There was dead silence. More or less.
Gregory Brown, president of the North Delta Power Talkers, placed a Tim Hortons cup on the podium behind him. He creaked forward on his crutches, moving to the centre of the speaking area.
Sitting around the carpeted stage, his fellow Toastmasters had score cards in hand and pens at the ready. No one spoke until the chairwoman introduced Brown and his speech.
It took a moment for the clapping to set in, and it filled the room in stark contrast to the serious and silent demeanour of the crowd. Leaning forward on his crutches, a slight glint in his eye — although it may have been a reflection from his Team Canada hockey jersey — Brown started to talk.
He was one of five competitors vying to tell the funniest story at the George Mackie Library on Monday, Sept. 25.
“Humorous speaking is not my forte,” Brown said. “It’s very out of my comfort zone.”
But, he’s made a point of competing in every contest the local group offered — even if it’s a challenge.
“Speaking is speaking,” he said. “If you can interject humour, it helps.”
That night, there would be two competitions that would see North Delta members going on to compete in an area-wide competition on Oct. 16: one contest for the best off-the-cuff speech and the best humorous speech.
The night started with table topics, two-minute unprepared speeches about a set (and, until 20 seconds before the first speaker started, undecided) topic. Five different people competed in the category.
But the main event, the part that took up the bulk of the competition, was the humorous speeches.
“To me, this is the highlight of the year,” said Gary Drouillard, former club president and speech contestant. “I’m able to pull together or make up stories, often from [my] wilder youth.”
He laughed. “No holds barred. You can come up with any kind of hilarious tale you want.”
The contestants told stories about anything they could think of: the time Rema Nair took her husband to India and he lost his pants on a bus, or Jennifer Chen’s decision to never laugh after the age of four. Brown took a good hard look at Canadians’ obsession with Tim Hortons, while Majka Janousek told of her tryst with a Sasquatch.
Drouillard brought the chuckles with his sordid tale of a young boy’s encounter with the law. As a teenager leading a double life in Ontario — hoity prep school star on weekdays and slumming country boy on weekends — Drouillard experienced the adrenaline of getting busted for underage drinking. He told of how he hid it from his parents for years, his wife held it over him and finally, in an anticlimatic finish, discovered that his parents knew all along.
The tale earned him a third place finish. Or so he thought.
During the awards ceremony — which consisted of the contestants being handed a colour-coded certificate with their name written on it in Sharpie — the contestants grouped together for a photo. As they looked closely at their certificates, Drouillard discovered he had won.
Drouillard will be stepping down from Toastmasters — Brown and Janousek awarded him with a thank you book after the contest — but it’s not just the end for him. After “dozens” of years of fall contests, this was the club’s last, as they and all the area’s Toastmasters groups do away with the event and instead concentrate on their spring competitions. October 16 will be the final fall area contest, followed by the division contest on Oct. 24 and the district contest on Nov. 11 and 12.