In Voice Over, You Don’t have to Like What You Do
My friend the great cartoon voice actor Pat Fraley said: “You don’t have to like what you do but you do have to come to grips with why others like you.”
Boy, I couldn’t agree more.
It took me many years of getting paid for speaking before I realized that my voice was probably okay. And then it took many more years after that before I really became comfortable with my “signature” sound and gave up wanting to change it.
I started in radio. Radio stations record or “air check” every show. This proves to advertisers that their commercials actually aired, provides a record of what goes out over the air, and allows program directors to check up on the disc jockeys.
In my early radio years every jock would sit down for weekly air check sessions with the PD (program director), our boss. We’d have to sit there while everything we said on the air was scrutinized.
There is a hilariously funny aircheck scene in the Howard Stern movie “Private Parts. ” In it his program director at WNBC in New York city–whom he nicknamed “pig vomit ” — nitpicks how Stern says the station call letters. He couldn’t just say WNBC. He had to draw out the N until it sounded like: W- NNNNN-BC.
This is the kind of silliness all of us in radio had to go through.
But even though I knew it was silly, I still had major doubts about my talent. People would keep hiring me, my career would continue to climb. But inwardly I kept expecting for someone to call me up one day and say: “Susan, you really do suck. Its all been a horrible, terrible mistake.”
Eventually, I did come to grips with why others like me and did actually become comfortable with my signature sound. And I know I’m not alone. The actor Ed Asner (from the old Mary Tyler Moore show) once sighed heavily as he told Pat Fraley: “I’m 75 years old. This is as good as it gets.”
We human beings are rarely content to be who we are, rarely satisfied with the gifts we’ve been given.
Curly haired women want to go straight. Straight haired women want to go curly. Actors want to direct. TV stars want to sing. Remember William Shatner’s embarrassing rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine man?”(Look it up on line if you’ve never heard it. It’s hilarious).
But just because you don’t appreciate yourself, don’t fight with people who do appreciate you. Find truthful, supportive coaches. When you do your demo, look for a director with a good, objective set of ears.
In voice over as in life, our own opinion of ourselves rarely counts and our perception is often not reality.
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