Picks and Pans Review: The Art of Public Speaking

UPDATED 09/15/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/15/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Ed McMahon

There's something faintly deranged about Ed McMahon writing a book on how to make a speech. As Johnny Carson's hired straight man, McMahon has built a career on laughing automatically at Carson jokes, whatever their merit. Maybe McMahon should write The Art of Laughing at Things Not Funny or The Art of Appearing To Listen While Wishing You Were Someplace Else. In this book McMahon starts on a high plane: "Like Michelangelo searching the mountains for Italy's finest marble, in preparing a speech you must pass over infinitely more material than you select." McMahon's advice if you make a mistake: "Laugh or grin sheepishly ..." Other tips for great speech-making: Mention people in the audience, praise individuals, leave out sounds like "auh, uh, urn," and ask a question now and then. McMahon says the best speech he ever gave was in Bronxville, N.Y. at his son's high school graduation in 1970. He quoted Faulkner, a Youngbloods hit song and announced that "communication is a two-way street." In which case he won't mind hearing that there is not a single fresh idea anywhere to be found in this book. (Putnam, $14.95)

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