody’s cell phone video might end up going viral under “Bride’s Parents’ Toast Fail,” and then we’ll be on Ellen:
- Ellen: Mark, in the video, there’s an uncomfortable 3 minute 22 second pause in the middle of your speech. Did you just freeze?
- Mark: No, Ellen, I was waiting for laughter.
- Ellen: And, Barbara, what were you trying to say when you said “Everybody raise your asses?”
In conclusion, I’ve been very careful in writing these wedding posts to not reveal anything specific that will take place on that magical evening, in case any attendees are among my readers. But I can say this–
–no matter how the toast goes, you are going to see two very proud parents of the bride.
See you soon.