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Telling a tall tale: Think big fish, think COD!

January 20, 2014

Corinthians' Twin Tall Tales Contest Flyer.30Jan14At a meeting last month in the Cadogan Hotel I sang one line of a song. The last note was a perfect baritone top E, which penetrated the back wall of the room, through the adjacent meeting room and right into the bar.  There it cracked a small, elegant chandelier.  A shard of glass fell down and struck an Iranian gentleman on the top of his bald head.  All he had been doing until then was work his way harmlessly through a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon, ably assisted by a blonde dressed in a faux fur coat, fish net stockings, stiletto heels… and not much else. She rushed shrieking to the reception saying that her ‘friend’ has been the victim of an assassination attempt.  The receptionist immediately called the Iranian Embassy, the ambassador called the Ayatollah and the Ayatollah pressed the red button and launched a missile strike… on Russell Brand.

It all started right there, in that room, with one note, from one line, of one song, but what a fortuitous ending.

That was a tall tale, not a great one, but, believe me, I’ve told worse.  Nevertheless it had all the right constituents of a tall tale speech: it was credible, organised and deadpan.  That’s C.O.D., cod, as in fish and chips.

First, the tale needs to be credible, or at least credibly incredible.  You might choose a credible character who can do unlikely even incredible things, like a super-hero.  Or you might find yourself in a credible situation or facing a credible problem and resolving it in an unlikely even incredible way.  Thus it is credible that a musical note can crack glass.  It is also credible that the Ayatollah has a red button to press.  Indeed the whole tale was credible: it happened.

Second, keep the tale organized.  Have an opening that sets the scene and describes the character or the situation.  Have a body that develops the tale clearly and shows how the situation is resolved.  And then end with a bang, preferably humorous and, best of all with a twist.  You may have thought the Ayatollah would strike on Israel, but, no, he was smart – he knew that the real threat to global sanity and security came from an insufferably irritating comedian, Russell Brand.

Finally, you can only carry off a tall tale speech if you convey the impression that it happened.  And that means a straight face.  Think Jack Dee.  I’m not sure his face is even capable of a smile.  Your face must be deadpan throughout.  If I had laughed and joked through my Iranian tale, you wouldn’t have believed me.  But I didn’t – and you did.

In summary, for a tall tale speech think credible, organized and deadpan: think C.O.D., think cod – as in the cod that took off in the North Sea, flew over East Anglia and Greater London and crash landed in my suburban garden pond was THIS BIG!


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