Graduation looms on the horizon and we all know what that means—boring commencement speeches and long, drawn out ceremonies. But for the lucky ones, whose colleges attract the “big gun” speakers, commencement might not be quite as boring. This time of year, it might be fun to take a look at some of the more memorable commencement speeches (and by memorable, I mean outrageous) given at some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

  1. Conan O’Brien-Harvard
  2. The late night comedian does a great job of explaining the loathsome way people look at Harvard graduates. A Harvard graduate himself, Conan points out the stigma that’s attached to its graduates. In a classic example of life after Harvard, Conan reads Tom Shales’ Washington Post column putting him down as a terrible host. Conan’s opening statement set the tone:

    “I’d like to thank the Class Marshals for inviting me here today. The last time I was invited to Harvard it cost me $110,000, so you’ll forgive me if I’m a bit suspicious. I’d like to announce up front that I have one goal this afternoon: to be half as funny as tomorrow’s Commencement Speaker, Moral Philosopher and Economist, Amartya Sen. Must get more laughs than seminal wage/price theoretician.”

  3. Will Ferrell-Harvard
  4. Will Ferrell is arguable one of the funniest stand up comedians. His brand of humor tends to produce either a strong love or an adimate hatred for his comedy. But Will is responsible for one of the funniest and most unorthodox speeches ever made at a Harvard commencement. The commencement day speech was full of jokes and included an uncanny George Bush impersonation:

    “After months of secret negotiations, several hundred secret ballots, and a weekend retreat with Vice President Dick Cheney in his secret mountain bunker, a Class Day speaker was chosen, and it was me. You obviously have made a grave error. But it’s too late now. So let’s just go with it.”

  5. Seth McFarlane-Harvard
  6. Seth McFarlane, the main voice behind Family Guy gave his speech in the characters of Peter, Stewie and Quagmire. The speech was peppered with humor, voices, and a reasonable amount of sarcasm:

    “Now I know that many of you know me only for my voice, and it may be a bit jarring to see me speak in person. You’re thinking to yourself: “Boy, it’s strange to hear that voice coming out of that face,” you’re thinking to yourselves. In that sense, I’m a lot like Celine Dion. I’m not calling her silly-looking but if you meet her in person, I’ll give you a dollar if you can find her nose.”

  7. Bill Gates-Harvard
  8. Bill, as everyone knows, dropped out of college to start his company, Microsoft. He may not be known for being much of a comedian as others on this list, but the opening part of his speech is pretty funny.

    “I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this: ‘Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.’ I want to thank Harvard for this timely honor. I’ll be changing my job next year … and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my résumé.

  9. Jon Stewart-College of William and Mary
  10. Stewart, in his usual sarcastic comedic tone, informed parents that the speech might have some “off color” words in it, but nothing they wouldn’t hear at a profanity convention. The entire speech was filled with jokes, but Stewart also dished out valuable advice to graduates:

    “I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates–who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that, in truth, has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless–will join in congratulating me. Love what you do and get good at it:”

  11. Stephen Colbert-Knox College
  12. Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech at Knox College is one of the most oft-read speeches on the Internet. Colbert’s speech features his trademark humor and candid advice for college grads. He also shows off his ability to ask for a McDonald’s Happy Meal in five different languages. At the end of his eloquently crafted speech, Stephen said:

    “I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.”

  13. Ellen DeGeneres-Tulane
  14. New Orleans native Ellen Degeneres immediately starts off proclaiming announcing that she’s super hungover, which of course was received well by a large group of college students. Considering the speech was delivered at the first commencement since hurricane Katrina, Ellen brought some light heartedness to an area that could use it:

    “Life is like a one big Mardi Gras but instead of showing your boobs show people your brain and if they like what they see you’ll have more beads than you’ll know what do with.”

  15. Arnold Schwarzenegger-Emory University
  16. Schwarzenegger was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree. In true “Terminator” fashion (using the famous “I’ll be back”), Arnold used the speech to poke fun at the Arizona immigration laws and the Kennedy family:

    “I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me. This is my first law degree. Finally, the Kennedys will think I’m a success. And Maria can finally bring me home to meet her family.”

  17. Dolly Parton-University of Tennessee
  18. Wearing a short orange and white fringe dress, the Tennessee native received an honorary doctorate of humane and musical letters during the College of Arts and Sciences. Using her typical country humor and down home charm, Dolly as always, capitalized on her looks and her branded outrageous look:

    “Just think: I am Dr. Dolly!” she said afterward. “When people say something about ‘double-d,’ they will be thinking of something entirely different. What has worked for me may not work for you. Well, take for instance what has worked for me. Wigs.Tight clothes. Push up bras. High heel shoes, five inch high heel shoes. All I gotta say, take my advice and some of you boys out there may find yourself on a little different career path than you might have planned. And you girls better be careful, too, seriously.”

  19. Kermit the Frog-Southampton College
  20. Is this a joke? Nope—Kermit actually showed up and stood behind the podium at commencement. This commencement address at Southampton College, a school recognized for its work in marine and environmental sciences, takes a somewhat humorous approach while recognizing the graduates for their commitment to save the environment:

    “On behalf of frogs, fish, pigs, bears and all of the other species who are lower than you on the food chain, thank you for dedicating your lives to saving our world and our home. In the words of my cousin, Newt — no, not that Newt, this is another Newt — “We appreciate what you are doing more than you can even imagine.” And so I say to you, the 1996 graduates of Southampton Graduate Campus, you are no longer tadpoles. The time has come for you to drop your tails and leave this swamp. But I am sure that wherever I go as I travel around the world, I will find each and every one of you working your tails off to save other swamps and give those of us who live there a chance to survive. We love you for it.”

If you would like to attend one of these fabulously famous commencement speeches one day, you will have to become a college graduate. Or as Stephen Colbert says, “get your own TV show.”

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