In my dreams.
I got a phone call from a potential student who wanted to know how long it would take to break into the voice-over business.
He had no training, no equipment, no experience, and no patience. When I asked him how much he was willing to invest, it turned out he had no money either.
What a brilliant start!
“But I have a profile on voices.com,” he said proudly.
“How did you pull that off?” I wondered.
“I just recorded a few things on my friend’s computer so I would have some demos, and they accepted me straight away. They must think I have potential, right?”
“Listen carefully,” I said, “these people would accept a talking parrot for a new member as long as it presented a credit card that wasn’t expired. In fact, I believe I’ve heard a few of our feathered friends on that site, and they all sound very much like Gilbert Gottfried.”
“Oh, I can do a Gilbert Gottfried for you,” said my aspiring voice-over enthusiastically. “Just give me a few seconds to get into character.”
“Please don’t,” I begged, but it was too late. I had to hold the phone a mile away from my ear in order to avoid permanent hearing loss.
After one of the most painful minutes of my life listening to the sound of an Aflac duck being strangled, I had had enough, and shouted:
“GILBERT, YOU’RE FIRED!”
“That’s so funny,” giggled the voice on the other end of the line. “Gottfried lost his job after making a tsunami joke. I must have sounded pretty convincing.”
“To tell you the truth, you sounded more like a dead parrot to me, my friend. Had you gone on for much longer, my neighbors would have reported me to the police for cruelty to animals. I’m sure they could hear every wretched noise you just made.”
“Speaking of dead parrots,” the aspiring student continued unabashed, “I can also do a mean John Cleese impression. And without skipping a beat he yelled:
‘Ello, Miss, I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.’
“Before you go any further, Mr. Cleese,” I interrupted, “I have an admission to make.”
‘ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing!’ the guy continued, but the moment he took a breath I seized the opportunity and said:
“You are extremely talented…”
The blissful silence that followed these glorious words lasted precisely two seconds.
“Do you really think so?” the impersonator whispered.
at pissing people off, Pet Shop man,” I continued. “Let me give it to you plain and simple:
If you go on like this, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. Right now, your voice-over career is as dead in the water as Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue. It’s stone dead. It has ceased to be. It’s expired, and gone to meet its maker. Bereft of life. It’s kicked the bucket, and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible…”
“Alright, alright… I get it,” said the voice-over wannabe. “But you have to help me out here. I came to you for some coaching. Not to have an argument. I told you that at the beginning.”
“No you didn’t” I said.
“Yes I did,” he said.
“You did not!”
“I’m telling you I did!”
“You did not!”
“Oh this is futile,” he said.”
“At last we agree on something,” I replied. “From what I’ve heard so far, you’re as good at doing voice-overs as Basil Fawlty was at running a hotel.”
“Coming from you, that means a lot,” the guy said. “I appreciate your honesty. Will you be my coach?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I exclaimed. “I just insulted you, and you want to be my student? What are you? A masochist? I don’t think you’re cut out for this sort of work.”
“But for the past few months this has been my dream,” he stammered. “Right now I work at Holiday Hair, and I hate it. I have this terrible un-un-uncontrollable fear whenever I see hair. When I was a kid I used to hate the sight of hair being cut. My mother said I was a fool. She said the only way to cure it was to become a hairdresser. Guess what? It didn’t work.”
He let out a deep, sad sigh.
“Mr. Strikwerda, If I can’t do voice-overs, what else am I to do?”
I knew I couldn’t leave the guy hanging. He had a good sense of humor, and I wanted him to get something out of our conversation. What was I to do? All of a sudden I knew the perfect answer.
“Listen, I said… why don’t you… why don’t you become a… LUMBERJACK!”
“Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia,” he continued.
“The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine…”
“If I ever want to get rid of this lad, I have to stop feeding him lines,” I said to myself. After taking a sip of water I got back into the conversation.
“You know my name. What’s yours?” I asked.
“Michael,” he said. “I was named after Michael Palin.”
“How surprising,” I thought.
“Well, Michael, I tell you what. Why don’t you take one of your demos, and send it to the Voice Arts™ Awards. If you win, I’ll give you five free coaching sessions. How does that sound?”
“Are you serious?” he asked. “That’s amazing! Thank you. Now I feel much more optimistic.”
“That’s the spirit!” I said. “You know what they say: ‘Always look on the bright side of life.'”
Michael laughed, and replied on cue:
“Nudge, nudge. Say no more!”
Paul Strikwerda (and Monty Pyton) ©nethervoice
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