Extra, Extra – Read All About It...Paris Hilton Enters Speech Contest
In an to effort to repair her tarnished reputation and speak on her own behalf, heiress Paris Hilton has joined a local Toastmasters club!
She was seen recently as a guest of Richard Stewart at the Renaissance Speakers Toastmasters Club in Hollywood, where she said she intends to enter Toastmasters’ District 52 Tall Tale’s Contest.
If you find the above paragraphs incredible, but somehow possibly true, you now know the flavor and spirit of a good tall tale. Of course, some tall tales I have heard are impossibly true, but the sincerity and delivery of the speech made you wonder...
So what is a tall tale? I can explain it better by telling you what the Los Angeles Times wrote about me in 1989 when I won the District 52 Tall Tales Contest: “Richard Stewart is the biggest liar in Los Angeles.” Yes, I was somewhat ambivalent about that title.
So in short, a Tall Tale is a big lie, the more creative and believable the better. If you find yourself having fun while telling it, you are on the right track.
One secret to success in delivery is staying in character. A good actor knows this. If you break character by laughing at your own incredibility, you quickly lose the spirit of belief in your tale. Another key ingredient for a winning tale is embellishment and details, details, details. I think I accomplished this in my 1989 Tall Tales contest speech:
It was mid-December; I was in the air, 2000 feet above Normandy, France, 1945. Sure I was only four years old, but I was big for my age, and besides, I was sort of proud of the fact that I was the youngest fighter pilot working for General Patton.
Later when I “had to bail” and my parachute wouldn’t open, I was able to embellish more:
The rip cord didn’t open! I looked down and I started to panic. I saw the ground racing up before me! I knew I was going to die! I started crying like a three-year old.
In another contest I secured some credibility by calling on my (prearranged) lawyer in the audience. I asked him to stand up and simply raise his hand when I mentioned him. I also warned the audience that my “testimony” was being video taped for evidence (and pointed to the real camera filming me). I then went on to say how Toastmasters ruined my life and I was filing a class action law suit against them. (You had to be there...).
One of my favorite tall tales was given by a district winner in Orange County, California. He spoke of his grandfather who had a wooden peg leg. The grandfather worked hard as a farmer and would use his wooden peg to stomp the fields and plant corn. Well, they were so poor, when the grandfather died, they couldn’t afford a coffin. To save money they just took Grandpa to the back 40, stuck his peg leg in the dirt, held his arms out and screwed him into the ground.
I hope my brief notes here inspire you to dive into your district’s tall tales contest! If you do, let me know. I’ll bring Paris as a guest and come hear you!
Richard Stewart, DTM, is the founding president of Renaissance Speakers in Hollywood, California. He has won three District Tall Tales contests and three District Humorous Contests. And that is no Tall Tale!