“To adlib or not to adlib; ah that is the question!”

“To adlib or not to adlib; ah that is the question!”

Whether it is nobler or not nobler in the minds of most men, is definitely not the question; it’s the challenge that counts!

(Besides… we’re talking about actors and actresses.)

The search for the answer to the actor’s commercial voice over performance decision making process: How and when to adlib when we don’t have the benefit of a formal direction. In other words, as is often the case, during an audition, especially when you’re in your own home studio, and flying blind. A wrong choice could be the difference between not only winning or losing, but perhaps being remembered by the person on the receiving end of you’re work: The buyer.

So the script is in your hands, you read every word, including the directions for the role you’re auditioning for, as well as any other roles being described. It’s antagonist / protagonist time. You must know who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them, what your frame of mind is at the time of your speech, and where are you in proximity to the person or thing you’re talking to. In short, the code is an old and simple one to follow: who, what, why, when, where, and how.

You’ve studied the script and have decided that an adlib here or there would be just what the doctor ordered.

Okay then, I’ll go along with that, if you have recognized that, almost always, the commercial message is meant to be the star, not the actor performing the lines.

An adlib and a deletion are two different things. Try to avoid removing anything, which might be deemed to be a salient sales point. The sponsors usually originate important sales points.

Writers, and producers are almost always sensitive about changes, especially when they view their creative writing skills as biblical.

Always attempt to enhance the writer’s message. An adlib of any type, regardless of its inherent nature, (meaning a word or sound effect, human or otherwise) must be used as a method of enhancing the writer’s intent.

I.e., if the writer has created a scenario, which he or she feels is a form of humor, then the humor attempt should not be altered. The adlib in all situations should be delivered as an enhancement.

Enhancement as opposed to deletion:

A cough or sputter in a dead space is an example of an enhancement.

Think about the wide variety of sounds we all make as commentary during our day-to-day trials and tribulations. These are enhancements (or could be) as opposed to deletions.

A radio scenario has two characters in a telephone conversation. We have a somewhat blowhard politician calling in and asking a somewhat meek individual for an impossible service to be performed: He’s attempting to return a sandwich he doesn’t care for, by way of his cell phone.

The script calls for the meek guy to turn the politician down, saying he can’t pass a sandwich through the phone line.

The politician says in a blustery fashion, “Well I just did.” That’s where the commercial ends with the politician asking, “Are you going to answer me?” Our actor, following the rule of enhancement, adds the button, “As soon as I can clean the tuna fish off of my phone, sir.”

The sponsor loved the tag we added, and ergo our actor got the job.

Note: On our second take during the audition we replaced the tuna with peanut butter, and had the meek guy trying to clean the mess from his glasses.

Our friend Stanislavski might have referred to it as slapstick.

And now for my favorite: da harv’s cardinal rules for adlibs and improvisation:

* Never ever make the sponsor the bad guy. They’re the ones paying the bills. Rule of thumb: One doesn’t poke fun at the boss, does one!

* Unless it’s a written part of the script, never adlib with any form of profanity, regardless of how mild it might be.

* Dialects which are not requested by the advertising agency should not be used as an adlib.

* Adlibs with any form of religious and / or political overtone or connotation should not be used.

* If an underage actor (minor) is part of the presentation, using any form of suggestive double entendre will be considered not in good taste.

In general, what we do is attempt to enhance. Blatantly trying for the joke will usually fall flat.

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