Burrard Toastmasters
Vancouver's leading business-oriented public speaking club
Club Speeches

Something About Accountants

By Jenny Li

A patient is sitting in her doctor's office. The doctor said, "I have some very grave news. You have only six months to live." 

The patient asked, "Oh doctor, what should I do?" 

The doctor replied, "Marry an accountant." 

"Will that make my life longer?" asked the patient. 

"No," said the doctor, "but it will seem longer."

Fellow Toastmasters & welcomed guests,

People often ask me what I do for a living. When I tell them I am an accountant, the typical response is "oh really? How interesting." I can always detect the sarcasm in their voice and their feet slowly moving away from me.

Accounting is the 3rd most ridiculed profession, behind politicians and lawyers. From newspaper cartoons to comedy sketches to Internet jokes, when it comes to the topic of accounting, humorists reach for the stereotypes that have dogged the profession for years. According to these wise guys, if you're an accountant, you are:



A control freak

A tightwad

Missing a funny bone

I can understand why there are jokes about politicians and lawyers, since one profession is known for being crooked and the other known for defending the crooked. In fact, even accountants make fun of them.

However, in the eastern culture where I grew up, accountants are highly respected and powerful members of society. Therefore, you can imagine my shock when I realize that a profession that is held in such high regard in my culture is looked down upon and made fun of in the western culture. 

So I decided to embark on a long journey to get to the bottom of these misconceptions. My quest turned up some very interesting and fun facts:

As you can see, accountants are actually talented, brave, and funny people who have had a positive impact on the world.

So why then are we put into the same category with politicians?

Is it because we are smarter than those who make fun of us? Leo Cullum, a New Yorker cartoonist who skewers "bean counters" regularly, admits that he doesn't have a clue what accounting entails. "It's all a little mysterious and intimidating" he says, "I have an accountant, but I dread going to see him - it's like going to see the dentist. I can barely balance my cheque book. So I take it out on accountants by attacking them." Cullum is not alone. The truth is, most mortals seem unable to grasp what we do for a living. I don't blame them, because sometimes, I have trouble explaining to them what I do also.

But there's another darker reason behind the longevity of the accounting joke: to put it bluntly, some of those stereotypes are only too true. 

Maybe our reputation is well-deserved. It's like the chicken-and-egg riddle. Are you an accountant because of your personality? Or do you have that personality because you're an accountant? In my case, I know that I will become more a control-freak the longer I stay in taxes.

Because of this, I am not going to convince you that we are a group of fun-loving people, which may be true in rare cases. Instead, I want to emphasize that accountants are an essential part of society. Despite the abuse we get, we continue to do our jobs happily, knowing that the world will fall apart without us. 

So next time you talk to an accountant, instead of looking down on them as a boring, control freak with no sense of humour, look up to them as a financial superhero, working tirelessly to maintain peace and order in the capital markets, and offer them a snack preferred by all accountants -- bubble gum.

Read other speeches