“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Mark Twain
was not only one of America’s most gifted writers and humorists, but one of the country’s most popular speakers. Wherever Twain gave a lecture, akin to doing stand-up comedy today, he played to standing room only audiences.
Twain played in all the best venues of his day too, including the Author’s Club, Beefsteak Club and London’s Savage Club, which made him an honorary member. When he was told that only three men had received the honor, including the Prince of Wales, he famously replied, “Well it must make the Prince feel mighty fine.” Ever one to dazzle his audience with his wit, Twain once addressed an audience in Vienna in German. His topic: Die Schrecken der Deutschen Sprache, which translates as “The Horrors of the German Language.”
Never one to be a good custodian of his money, Twain had to lecture to pay off his debts in later years. He deplored the rigors of being on the road, dreading the tedium of travel and a having to live out of suitcases and steamer trunks.
He is said to have preferred introducing himself when speaking, which greatly disappointed the dignitaries who would fight over the honor before his arrival. Twain would take the stage, introduce himself in one voice, and then change back to himself, diving right into his lecture to the delight of the audience.