Voice Over Education Blog

April 2018

Comedy Timing. How does it work in voice-over? Part 2 of 3

NOTE: This is the second post in a 3-part article. Click to read Part 1 and Part 3.

A stage actor or stand-up comedian has something of an advantage over those of us who work alone in a booth. Audience feedback. One of the things you get from an audience, along with a certain energy and maybe (for better or worse) a sense of "danger," is that you know if a joke worked or not. And you can experiment with varying your delivery in order to make a funny line work its best.

Even a movie actor has a crew around them, and a director to help them along. If you're self-directing and don't have years of experience at delivering funny lines, how do you know when you've achieved what writer Larry Gelbart has called, "a nerve well struck"?

One way is to be observant and develop your sense of comedy timing.

What "comedy timing" is not

First we should clarify – in voice-over work, there are three very different types of "timing." Professionals know one from the other, but all involve the same word.

  • In one sense, "timing" refers to how long the read is. Is it 10 seconds or 30? Can the 30-second script be read in 27 seconds? For more on that, see our article, "15, 30, 60,... The Art of Voice-Over Timing." It's not what we're discussing here.
  • In another sense, "timing" in voice-over means the same thing as in everyday life – namely, being in the right place at the right time. If you land a voice-over job for that reason, that's good timing. If the script is funny, you might even quip that it is good comedy timing. But it's not what we're discussing here.

What comedy timing IS

What makes something funny? Especially in voice-over. Part 1 of 3

NOTE: This is the first post in a 3-part article. Click to read Part 2.

There are various schools of thought as to what makes acting work.

There are also schools of thought as to what makes comedy work. What is humor? What makes something funny? And, since in voice-over work, you're usually handed a script, that may or may not be humorous – can you make something funny? Or is the humor already built in, so that all you have to do is read it?

The answer is, a little bit of both. And, unlike acting theory, humor theory is at least partially subject to scientific investigation. Someday, neurologists might even be able to tell us exactly why we laugh.

For now, we'll give it a try ...

By the way, here's our article on various theories of acting.

To fully explain how humor works would take a book – several in fact, including maybe a volume on human neurology and even anthropology ... because laughter is rooted deep in ourselves and our collective past.

Our objective here is simply to give you a crib sheet. But let's have at it for a bit ...

Even among scientists and highly experienced comic actors, there are many theories as to what makes something funny to us. Psychologists have identified no less than 41 types of humorous situations.

The scientists keep getting closer to pinpointing the various factors, using techniques that include real-time brain scans. But, like driving your car, as a voice actor you don't have to know exactly how it works, only that it does ... and that there are different types of engines, etc.

What non-DAW software do you use? And should you?

In a recent episode of Edge Studio's TalkTime! telephone call-in discussion, we focused on "Non-DAW" software (Digital Audio Workstation). In other words, apart from recording software, what programs do some voice-over professionals use, why do they use them, and how do they like them? During that hour of chat, our callers covered a lot of ground. In fact, it was surprising to see how many options they came up with. Here's some of what was covered.

The full hour discussion can be heard in TalkTime! archives at EdgeStudio.com:
Go to edgestudio.com/talktime/archives and scroll to March 18, 2018.

We can't possibly review all these programs, and we DO want to stress that almost none of them are required to be a voice actor or run your voice-over business. In many cases, if you don't already know a program or have a good use for it, it might be a waste of time. Often it's more productive to do what you do best, and hire an accountant, or a web designer, or a graphic artist for special skills.

But, if only to expand your awareness and a place to start, here are various types of non-DAW software you might consider. We've included some notes based in part on the comments, but this list is not at all complete, and neither are our comments.

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