The Dos and Don'ts of Making an Acceptance Speech

Pulling off an acceptance speech is a difficult art that can best be thought of as a balancing act. You have to be poised but not arrogant; eloquent but not overly rehearsed; appreciative while also maintaining the awareness that this whole event is completely arbitrary and subjective and in the grand scheme of things does not matter one bit as the world is falling apart around us. Some succeed, many fail, and most are forgotten. However, considering that the purpose of these performers’ existence is to entertain us and failure to do so would mean failing at their chosen profession, they should really be able to get up on the stage and give us 3 minutes of charm. There are the gold standards of speech givers - your Meryl Streeps, your Emma Thompsons, your Denzel Washingtons. I understand that not everybody can balance that level of comfort, charm, and pure likability. But keep in mind that people will be sharing those three minutes when you die so here are some tips for levelling this delicate act, if you were involved in the making of La La Land please take notes.

DO: Be Prepared

You cannot possibly be that surprised. I mean you have a 1 in 5 chance, as they like to say in Vegas terms - I think those are pretty good odds. Plus there is an endless amount of online speculation - a quick read through of and you should be on your way! That is not to say that you should memorize your whole speech, because honestly I think the Academy should’ve taken Leo’s Oscar back after his performance as someone who hasn’t practiced in the mirror 1,000 times. Have a general idea of who to thank, it’s not that hard. For example: the cast, the crew, the director, your agent, your family, God if you’re religiously inclined, Harvey Weinstein if you’re not. If you must bring out a written list I understand, that playoff music is anxiety inducing for a home viewer like me. But do something fun with it. Jokes about reading glasses are a bit played out. Pretend your speech was written by someone else, or that you swapped with a fellow nominee. Don’t insult my intelligence by saying you’re at a loss for words, unless you literally had to cut out your vocal cords to fit into that dress.

DO: Acknowledge Your Fellow Nominees

Don’t just say: “to my fellow nominees.” Actually name them - there’s only four and you’ve been to like twenty events with them over the past month. This shows an ounce of much needed humility in understanding that you are probably beating somebody better than you.

DON’T: Say The Word “Dream”

Nobody wants to hear about how you’ve been dreaming about this moment since you were a little girl. Please spare us the sob story. This is especially annoying when you say it in a determined whisper. And even more so if you cry. Of all the things worth crying about in this world: poverty, war, the series finale of Friday Night Lights, an Oscar really is not one of them. Failing to catch your breath really loses the charm if you are above ten years of age.

DO: Know Your Strengths

The average age of an Academy Award winning performer is around forty. This should give you more than enough time to realize exactly how funny you are on a scale from 1 to 10. If you a six or below, don’t even try, because it will make everyone in the room extremely uncomfortable. They will feel an obligation to laugh because they might want to work with you at some point in the future, but you know not everyone in the room can act. But if you are funny, please go for it - we could all use a refresher because this ceremony feels like it has been going on for a million years.

DON’T: Talk About "The Craft"

We really don’t care about how difficult it was to shoot the movie you got a seven-figure salary for. So please do not go on about how you really put yourself into the role or how much weight you lost/gained for it. Don’t bore us with details about the development process - I really don’t want to hear about how hard it was to make a musical in 2017. Also, don’t get too inside-baseball within your many thank yous. There is no need to thank your manager, publicist, agent, and lawyer all individually - they already get a sizeable amount of your income. Also ladies please do not thank the director for creating really great roles for women, it’s 2017 for God’s sake.

DON’T: Make Out With The Presenter Or Your Brother

I just hope we all learned valuable lessons from Adrien Brody and Angelina Jolie.

DO: Know When To Get Political

This is especially relevant this year as I imagine this cockamamie administration will cast quite a shadow over this year’s proceedings. Sometimes getting political is completely appropriate - Tom Hanks winning for Philadelphia and paying tribute to victims of AIDS or Steven Spielberg winning for Schindler’s List and unlike certain presidents, mentioning the Jews. Other times it feels self-aggrandizing and obnoxious and leaves us all wanting the orchestra to chime in ASAP. I imagine nearly all the winners this year will want to say something so I suggest they prepare and make it about those who are suffering rather than themselves or their work. It helps if the subject you’re addressing was relevant in the film you’ve made - I don’t want to pick on Leo put him connecting that two-and-a-half torture flick to man’s connection to the natural world was a stretch. Be genuine, be self-aware, be Jane Fonda.

DO: Thank Your Mother

It works every time. We will always live in a world where Julia Roberts thanked Benjamin Bratt in her Oscar speech and that is something we cannot change… But your mom’s always your mom, so dedicate it to her! If she’s alive take her as your date, if she’s passed that is the only acceptable time to cry. If you hated your mother - it’s impressive that you have won an Oscar given what you have probably had to overcome, but pretend she’s your best friend. We have certain basic impulses as human beings: we laugh when things are funny, we cry when things are sad, and we swoon every time anybody mentions their mother.