Thanks to everyone who attended the June 2004 edition of How to Kick People, and apologies to everyone who didn’t get in. (brag) Last night was our “valedictory” show, and we began by holding an open panel interview with two real-life valedictorians and, without their knowledge, one comic performer planted as the valedictorian of his 1984 high school class, and has done nothing of note since. I couldn’t tell when the other valedictorians figured out he was not legitimate, or when/if the audience figured it out at all. In fact, I know one woman in the audience approached our plant after the show and told him his valedictory speech really resonated with her, which is fairly astounding to me. The speech was, of course, scripted by Bob, Mike (our plant) and myself. Here’s an excerpt from the speech:
[Mike is asked if he had any advice to give today's graduating class, since he now has twenty years of experience as a valedictorian. Without a word, he gets up from his seat, pulls a piece of paper from his suit jacket, and approaches the microphone.]
Have you read the cover story in Newsweek? They say your generation isn’t going to amount to anything. That you’re too addicted to high-tech video games like Defender and Burger Time. They say you’ve got Pac-Man fever, and it’s driving you crazy.
Do you know what I say to Newsweek? I say, “GAME OVER.” Because I’ve spoken to some members of this generation of so-called “vidiots” and you haven’t abandoned your goals. Did the editors of Newsweek speak to Eric Simms, who told me he wants to drive a monster truck and/or funny car some day? Did they speak to Molly Pickles, who said she wants to marry Trapper John, MD? Or Kevin Greenaway, who is saving all his money to enter a karate kicking contest? [INTERRUPTED HERE]
Mike, this sounds like it was your old valedictory speech, from 1984.
Yeah, but I think it still applies today. (continuing as before) What about Angela Middlechoice, who hopes to one day beat her own high score in Centipede [INTERRUPTED AGAIN]
We appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but can you please wrap it up.
Sure thing…Let’s see…(skipping to the end) In conclusion, graduating class of 1984 – or 2004 – I have been hearing a lot of kids out there and they’re all saying the same thing: We don’t need no education. (making it very clear to the audience) WE-DON’T-NEED-NO-EDUCATION. Well, you know what I say to them? I’ll see YOU on the dark side of the moon. Thank you.
Following our interview panel, the valedictorians competed in the first annual H2KP VALEDICT-OFF, which was actually just a very elaborate excuse for Bob and me to ask several very smart and talented people to take the Pepsi challenge. (The results of which were not promising for Pepsico, I might add.)
Because the show was running long (at least that’s what my neurotic brain insisted), I cut one of the pieces I’d planned to read. In retrospect, I think I made a very good choice and I am pretty sure you’ll agree when you read it.
Here’s the piece I did not read last night. It is a graduation commencement speech, delivered to the audience:
Before I begin, let me just say it is no small honor to find myself standing here today, as your commencement speaker. Looking out from this podium, however, I realize my own pride cannot possibly compare to sense of accomplishment and joy you must all be feeling. And you deserve it! Hold for applause – oh, I’m sorry. You have so much to be happy for today. The weather is gorgeous, despite earlier reports suggesting God and the angels were going to cry and go bowling today. You’re all on the verge of a great new journey in life, for which there is no comparison. And, earlier in the ceremony, we all saw a kitty kat run across a fence. Truly a happy day.
When I told some of my colleagues that I was commissioned to deliver a graduation commencement address at the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children, their reactions ranged from total shock to some other stuff that was kind of like shock but then turns into laughing and then, much later, when they realized I was serious, ends in an apology. “Why?” they asked. “Because,” I said, “the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children is my Almond Motter.”
When I was a child I, like you, found myself chided and bullied. And not just by my speech therapist. By my peers and complete strangers as well. They said, “you’ll never be as good as us.” They said, “don’t put that in your mouth. It just came out of a horse.” They said, “No, no no. This bathroom is for little girls.” Everywhere I turned, I was challenged with negativity and resistance. Everywhere except Bright Star.
It was at the Bright Star School for Special Needs Children that I learned I had nothing to be afraid of, with the possible exception of swallowing too much pool water and ghosts in the telephone. And it was here I learned to listen to my own heart, and not the hearts of outsiders who couldn’t understand my special needs. I threw myself into school and, eventually, held the distinction of being the Bright Star senior class valedictorian in 1983, and again in 1984. And that’s because I worked harder than my classmates. I ran faster than my classmates, and in a straighter line. I put my coat and mittens more efficiently than my classmates. And I knew how to pet the classroom bunny using my gentle hands so I wouldn’t make it go sleepy-time forever more often than my classmates.
After high school I went on to become valedictorian again, at The Texas A&M University for Special Needs Students. And now, just twenty years later I stand before you the most powerful studio executive in Hollywood. Not bad for a guy who still has a small letter “L” and “R” printed respectively on the insides of his shoes. Only now those letters aren’t written in magic marker; they’re written in 14 karat gold paint, with crushed diamond trim.
Yes, I was called many names when I was younger, including the “S” word, the “D” word, and evven the “M-F-C-S-F” word. But do you know what people call me now? They call me “The man who greenlit such family-oriented blockbuster Hollywood films as PUDDING CAMP, THE UNITED STATES OF TICKLES, OPERATION: SHOELACE, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO, and MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART TWO: THE RECKONING.” And they call me, “The winner of three People’s Choice awards and a Blockbuster Lifetime Achievement award.” They call me “The multi-millionaire studio executive who rides to work every day in a rocket-powered school bus with its own on-board taffy machine.” And, when they’re ejecting me from a restaurant for pulling all the tablecloths from the tables or removing me from the white house for making a pretend finger-gun and jabbing it into the back of Secret Service, they don’t say, “Get out of here, you big “F-R-D-A” word. They say, “Get out of here, sir.” Sir.
If you leave here with one piece of inspiration, let it be this – [PUT PAGE UP TO FACE] OH MY GOD, WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?? [PUT PAGE DOWN] Oh, there you are. Now where was I? Oh yes. All your life, people have called you “special.” And you know what? Now you have a chance to prove them right. Look at me. Twenty years ago I was getting tricked by neighborhood kids into climbing inside a trash can with a sign on it that said, “time machine,” only to have that trash can beaten with wiffle ball bats and then rolled down a hill. And not just on one occasion – many, many times. Today, I am this close to building the first-ever time-traveling trash can. If I can do that, what’s to stop you from being whatever you want? You down there – you can, and should, be a lifeguard. And you, fidgeting in your chair, you might be a greeter at Wal-Mart. You there with yo
ur shoe on your hand – you could pet a nice dog. And you – yes you – you can be Spider-Man. Or you might be the lead character in the next Harmony Korine film. Or maybe you will grow up just like me, traveling around on choo-choo trains to visit the location of my studios latest production, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART THREE: JUST ADD PEE.
Let me leave you with some advice from someone I think we all know and trust – Hammy Butterbell, the clumsy mechanic from my international box office smash, BATTERY-OPERATED TOY TRUCK: THE MOTION PICTURE. “It takes at least 50 people to build a giant robot car made of chocolate cookies, but it only takes one person to eat the ding-dang engine.” You, collectively, are that one person. And life – life is that cookie-flavored engine.
Yes, I’m fairly certain I could have read anything but this and still be credited for taking the high road.