The art of "All right, all right, all right": How to write a viral acceptance speech

From the funny to the heartfelt to the absurd, here's how to deliver remarks people won't forget

Published January 11, 2015 11:00PM (EST)

Matthew McConaughey accepts the Oscar for best actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014.        (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Matthew McConaughey accepts the Oscar for best actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Movie awards season is approaching, and with the Golden Globes airing this Sunday and the Oscars coming up in February, we’re going to be seeing a lot of acceptance speeches over the next couple of months. Some will be funny, some will be heartfelt, and some will probably be delivered by Meryl Streep. But not all will be canonized in the annals of Internet history so they may live on for all eternity.

For those true strivers who aren’t prepared to settle for being remembered merely for their cinematic achievements, but are in search of a higher goal – namely, trending on Twitter -- here’s a little how-to guide on how to deliver a viral acceptance speech, taking cues from memorable speeches over the past few years.

1. Drop a bombshell, but do it in a cryptic, roundabout way
Jodie Foster sorta kinda maybe came out of the closet and retired from acting in 2013’s Golden Globes acceptance speech, but it was difficult to tell exactly what was happening in the profound, rambling, impassioned, conflicted speech that she delivered. Some people found it bizarre, others found it stirring and beautiful. Whatever it was, it was very Jodie – and instantly legendary.

2. Deliver a speech that makes no sense
In something of a similar vein, Jacqueline Bisset’s strange Golden Globes acceptance speech from last year (for best supporting performance in "Dancing on the Edge") involved enough lip-smacking, expletives and nonsensical rambling to make it an immediate "WTF?" classic.

4. Be heartfelt
The Oscars and Globes can feel kind of like empty spectacle at times, yet there are rare moments that remind us of the elevating power of cinema and its ability to improve the human condition. One such moment was Lupita Nyong’o’s tearful, moving speech for her "12 Years a Slave" win last year, which elided her own accomplishments to put the real-life subjects of the film front and center: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” she said after quickly thanking the academy. “And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own." It ended on another inspirational note: "When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid." Ugh. Pass the tissues.

5. Make a statement
Making a statement about social issues is a popular tactic, the best example of which might be the profoundly eloquent and noble speech Harry Belafonte delivered about race and injustice when receiving his honorary Oscar last year. Seriously, this would have been a standout speech in any context. (Harry Belafonte for Congress!)

"In 1935, at the age of 8, sitting in a Harlem theater, I watched with awe and wonder incredible feats of the white superhero, Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan was a sight to see. This porcelain Adonis, this white liberator, who could speak no language, swinging from tree to tree, saving Africa from the tragedy of destruction by a black indigenous population of inept, ignorant, void-of-any-skills [people], governed by ancient superstitions with no heart for Christian charity. Through this film the virus of racial inferiority -- of never wanting to be identified with anything African -- swept into the psyche of its youthful observers. And for the years that followed, Hollywood brought abundant opportunity for black children in their Harlem theaters to cheer Tarzan and boo Africans. [...] But these encounters set other things in motion. It was an early stimulus to the beginning of my rebellion. Rebellion against injustice and human distortion and hate. How fortunate for me that the performing arts became the catalyst that fueled my desire for social change."

6. Give an all-round great speech (and don't forget to thank your mom)
Sometimes you can go viral simply by giving a really good, heartfelt speech that appears to come from a real place. Of course, the more bases you cover the better: In Leto's much-lauded speech for his "Dallas Buyers' Club" win, Leto thanked the host and his fellow cast-members and his fellow actors, gave a shout-out to AIDS victims and people suffering in Venezuela and Ukraine, and most notably, topped it off with a heartfelt tribute to his mom. (Seriously, don't forget to mention your mom.)

Ditto Sandra Bullock, who managed to perfectly balance levity and sincerity in her speech when she won best actress for "The Blind Side" in 201o. Not only did she give charming and funny shout-outs to her fellow actress nominees (Gabourey Sidibe: "exquisite”; Carey Mulligan: “Your grace, elegance, beauty and talent make me sick"; Helen Mirren: “I feel like we are family"; Meryl Streep: “such a good kisser"), she followed it up with a touching story about her mom and tears that felt genuine rather than melodramatic. A top-notch speech all in all. A+ Sandy.

7. Be yourself!
You don’t always need fancy bells and whistles to go viral. Sometimes it’s enough just to do you, especially if you are a tanned, debonair, God-fearing, self-worshiping Texas lad with a sly drawl and a two-decades-old signature catchphrase that people just can't get enough of. Never change, McConaughey:

"So you see every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to attain that. I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me, because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing. So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing. To that I say: Amen. To that I say, All right, all right, all right. To that I say, just keep living, eh? Thank you."

8. Be Meryl Streep
This is good life advice in general.

... or be J. Law
Bonus points if you can be Jennifer Lawrence and mention Meryl Streep in the speech.

9. Get drunk
Having one too many vodka-sodas is a surefire way to produce a memorable acceptance speech and show that you know how to party, as evidenced by Cate Blanchett’s charming 2014 Globes award speech, the gist of which was: "I had a few vodkas under my belt and here we are.” Honorable mention for being boozy and blasé goes to Emma Thompson, who showed up onstage holding a martini glass and then tossed her high heels over her shoulder, like a boss.

10. Say something weird about your marriage
In his "Argo" acceptance speech last year, Ben Affleck famously thanked his wife, Jennifer Garner, for “working” on their marriage, saying, “It is work, but it the best kind of work — and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” A little bit TMI, perhaps, but at least he remembered to thank his spouse at all, unlike Sandra Bullock circa 2010 or Sean Penn in 2009. Great way to torpedo your marriage, and increase your Klout Score all at once!

By Anna Silman

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