Pet Peeves

Many of the subjects I write about are generated from the literally thousands of questions I’ve had to deal with in our world of the commercial voice over.

While commercial voice over is definitely an acting craft, there is a certain amount of difference between how the actors relate during the commercial VO audition and the theatrical audition.

The nature of the business is such that the journeyman VO actor is involved with many more auditions than that of his counterparts in TV, film, or theater.

With volume (a great number of auditions) comes a serious condition: it’s called complacency. It kind of sounds like vacancy, doesn’t it? If you happen to be looking for an apartment to rent, look for a complacent actor. If you have the time to wait, you will be rewarded. The complacent actor (unless they’re rich by way of inheritance) will soon find himself or herself (usually it’s a him) looking for a cheaper place to live.

And so here is my first peeve: The VO actor who says, “It’s all a numbers game.” I see this guy or gal often. They take things for granted and make statements which exemplify failure. Yes… I did say I see this often, but not from the same actors. You see, complacency by anyone is a pet peeve of mine. An actor displaying this aggravating syndrome usually doesn’t make it back for another crack with da harv.

“The very best work I’ve ever done during my professional career, I did for free.”

Another complacent VO actor quote: “Oh they’ll know what they want when they hear it.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with this premise. What peeves me is who is making the statement. During a given audition, before telling the actor I felt they were missing the mark with their indifference to following the directions we go to the trouble of providing, I try not to be complacent. I’ll redirect and give them a take two, or what I refer to as “another day in court.” If it happens to be a young actor, or an individual new to our business, I take the liberty of providing that actor with an unsolicited lecture. Much of this particular lecture (yes, I do have many of them) is brought to you thanks to the efforts of John Houseman, and every athletic coach I’ve experienced while growing up.

Attributable to John Houseman is one of my favorite quotes: “Complacency should be used as your condition during the portrayal of the part you’re playing. Complacency should never be a display of who you are, or might be, as a human being!”

Without exception, the baseball coaches all have this credo: “You always go all out to win. You always run out every ground ball and pop fly. If you go through the motions, you’re gone.”

It’s an interesting phenomena; the vast majority of show business people and successful athletes in every sport have in common the one thing they’re not: Complacent.

I’ve experienced firsthand some of the biggest names in our profession display tireless enthusiasm over projects not worthy of their stage presence.

And athletes who show up long before their call time and leave later than anyone else on the team become the stars that manage to maintain their consistent glow.

Of the actors and athletes who early on were advised they didn’t have what it takes, but ignored the advice to quit while the quitting was good, they were the ones who remained and persevered. None were complacent.

Many think the term “The show must go on,” was originated by a producer who didn’t have a worthwhile understudy ready to go on. Others claim it was the understudy who fed rancid food to the star and then pronounced they were ready to go on despite the depression they were feeling over the loss of the very same thespian they had poisoned. In any event, none showed complacency. I guess that’s the point.

Truth be told, enthusiasm and poisoning don’t go hand in hand.

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