Jim Carrey’s 2014 Commencement Speech Analysis

When the Maharishi University of Management graduating class of 2014 sat down for their commencement speech, none of them thought they would see Jim Carrey come up to the podium. Jim Carrey is known as a comedic genius, and to see and hear him give a motivational speech to these graduates gives you a different perspective on the man. What makes his speech so powerful is the different strategies he uses to convince and motivate his audience. He made the speech very personal, mostly using humor and emotion to drive his point home.

Carrey’s audience was the graduating class of 2014. A group of young adults about to embark on a journey that will last the rest of their lives. They are faced with new pressure and fear, thrown into an ocean without a life jacket. Jim Carrey isn’t here to give them the life jacket, but rather to teach them what they need to know to be able to swim and survive. This is a group of emotional and impressionable people, which is the perfect audience for such an inspirational speech.

Carrey’s most prevalent way of relating to the audience was by using humor, something he is very familiar with. He opens up his speech with a joke about the art piece he brought in to show them, saying, “Hope you guys are gonna be able to see it okay. It’s not one of my bigger pieces.” The piece was actually about a story high. He was implying that they wouldn’t be able to see it, as a joke, when in reality it was the biggest piece of art they may have ever seen in their lives. I believe Carrey used so much humor in his speech because he wanted the class of 2014 to be comfortable and entertained as they delve into deeper topics in like such as being successful, finding yourself, and love and fear. By throwing in a few jokes here and there he keeps his audience laughing and happy as he talks about the future, which can be a scary and intimidating thing to talk about. “Graduating Class of 2014, and all the dead baseball players coming out of the corn to be with us today. After the harvest there’s no place to hide — the fields are empty — there is no cover there!”

“Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. How do I know this? I don’t, but I’m making sound, and that’s the important thing. That’s what I’m here to do.” Here, Carrey is saying you don’t have to believe me, because these are just his words, nothing else to them. There is no proof of his claim, yet telling people he doesn’t truly know makes it easier to believe and understand. He is being honest that he doesn’t know for sure, but he believes what he is saying and so should they. But he also gives the students better reasons to believe his message. He uses himself as proof that what he is saying is true and works. That look how successful he is, and that you can do it too. “I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size!”

But Carrey isn’t just all fun and games during his speech. He goes and gives a beautiful delivery of a poem. It is serious and important, with deeper meaning. “I used to think Jim Carrey is all that I was… just a flickering light. A dancing shadow. The great nothing masquerading as something you can name. Dwelling in forts and castles made of witches – wishes! Sorry, a Freudian slip there, seeking shelter in caves and foxholes, dug out hastily. An archer searching for his target in the mirror, wounded only by my own arrows, begging to be enslaved, pleading for my chains, blinded by longing and tripping over paradise – can I get an “Amen”?!” At this point the audience gives the second biggest applause of the speech, which shows how powerful it was for them.  Everyone knows Jim Carrey as the funny comedian, but being able to see and hear him speak about important subjects like he does in his speech can surprise the audience and it enforces just how important what he has to say is.

Another thing Carrey does in his speech gives them questions they need to answer. Maybe not that day, or that week, or month or year. Questions that they can answer as they go through life and find their purpose. “What’s yours? How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out. As someone who has done what you are about to go do, I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” He also confirms this by saying he himself has gone through and found the answer to these questions. He is proof that it works, and works pretty well. Giving the audience something to think about after the speech, these questions that they will end up finding the answers to throughout their life, helps them remember the speech and truly take away something valuable, if nothing else from the speech.

Finally, Carrey talks about some of the things he has learned, passing them down to the graduate students listening to his speech. One of these was from his father. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” Carrey is promoting and supporting the idea of following your dreams even if it seems impossible because it would be better to fail than to not try at all. This is a very valuable lesson he teaches here and it shows that by bringing up how he learned this lesson he ends up teaching it back to the audience.

Jim Carrey’s speech was a powerful motivational speech aimed at young adults who fear the future after college. He used his humor, emotional appeal, and personal experiences to convince the audience in his ideas. He showed them the way he thinks and functions to get to where he is today. He is successful and happy, and that is something he wanted to show them how to achieve. He gave them questions and life lessons that helped him drive his point home. From being silly to serious the range of emotion he displayed was a brilliant way to deliver his speech in a meaningful and inspiring way.


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