After dinner speakers | AccountingWEB

After dinner speakers

As my colleague Robert Lovell notes in his Tales from the professional dinner circuit blog this week, the black tie event and its accompanying entertainment are fixtures in many accountants' lives. The speaker at the WESCA do in Bristol on Tuesday night was former Chancellor Norman Lamont, who Robert says was surprisingly good value.

Opening his speech, Lamont quoted Richard Burton who said, on the occasion of his second marriage to Elizabeth Taylor: “I know what’s expected of me now, I just need to make it interesting.”

When David Mellor (6/10) performed for the Software Satisfaction Awards in 2009, he also presented a 30-minute gag-a-thon that would have made Bob Monkhouse proud. It was a sight never to be forgotten to see him turning on his legendary charm for the benefit of our colleague, Jenny Ogden.

Star performers
The king of all after-dinner speakers has to be Barry Cryer, (9/10) who appeared at the SSA dinner in 2007. Unlike some speakers (including former politicians who were a bit more selective in their attentions), he took a genuine interest in the people at the event, delivered exactly 28mins 35secs of non-stop jokes and even wrote an Ode to the Awards for us. The only blot on his copy book was when one of the catering staff rousted him from the gents toilet, where he had crept off for a crafty cigarette.

Dara O'Briain (8/10) would be a close second - he did the Taxation awards two years in a row, and made the effort to come back with a new set of tax jokes the second year round. Marcus Brigstocke (7/10) was quite funny when he took on the same gig. "Taxation Awards? This isn't going to be one I'll be telling all my mates about..." he quipped.

A special mention should go to Sir Nick Montagu (7/10), who did a speech at the Digita conference a couple of years back. The former Inland Revenue chairman was the epitome of a wry Whitehall mandarin, and took great delight in confirming all our worst assumptions about former Labour Treasury ministers (including one who was the least well equipped for the job, but the most convinced of her own infallibility).

Boris Johnson's performance (1/10) at the 2004 CIMA conference in London has to rate as the worst speech I've ever seen. He just came on and did his buffoon schtick for around 35 excruciating minutes. It was obvious that he had done no preparation whatsoever and felt entitled to mutter "gosh", "blimey" and "ah, ah..." a lot as he regaled us about riding his bike across London. A total insult to the audience's intelligence. How people can vote for him is completely beyond me.

Ian Hislop (3/10) was another dud. He did the speech at the Accountancy Age awards one year not long after the Enron scandal. He included a few choice jibes at the Big Four, but it was a bit rich for him to turn the occasion into an extended ad for Private Eye, particularly when you know how much these people get paid (start at around £2,000-£3,000, and keep counting... I said keep counting... until you reach the heady realms of Tony Blair's alleged £500,000 speech fees).

Who are your heroes and zeros of the after-dinner circuit? And can you remember any of their better quips? With the collective wisdom of so many AccountingWEB members to hand, we could probably come up with a league table of the most dependable turns. This could be very helpful, particularly since we've got a couple of gala dinners to organise later in the year...



bookmarklee's picture

I remember some of those

bookmarklee | | Permalink

I was really looking forward to hearing   Armando Iannucci at the AccountancyAge awards last year. Some of his lines were inspired but overall i remember being disappointed.  Shame. 

I remember Barry Cryer from the SSA - he was fab as you rightly say. Sadly Robert Llewellyn suffered from sound problems more recently and was less entertaining than intended/expected. It took time but I warmed to Brian Blessed last year. What am amazing man. Unscripted it seemed. A wealth of stories and he eventually won me over with his sheer exuberance.

The first taxation awards ceremony was hosted by Bob Monkhouse who was BRILLIANT. But he struggled with some of the nominations and had to stiffle giggles when announcing things like: The Price Waterhouse Coopers Transactional Tax team. He ad libbed during the short lists and in subseuqent years the orgainisers had a voiceover artist do the announcements to avoid a recurrence!

Rory Bremner is memorable from more recent Taxation awards as is Jon Culshaw. Both did repeated Gordon Brown impressions/quotes.

Michael MacIntyre was great too.

Most of the comedians who get that gig end up making much the same gags. Hard to remember which was which after a year or two has passed.  The most recent is invariably the one I remember most as being the best.  Last year it was Hugh Dennis who I had the pleasure of chatting with beforehand. A genuinely nice and humble guy who did a great topical spot.

I often repeat some of the gags (with credit) on the Accountant Jokes and Fun blog afterwards.


John Stokdyk's picture

Are you still doing such turns yourself, Mark?

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

I seem to remember you had the red foam rubber balls with you at last year's Software Satisfaction Awards.

In case members don't already know (surely not?), Mark is a member of the Magic Circle and an accomplished magician.

Although I've seen some of his tricks close up, I've never had the pleasure of witnessing one of Mark's formal performances - has anyone else in this group? As I mentioned, there may be a slot at one of our forthcoming dinners and we're always open to suggestions.

bookmarklee's picture

My balls are always with me thank you Mr Stokdyk

bookmarklee | | Permalink

And yes I do frequently perform but not at paid gigs any more. 

In recent months I've turned down more such opportunities than for ages. Not enough to make me think I should reserrect that old sideline though.

Thanks for the mention. 


John Stokdyk's picture

Sean Locke (6/10), 2011 Taxation Awards

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

A TV regular on ‘QI’ and ‘Nine Out Of 10 Cats’, Sean Locke was a big name booking for the Taxation Awards dinner on Thursday 26 May and gave an ultra-polished performance to the 700 or so tax experts gathered in the Park Lane Hilton ballroom.

After starting off with a few, now traditional warm-ups about how incongruous it was to do a comedy act for an audience of tax experts and some jibes at HMRC, he kicked into a gag-packed 15min monologue.  Here are some of the ones I managed to get down:

  • “When I found out I was performing at the Taxation Awards, I can’t say how excited I was.”
  • “I often read ‘Taxation’ magazine. It’s very handy on the train if I don’t want anyone to talk to me.”
  • “If anyone is here from the Hackney HMRC office, my name is Daphne Fairfax.”
  • “I once spent 24 hours in a tax haven. It was a gypsy camp.”
  • “There’s a new morning-after pill for footballers. It changes your blood type.”
  • “Fishing is like dogging without the sex. You often catch something. And then there’s the old decision, do you kill ‘em or let ‘em go?”
  • “They shoudn’t call it Twitter. It should be called Drivel, or Splurge of Shite. It’s been developed for people who can’t shut the f*** up, even when they’re on their own.”
  • “A woman’s work is never done; maybe that’s why they get paid less [for some reason, that one never goes down very well]”

While Locke is certainly a top-notch stand-up, I’ve marked him down for a couple of duds (the gypsy joke and the equal pay one). He also loses a point for rehashing Arthur Smith’s old Daphne Fairfax joke by switching DHSS officials in Peckham for HMRC - but at least he made the effort to cater for his specialist audience.

Sean Locke

chatman | | Permalink

I think Sean Locke is great, but definitely agree with marking him down for the Gypsy joke. 

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