Malachy McCourt appears to be a passionate man. He is passionate about storytelling, his love and, most of all, about the English language.
In his speech to Quinnipiac University on Wednesday, March 2, the actor, bartender and author addressed an audience as a storyteller with no inhibitions.
McCourt began on a somewhat informative note, criticizing what he sees as a misuse of the English language; specifically, the inherent contradictions of political leaders who call themselves pro-life while they support the killing of 50 to 60 thousand Iraqi children. “Compassionate conservatism means they put you to death earlier,” McCourt said.
He said that his qualms with language come out of the fact that “there is no bad language, only bad usage.”
As McCourt moved on, his speech became less informative and more entertaining. Although he did talk about living in the shadow of his brother Frank, author of ‘Angela’s Ashes,’ he focused more on his own life.
He began to tell a more autobiographical story, ruminating about his life in Ireland and how he failed every subject in grammar school except English and recess.
Although McCourt is most famous for his books on his upbringing in Ireland, he quipped how he really did not care when people told him that they had ancestors from Ireland or that they were going to the country soon. At one point he said, “I am currently in the process of forgiving the damn place.”
Towards the end of the speech he began talking less about his life and focused more on the art of storytelling. He talked about his life both in Ireland and in America, ranging in topic from the naivete of English tourists, quirky subway passengers and smuggling gold bricks to India.
He urged audience members not to tell jokes, but rather to tell stories. This was despite the fact that his tales seemed to blend the two.
It became clear at the end of his speech that many audience members were familiar with his speaking style. Some people yelled out for him to tell specific stories that they knew he told on occasion.
One audience member who did not know much about the man prior to the speech found him entertaining just the same. “He tells a great story. He’s more entertaining than informative,” said Dawn Miceli, a Quinnipiac journalism professor.
Dana Lee, a junior English major, found him to be quite informative.
“I was really interested in what he said, especially about the usage of language,” said Lee. She could not help to mention that he was also “absolutely hilarious.”
McCourt ended the evening in a unique manner – he had the audience sing an old Irish tune with him. Ending on that note, McCourt stirred up the audience and left them with a sense of intrigue and fulfillment.