Both kinds of speeches have the same effect, to trigger an emotional response in the audience.
The response to the humorous speech is laughter, if only a chuckle or an internal giggle. The responses to passionate speeches can vary. Some speeches make us cry, others make us angry. Some make us want to stand up and shout, "Hell yeah!"
Three speeches stood out at last night's Oscars ceremony for their emotional triggers, and prompted all three above-mentioned responses, and more.
We started off with Patricia Arquette, accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress, making an impassioned plea for wage equality. The standing up and fist-pumping was demonstrated by Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Lopez, who was sitting next to her, was equally fired up. Not to mention those of us at home, clapping and cheering!
Then we heard a moving speech by Common and John Legend, right after their powerful musical performance, sharing the award for Best Original Song from the movie Selma.
Common started off, saying "Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform 'Glory' on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago.
This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.
This bridge was built on hope. Welded with compassion. And elevated by love for all human beings."
Then John Legend stepped to the microphone and continued, "We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago. But we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now.
We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today.
We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on."
If these two speeches weren't enough to fire up all the viewers, Graham Moore finished the job. Accepting the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie The Imitation Game, Moore had this to say:
"Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all these disconcertingly attractive faces. I do. And that's the most unfair thing I think I've ever heard.
So in this brief time here, what I want to use it to do is to say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different. And I felt like I did not belong.
And now I'm standing here, and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird, or she's different, or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different. And then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass that same message to the next person who comes along."
In an interview after the show, Moore said, "This sort of felt like the thing I always wanted to say and I never thought in my life I'd actually be on a stage and say it."
What's the lesson here? The best speeches have an emotional trigger. The best speeches are those the move the audience in some way, that speak to our humanity and our deepest needs and desires. The best speeches are those that make the audience FEEL something, not always a GOOD something. But something.
You have a choice. You can be the one who gets on stage and plays it safe. Or you can be the one who speaks up and stands out!
View the three speeches below.