Great Comedians: Which One Would Be Your Best Man?
Whether they’re funny or not, best men tend to get a decent reception at the, er, reception. That’s because the audience accepts the poor soul in front of them is going through the most stressful fifteen minutes of his life. But what if you could pick your best man from the roster of great comedians? Would their slick jokes and timing work the room into a frenzy of bona fide belly laughs? Or would their shtick misfire horribly? We’ve chosen a selection of comics (some dead, some not), explaining which of their attributes would work, and which would be a bit of a nightmare.
The pros: John Eric Bartholomew (that’s Eric Morecambe to you and me) was one the greatest comedians ever to grace a stage. He could make young and old alike guffaw uncontrollably – a quality that would work wonders in the jumbled-demographic setting of a wedding reception. The other thing we know about Eric is that he made a cracking father of the bride speech when his daughter, Gail got married. He opened proceedings with the line: “Ladies, Gentlemen, and just in case, Your Majesty…”
The cons: Eric Morecambe wasn’t a stand up comedian as such; he was a comic actor. Though he came out with some of comedy’s most memorable lines, he usually hadn’t written them himself. The other downside about having Eric as your best man, would be the lack of Ernie. Without his trusty companion, he simply wouldn’t be half as funny.
Our conclusion: The ability to reach out to a mixed audience is not be underestimated. Eric Morecambe would be a safe bet if yours was a family-orientated bash. But for the comedy gold, you’d have to let him bring his pal along. And a professional writer or two. Could work out pricey.
The pros: Chris Morris is one of contemporary comedy’s major pioneers; the man behind behind such jewels as The Day Today, Brass Eye, Nathan Barley and Four Lions. What Morris doesn’t know about making people go “Ha-ha… ohhh, actually should I be laughing at that?” isn’t worth knowing. If your reception is bristling with edgy, left-thinking pals, he might just fit the bill. Morris was also the best man at the wedding of his brother Tom (the acclaimed theatre director) and by all accounts pulled off the job admirably.
The cons: If you intend to keep Morris on the straight and narrow, you’ll have your work cut out. Here’s a man who revels in tackling risqué subject matter (paedophilia gags at a wedding, anyone?). He’s also prone to flights of fancy. That means you might be faced with anecdotes about the time you wet yourself in a space shuttle you were sharing with Tom Hanks and the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (i.e. an anecdote that has no truth to it whatsoever).
Our conclusion: Chris Morris is something of a risky best man choice. His potential to offend is high, but then again, if the audience is right, this could be one hell of a hilarious routine. Check his notes beforehand, and definitely make sure your spouse’s sense of humour is on Morris’ wavelength.
(image credit: http://uktv.co.uk/images/homepage/105591.jpg)
The pros: If you’re looking for a memorable best man speech, you could hardly do better than book Groucho. His one-liners were second to none, and he had no lack of material on relationships and weddings (“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?”). By the way, you needn’t worry if the reception venue is non-smoking; Groucho rarely lit that cigar of his.
The cons: Inviting Groucho Marx to be your best best is tantamount to letting yourself in for the biggest ribbing since those dark playground days. The moustachioed maestro didn’t hold back with his quick-fire put-downs, and by the end of the first minute, you’d be hiding your sheepish mush in the nearest plate of dessert. You’d also have to make darned sure Groucho didn’t get started on the bride, lest he come out with a line like “She got her looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.” Oh yes, and if he brought his ‘brothers’ along, the entire reception would descend into scenes of unadulterated chaos.
Our conclusion: Groucho’s repartee is more reminiscent of a slightly sozzled father of the bride than a best man. Then again, you’d be hard pushed to find a better arsenal of jokes. And even if people had heard them before, it’d only be because Groucho had come up with them in the first place. You might also be able to get a harpist at discount rate.
The pros: Love him or not, Michael McIntyre has that mainstream appeal and twinkle in his eye that would make at least thirty of your wedding guests whisper, “My gawd, it’s ‘im offa the telly!” The root of nearly all Michael McIntyre’s comedy is observation (or as Stewart Lee calls it, ‘McIntyre’s Speculum’). That means he’ll know his groom (aka you) inside-out, and be able to pinpoint all your little idiosyncrasies down to a tee. Your wife and your mum are guaranteed to be in fits of giggles.
The cons: It’s that very same sharp observation of McIntyre’s that could make his best man speech somewhat awkward. Michael McIntyre is the kind of best man who will recall in detail that time in Spain when you had constipation for four days, and all the little ways you tried to combat it. The other noticeable trait of McIntyre’s routines is that he finds it increasingly hard to stand still. This isn’t ideal in a best man situation, when he’s supposed to be focussing his attention on the bride and groom. He’d probably insist on strapping one of those stupid microphones to his face too.
Our conclusion: For mainstream wow-factor, Michael McIntyre is your (best) man. But beware his over-use of observation, and consider gluing his shoes to the carpet before he gets started.
The pros: Not only is Larry David a great performer (particularly apt at playing himself, which is what you want for a best man speech), he also writes his own material. It’s quality stuff too; David has penned two of the most successful sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Both are crammed with anecdotes from his own life; in fact this man is arguably one the finest anecdotalists ever.
The cons: Larry David does what Larry David wants to do. He was infamous for storming out of Seinfeld production meetings if he didn’t get his way. And back in the days of his stand-up career, if people weren’t laughing heartily enough at his material, David was also known to cuss at his audience, chuck down the microphone and stomp off the stage. One can only imagine how that would go down at your wedding reception. Plus, if you’ve ever seen Curb, you’ll know Larry has a knack of getting mixed up in petty disputes, often making enemies for life.
Our conclusion: Of all the best men, Larry David is going to be the least reliable. Even if he doesn’t end up calling the bride a c**t, he’ll likely get embroiled in some argument about pretzels with your wheelchair-bound aunt. For safe laughs, get his mate Jerry to do the gig instead.
Which comedian would you choose as your best man? We want to know!
Will Noble is a freelance writer who lives in London. He contributes articles to publications including Londonist, Fiz, and luxury magazines (A)WAY and Private Air. Will also writes professional speeches and scripts. His degree is in Scriptwriting for Film and TV (Bournemouth University, 2007).