9 November 2015, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, United Kingdom
Not the easiest guy to follow.
I knew Dennis (Kelly) would say something amazing so I made mine rhyme a bit. Not properly just, like, free versey. And it's too long. But like most of what I do it makes up for in internal rhyme what it lacks in brevity.
I'm sorry, it's a bit actor-centric, but I know a lot of you are actors, and I knew Dennis would talk a lot about the other stuff.
So this is a poem I wrote yesterday called 'You've Always Wanted to be an Actor'.
You’ve always wanted to be an actor,
And your friends and you say to each other,
“I want to act because I think story-telling is vital to culture”, or
“I want to act so I may hold up to society a mirror”,
And there’s truth in that,
But let’s be honest, you really want to act
Because it’s really fun, and you quite like being clapped.
So you go to Drama School,
And you learn about shedding your skin
And inhabiting your something something
And you get your head screwed up by Stanislavski
And then recalibrated by Mamet
Or the other way round,
And you learn to scuttle across a stage like a lizard
And to caw like a crow,
And to let yourself go,
And to sing and tap,
And to cry on cue,
And you make all your mistakes,
You have sex with your classmates (and then y’stop doing that),
And you learn to find the rhythm of the bard,
So that every iamb shines but doesn’t creak,
And you work really hard, and change the way you speak
And you… become slowly aware of these relentless waves
Of self-confidence and self-loathing that come and come and come
(And you think the waves will smooth out when you have success
But they don’t and they won’t so the only solution is to
Worry about them less.
Just by the way.)
So you graduate drama school and that’s amazing, brilliant, amazing
And – as you should be – you are proud,
And at the graduation ceremony you watch two clowns
Standing on the set of their mutual fluke
Reading speeches that they wrote the day before,
And you think, “if those idiots can succeed, anything is possible”,
Which is true, in a way,
But not in a way that should necessarily give you confidence,
Due to the randomness… of… well, Dennis.
Look at him.
God does clearly play dice with the universe.
And so, off you go and you get an AGENT. Yippee!
And – oo – let’s say, just hypothetically,
You’re really good-looking.
And you’ve been blessed lets say with hot genes,
You stay slim easily
You go to the gym easily
You have those well-spaced eyes and high cheekbones
And one of those lovely big mouths that kids seem to have these days
And you have found that if you stand still in front of a camera
And look just past the shoulder of the DOP,
And think about a…. cup of tea… or a tricycle…
And the light hits your well-spaced eyes and your high cheekbones just perfectly,
Then we, the audience, will read into your stillness
Grief, or pride, or piety. (Wow)
And you’re also an amazing actor…
A truthful, intelligent actor,
Hard working and skilled etc
But that’s not so much the point,
Because… B eauty.
So you get a role in an indi film.
I mean first you do an advert for cheese,
And a co-op at the King’s Head
(which, although you don’t know it at the time,
Will be the last theatre board you ever tread),
And then a guesty on Coronation Street, yay
And then an arc on Holby City, hooray
And… THEN a supporting role in an independent film
That ends up at Cannes and is seen
By a Rudin or a Weinstein,
And gets distributed across the USA
And so [click] you sign with an agent at CAA,
And a manager at, I dunno, somewhere,
And they tell you that you “should move to LA
Because you will have more opportunities here”,
But it’s clearly because they
Won’t get paid if you’re doing a play
At the fucking National. Will they?
(Just by the way.)
So you do. You move to LA
And you’re sharing a bungalow in Silverlake
With a Canadian actress who thinks everything happens for a reason,
Which you also believe, because no one has ever pointed out to you
That that is a stupid thing to think. (Just by the way)
And as is the tradition,
You struggle for a year,
Coffee shop job between auditions
And then, yes!
You get a well-paid job playing a sexual assault victim on
Two episodes of Season 25 of
Law and Order – SVU
And you buy an SUV and you move into a mid-century-
Modern rental in West Ho,
With a friend of a friend who has a band:
Four banjos, a cellist, and a DJ –
Who once played Coachella
And a YouTube vid of one of their audience members
Choking on a corn dog went viral so now they’re quite popular.
And then, yay, during your second pilot season in LA,
When you’re missing the drizzly comfort of the UK spring
And your mum’s on the phone telling you to
Come home, darling, just come home,
You audition for a new NBC “dramady” –
For a “character who doesn’t say too much in the pilot, but-
Great script, and 16 great writers, and-
They’ll definitely write more for your character after the pilot, so” –
After six-call backs and weeks of anxiety
And after being filmed with the star to test for your “chemistry”,
You get offered the part,
And you –
Little you, bullied in high school for having spotty skin,
Told by your primary teachers that you need to pull your head in
And stop showing off,
Little you who lived with 4 people in a flat in Wood Green,
And worked and worked on your craft and you didn’t give in –
You have a role in a fucking US network television pilot,
And you do not hesitate to sign it:
The contract that says if it goes to series
You will be committed 39 weeks a year for up to eight years.
And yay! They make the pilot,
And it gets picked up,
And it goes to series,
Your weeks start with a 4:30am pickup on a Monday,
And the crew is great and the cast is great
And although half of your day is
Spent in your trailer,
And it’s more boring than you’d foreseen,
You’re in pretty much every scene,
Generally doing something with a computer
Slash Bunsen burner
Slash non-specific screen
In the background,
So you’re always on set.
And inevitably, by week’s end,
Production has fallen behind 6 hours,
So you don’t actually get
For your weekend until 2am on a Saturday morning,
And you sleep all Saturday,
And on Sunday you learn your sides,
And reset, rolling, speed… and action!
And that’s fine.
Cos the series is a hit!
And you’re on the telly,
And the newspapers in the UK
Write about you saying some thing you don’t remember saying,
And the Daily Mail comments on your hair and your abs and your arse,
And when it goes to Season 2, and the ratings go higher,
You get a pay rise and now you’re making a million quid a year,
And you are proper famous,
And you are friends with proper famous people,
And you know Sandra and George and Bono and Elon Musk,
And you buy a fenced-in house in the hills with a pool,
And you’re single, but, y’know, that’s cool.
You find it hard to meet people, because, y’know,
They come to you with so many assumptions about who you are,
About your hair and your abs and your arse.
And then after season 3,
When the show’s not quite so hot,
And the ratings start to drop,
The network gets the writers to simplify the script,
Cut expenses, cut the complex bits,
And on they forge, churning out the eps,
Motivated by nothing but $$$,
And every year, the ratings go down a bit more,
The show loses it’s edge a bit more,
The ideas get a bit more
And your character is always saying the same shit,
And you can’t remember the last time
You cared about a line,
The last time you expressed an idea
That had any value. What. So. Ever.
And one Sunday, you have some of your famous friends around,
For a drink,
These beautiful, kind, generous Americans,
You do adore them …
But whom you always feel you can’t quite reach,
Personalities like a left-over pudding that has cling-wrap
Pulled so tight across the bowl
That you don’t notice it’s there at all until you go to dig in
And your spoon bounces off.
And so you’re sitting by your pool with these kind, cling-film friends,
And the thought enters your head
That you’d really like to walk down the street to have a drink at a pub,
But you can’t, because you’re too famous to leave your house.
You can’t leave your house.
This is not a warning, to be clear,
If that becomes your story, you’ll be sweet.
I wrote that because in ten years,
When those of you who don’t end up being
Knightly, or Laurie, or Cumbers,
When you have done a hundred jobs,
And, like the boxer, you
Carry the reminder of ever glove that blah blah blah
You’ve borne the slings and arrows of outrageous… tweets,
I hope you remember that in our game,
Success doesn’t mean what they think it means.
And even if you get the type of success
That they think is success,
It won’t necessarily be for the best.
The people I knew at your age,
The folks with whom I built sets and rigged lights
And acted and drank and dreamed,
They are…. Everything.
Mike is one of the finest drama teachers you would ever meet,
Jenny gathers the memories of the elderly and turns them into plays
And Brian makes puppets,
And Christine runs a theatre company that tells stories of refugees,
And Tommy is a vet,
And Iggy makes music with Aboriginal Elders,
And Trossy is a mum,
And Justo has a millions children, and paints, and is a barrister
(oh you should hear his voice, it’d be like being defended by Lear)
And Toby’s a pirate,
And Bec runs an events company, and…
To state the obvious
I observe among my friends
Between wealth and happiness,
Or fame and happiness.
The happy ones work hard, generally
And they are generous, generally.
And they generate, generally, valuable ideas.
Which is your job, (just by the way):
To put into the world valuable ideas.
So look for stories that are worth telling
And lessons that need teaching,
And tell them and teach them,
And stay passionate,
And I’ll see ya at the pub.
Lots of love.”
Speakola is a home for all types of speeches, both famous and non famous. The commencement speech is one of the most popular genres. Tim Minchin delivered a classic at University of WA in 2013, 'Life is Meaningless'. Click photo to listen/read.