Open Mouth, Insert Voice

Folks, this is going to be a full-blown rant. Prepare yourselves!

Not too long ago, I went to a recording studio for a regular client. This particular project called for a round-robin recording session of both grown-ups and kids. We were called into the studio in various combinations, which is a nice change. That is, until I got in the booth with one of the grown-ups.

For considerations sake, let’s call him John. John is the type of voice actor we all have worked with before: he can’t keep quiet. Not won’t, can’t. John has this clinical condition that he is so desperate to impress and entertain everybody that he will blurt out a joke or comment in response to anything that anyone says, no matter how banal or cliché. And when some people laugh (I hope they were just trying to be polite) John thinks, "They love me! I’m gonna give 'em more!" And the cycle continues.

What did he say exactly? Once he started his standup routine, I quickly drowned him out, so I honestly don’t remember much, except for one thing: he called New Jersey “the armpit of the universe.” Oh, did I mention that this studio was in New Jersey?

What was that? How do I know he wasn’t from New Jersey? His Australian accent gave him away.

Even if I wasn’t from New Jersey, I still would have been peeved. You just don’t go around putting down people or places, especially when you have the potential to offend the client, the talent, and the owners of the studio.

So what did I do? I kept quiet. As much as I would have liked to put this gentleman in his place, we were in front of new producers, children, and my #1 client. And you know what? He probably would have thought that I was being a jerk. Sigh.

End of rant.

I, like many people, believe in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat people the way you would want to be treated.

With that in mind, here are three things you should NEVER, EVER do at a recording session:

* Don’t make fun of the script

* Don’t make fun of the session

* Don’t make fun of someone or something that could potentially offend somebody, especially when you don’t know everyone in the room

John was a master. He did all three in one session.

Tom Dheere is one of Edge Studio’s Business & Money and Marketing experts. To learn more about these classes, click here.

A medical condition and/or lack of humility: A Short Story

Beyond the usual inappropriate business behavior, this brings to mind a much larger and broader reaching character element that I discovered -- the hard way. At least it was early on. There will always be people smarter than me.

After writing software of rather significant consequence in my early twenties for the financial services industry in San Francisco, I was hired by the computer manufacturer as a pre-sales analyst (there are many names for this role now). I spent 8 years as a proud employee of TANDEM Computers, yet my first week while attending their infamous Bear Bust, I ran into a fella that wore a flannel shirt, plain jeans, and had a strong accent from the Bronx.

Being from Chicago myself, he wished to discuss hockey, yet I kept reeling the conversation back to my "great" accomplishments writing software for the Tandem systems. He was very tolerant, polite, and moved on to socialize with others.

A co-worker asked if I knew who that was? I thought perhaps the janitor. He informed me that "Rocky" was one of the four founders of the company specializing in writing operating systems. His daughter had a lung condition requiring them to live in White Fish, Montana for the extra fresh and clean air, while he maintained a "Ponderosa" style house with a mainframe in the basement from which he worked.

It was at that instant that I felt, down in my heart, that I understood what True Humility meant. Rocky did not have to brag. As I have since discovered, just being yourself will clue the other person into the fact that you have talents and experience, but most of all -- we're fellow humans on this Great Voyage. Upon my first long weekend, I drove to White Fish to find Rocky and apologize in person. Stopping at "Heather's Candles" I asked if she knew of a man named Rocky. At that moment he entered from the rear portion of the shop recognizing me and even knowing my name. Of course, he indicated he didn't even remember the event, but appreciated me driving 1200 miles to make amends. We became great friends for many years to come, while growing the company to $2B/annum (sorry, now I'm bragging).

Be well,

Tough Situation and Unpleasant

When I was a broadcast producer in my past, I recall situations like this with certain talent. It was awkward, unpleasant, and a point maybe not expounded upon, was the production budget and time allotted that used to make me both nervous and annoyed because it was a non-productive time waster, and sometimes we had a session behind us where we couldn't go over even if the budget weren't tight. Many sessions felt like "herding cats" (clients, agency creatives and talent). I also felt sad for them as it was obvious they suffered from a very desperate emotional need for attention and/or approval and could benefit from therapy. I am grateful not to suffer from that disorder.

3 More Things You Should Never Do

Tom, I'd like to add 3 more things that you should never do. My father told me this long ago and it applies to life outside the studio as well.

"never discuss politics, sex or religion in public."

Thanks for your 'Rant'.

The Platinum Rule

Tom...great stuff and you're definitely on point here. Regarding the Golden Rule, a good friend of mine once pointed out to me that it's better to upgrade to the Platinum Rule. Treat others how THEY want to be treated. Had "John" considered this, he likely would have not completed the "NEVER, EVER DO" trifecta.

Jokes are costly, and so is speaking.

Thanks for this post, Tom. Jokes are usually at the cost of others. Oftentimes silence is the better part of valor. I think you took the high road and were the better man for it. I'm sure the owner of the studio and the others at the session thought so. Thanks again for the reminder of when not to speak.

This guy does not represent all australians

Please don't think that all Australians are like this. I am an Australian and i cringe when i hear stories like this.


Boors in the announce booth

Excellent stuff Tom. As I record from a home studio I can curse a script in private as much as I want. I have occasionally emailed the producer and requested a re-write, especially those written in India where the English gets sort of twisted. One was so bad I had no idea what I was supposed to be saying. Anyway, sorry you had to go through that. My philosophy after 40+ years of this is "get it done and get on with it." Cheers,


Sounds like a story for our "Don't Embarrass Yourself" class!

Hey Tom,
Thank you for the rant! This is soooooo true. VO talent: remember that a) you never know when that mic is live, so even an "under the breath" comment in the booth might be broadcast to the full contingent of clients... and b) "polite laughter" might actually be masking the client's thoughts about how much time you're wasting by cracking jokes when you could be focusing on the script. These folks are paying for studio space by the hour, after all! (Also, in the case Tom is describing, wasting time with jokes may have potentially delayed the very complex schedule worked out to get multiple talent in the booth on the same day.) When is it appropriate to crack jokes about the client/script/random states? When you're back at home, well away from the studio, telling your best friend/spouse/partner about your day. In that case, go for it. In the studio? Not so much.

Discretion really IS the better part of valor.

Tom -- Kudos to you for keeping your temper under trying circumstances! Ensemble work can be a blast. It's too bad "John" didn't allow that to happen. And thanks for the reminder that our job is to say the right things the right way (both on and off script), and in the studio, we're always surrounded by listeners.

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