Scene Monkey, actor and lacrosse player Joey Lieberman ’14 will deliver this year’s salutatory address, typically a funny and light-hearted speech, at graduation June 6.
“In the letter I wrote to myself in Choices and Challenges — I just got it like three days ago — it said ‘Are you salutatorian?’ so I thought that was pretty cool,” Lieberman said. “I’ve always thought about it ever since my brother [Nick Lieberman ’11] was salutatorian, which was when we were freshmen. And it’s been a male Scene Monkey for the last six or seven years. It’s always been something where I always thought ‘that’d be pretty cool,’ but it wasn’t like I needed to do it.”
Lieberman was elected salutatorian in a write-in vote by his classmates during class meeting and was informed of his selection by Dean Beth Slattery last week.
“I want to do something that’s obviously funny and interesting, but also has a good message,” Lieberman said. “A message that I’ve been thinking about that I do care about a lot and that I’m worried about — one of my biggest fears moving on from Harvard-Westlake — is that I will never have teachers that are as good as the teachers I’ve had at Harvard-Westlake. I might want to make that a strong talking point in my speech.”
The rest of the speech remains undetermined, but Lieberman has ruled almost nothing out, saying a musical number, a video or even some improvisation would not be out of the question. Lieberman is even debating incorporating a “Fishbowl” component to his speech, in which seniors would write something they want to hear talked about on a slip of paper and then he would have to speak a little on that topic.
Lieberman does, however, know what he will avoid: being too sentimental, meta or self-deprecating in his speech.
“I think that a lot of graduation speeches are really the ‘blah blah blah, our grade’s great, we’re going to miss each other,’” Lieberman said. “I also don’t want to do the whole ‘so, I was thinking about writing this speech’ and talk about the writing of the speech. I hate when people do that. Also, when you’re left with only one person, I feel like a lot of the humor can become just self-deprecating because that’s easy comedy. Obviously I’ll have some jokes in there about me, but I think it would be better to make more jokes about Harvard-Westlake.”
Besides his time acting and playing lacrosse on the varsity team, Lieberman is also a national champion in bridge.
“Bridge is definitely something I can see myself talking about really briefly in the speech,” he said. “Obviously you can get some good jokes out of bridge like the classic ‘So I play bridge, and you may be thinking “Wow, how did this 80-year-old get into the senior class?’’’ or a joke like that.”
The writing of the speech will take all the time he has, Lieberman anticipates, and will likely involve bouncing jokes off his brother and his friends.
“I need to figure out who I want this speech to be directed towards, whether it’s the audience or the people sitting behind me, the seniors,” Lieberman said. “I think I’ll start at the beginning and see where that takes me.”