Charlie Day: Fail, Pick Yourself Up & Fail Again (Full Transcript)

Charlie Day at Merrimack College Commencement

‘Always Sunny’ star Charlie Day gave this funny yet insightful speech at the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater Merrimack College. We produce here the full transcript [verbatim text] of the speech for the benefit of everyone. You can also download this speech in PDF file. Read the instructions at the footer.

Listen to the MP3 audio version of this speech: Charlie Day’s Merrimack College Commencement Address


Read the full text of Charlie Day’s commencement speech below.

Charlie Day – Speech TRANSCRIPT: 

Good morning Merrimack.

Thank you, President Hopey, faculty, trustees, students, parents, grandparents who have absolutely no idea who I am.

And I love to say there is nothing more exhilarating than getting to follow a great speech by Ugandan refugee – a terrible position to be in but I’ll do my best. And well done, Kennedy.

You are graduating from an excellent school today. Alumni have gone on to be CEOs, politicians, professional athletes. However this year you’ll get to receive wisdom, life lessons, knowledge from a man who has made a living pretending to eat cat food.

Now I do however have some qualifications, some insight, because like you are becoming today, I am a Merrimack College Graduate.

Thank you.

I know what it took to get here today. I was in this very room. I sat in those uncomfortable chairs. I dressed like some sort of medieval pastry chef, and I too desperately hoped that my hangover would wear off. Yeah, that one knows. If you can just make it to brunch you should be alright.

Take note. A quick observation today.

Apparently the higher you climb in life the more ridiculous your hats will become. Like the one I’m wearing today, or the Pope or Pharrell. So in some way you fear success, just think of the hats, that should motivate you.

Well, this may be hard to believe but it was roughly 20 years ago that as a freshman I came to this campus. I remember it well. My parents who are here today and I am not thinking my mother as much as Kennedy, I am sorry.

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But I remember the tears in their eyes. I remember my own nervous excitement. I can recall entering the Ash dormitory, walking to my room. My heart was pounding with what the future might hold. I grabbed on to the door handle, I held it tight, only to discover that someone had covered it with Vaseline.

It was a real lame prank by the third floor boys. And I thought to myself, “OK, this is how it’s going to be here. They have no idea who just arrived on campus.”

Later that day, I befriended a man named Ed who had a similar penchant for mischievousness. And that night Ed and I went to the third floor boys community bathrooms and we cut all their shower curtains at waist high.

Thank you. That’s right.

Leaving those boys with a diabolical option for the next morning. Don’t take a shower or take the most embarrassing shower of your life. My apologies to the school for the destruction of school property. I promise to donate two shower curtains. You’ll have to dig up Ed to get the third.

Well, Merrimack has come a long way since my time. The campus has grown. The quality of student clearly improved. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Merrimack as one of the top ten regional colleges in the northeast. Well done. Well done.

In my time there was a man here who scored in the zero percentile on his SATs. Meaning no one in the nation did worse than this man. This was a man who once told someone “he wished he lived when it was black and white.” This is the same man who said to someone with complete seriousness that “he would take their advice in to cooperation.” This man, of course was my roommate.

Did you think it was me? No, you’re confusing me with my television character. No. I am much smarter. In fact, I’m a doctor now. I have a PHD. And I would like to thank the school for bestowing me with this prestigious honor.

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And although I realize today I am joining the ranks of my fellow Honorary Doctors like Mike Tyson and Kermit The Frog, and although I acknowledge that Dr. Charlie Day sounds like some kind of club DJ. I assure you I intend to go by this title from now on. And I plan to begin writing my own prescriptions immediately.

All right. Now, I know that having a honorary doctorate degree will do nothing for me. But I’m here to tell you today that your degrees, the ones you toiled to get, the ones you actually took classes to earn, those degrees, will also basically do nothing.

Let me clarify that.

You can’t exchange your degree for cash. You can’t have your degree do an audition or interview for you. You cannot eat it. Please, do not make love to it. I think you could probably smoke it but I wouldn’t advise it.

A college degree does nothing. It collects dust. It does however mean something. It tells something to your community, it says “I have expanded my mind and destroyed my liver but I didn’t give up.”

And although 44 of you today took more than 4 years to accomplish that goal, you don’t have to tell anyone that.

Think of the plus side, you bought your parents a few extra years of nobody living in their basement.

Now all jokes aside, you should be very proud. This is an impressive chapter of your lives. And I know you are curious of what will happen from here. So let me tell you, Dr. DJ is here to help.

I have been in your shoes. Not literally of course. I wouldn’t go anywhere near your shoes. I’m sure they all reek of beer and vomit.

But my point is this. I was in this room and this is a rare opportunity for me to say something to myself 20 years ago.

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Here is my advice: “Charlie, lay off the dark beer and the bread. You’re getting puffy. Don’t worry about that girl. I mean she’s not into you. Let her go. She’s going to regret it.” That’s right. “There is going to be a whole Y2k thing; don’t worry about it, like nothing’s going to happen.” All right.

Now I realize this isn’t the most useful exercise for you but I am pretty happy with the choices I made after Merrimack. My life is pretty sweet.

So I’d like to tell you three quick stories about some of those choices I made when I left here, some of the things that led me from that chair to this podium. And I hope in some way you can draw parallels from it; they can help guide your own experience. If not, feel free to tune out. If you’re anything like I was, I lost you at “Good morning Merrimack.”

When I left this school, I was presented with two options. I could move to New York City and begin my acting career, a city where I knew next to on one, or I could take the entry level position that had been offered to me by Fidelity Investments.

Now I know what you are thinking. “Why would a major financial services corporation offer this numbskull a job?” The answer is simple, because I tricked them.

Merrimack’s business program was offering interviews with the company. The students would be given a score on their interview. I had never been on an audition. It seemed like it would be a similar experience. And I liked the role of aspiring banker. Or whatever they do at Fidelity.

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