In the world of voiceover, adlib is considered to be anything that wasn’t previously prepared and not included in the original script; many refer to it, incorrectly, as an improvisation. Improvisation is when the words, notes, or meter, are not scripted at all, whether they be words, music, or both.
Make no mistake…the very best ad-libbers and improvisation actors in all of our voiceover world are good readers. In any given language, the correct pronunciation is an absolute must. What your voice sounds like is usually not the determining factor in selecting which actor gets the job, unless a particular timber is specified on the casting call, whether it be words, song, age, or dialect. In other words, practice your scales. Be a comfortable reader before you think you’re proficient enough to venture forth as a professional ad-libber.
There are so many actors that are nothing more than laughable because they think all that is required in order to adlib is to say something that hasn’t been scripted. The more experience an actor has, the better they will become at the art of improvisation as well. It all boils down to the same thing: If you don’t practice your craft, you’re just kidding yourself. Practice won’t ever make you perfect. What it will help you to become is a working actor. Blemishes are in. They make you human. Human and real is what sells products.
So here’s the bottom line: Improvisation is great, but it absolutely must be part and parcel of your honest to God, drop-dead signature. If you’re to be a clown… ask yourself what kind of a clown am I? Adlibs can be upscale, or blue-collar. They can be sarcastically off the cuff. The key, again, is your personal signature.
– HK –