Archive for June, 2008

Larry Gelbart: Man Of Substance

You may not know the name Larry Gelbart, but chances are you’ve enjoyed some of the things he’s written over the years.  The TV series M*A*S*H, or the Broadway show “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” come immediately to mind, but those are just two of the highlights.  His book Laughing Matters  is one of my favorites.

While not going out of his way to slam what’s new and shiny, he’s never given anything (or anyone) a pass just because it’s the latest incarnation of hip and cool.

In a recent interview on Huffington Post, Gelbart touches on a lot of what’s missing from current media.  And while his observations come from a writer’s standpoint, I found more than one instance where I noticed myself nodding in approval from the position of performer.  Follow this link and see if you agree.

Here’s a favorite quote from the story, just to whet your appetite:

“I think technology is such that we can reach new heights but we need some of the basics of the pre-technological age. It’s counter-productive to be able to type a hundred words a minute but not know what the words mean. “

– over and out –

Okay, so it was TEN years ago.  But I have long been a sucker for a Beatles’ lyric.

Recently someone on my favorite message board started a discussion about where he’d been and what he’d been doing ten years prior.  Almost everyone who took up the thread noted remarkable changes…most for the better.  I was no exception.

Ten years ago…

I was in the middle of seven weeks at Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, NC as one of a dozen “hired hands” doing background puppeteering for Jim Henson’s Muppets on “Elmo in Grouchland”. It remains one of the most high-profile and best-paying gigs of my life (and one of the least useful in my VO resume since they didn’t use our voices). At the same time, I was awaiting word of the birth of my little boy back in Raleigh.

The day the call came in that my wife had gone to the hospital with her parents, the movie cast and crew fairly booted me off the set and on the road for a few days. I missed meeting Ruth Buzzi on her ‘cameo’ day, but was present for the debut of the little guy who’s become one of my best friends. On my return to “Grouchland”, I noticed the writer had named one of the villain’s little “hench-muppets” after my son. You can hear him referred to on the soundtrack as “Lil’ Ricky”.

This week:

…not nearly so much glamour, but I narrated some technical instruction on medical equipment for Labcorp, did a couple of regional radio spots for Harris Ranch Beef as an expert at his outdoor grill, played a comic newscaster for a car dealer in Arizona, went before the cameras as a counterman for a Carquest training video, and did a game show announcer parody for another video promoting electrical safety (all, i should add, subjects I know nothing about but am qualified as an actor to explain to others!).

And of course, I spent a lot of time making sure the right toys and videogames were hidden away for my not-so-little Ricky’s 10th birthday celebration.

Thanks to the folks at the VO-BB, and my friendly clients, for giving me a reason to pause and remember all the things I have to feel great about…at a time when I was literally almost too caught up in day-to-day stress to notice.

 

— over and out —

George Carlin: No More Stuff

Written in reaction to the death of George Carlin yesterday.

My skills with language will never be as good, as insightful, or as funny as that of George Carlin. Nor, by personal choice, will my language prove as bothersome or offensive to nearly so many people. But his is a voice i will miss now that it’s silenced.

While many reveled in his irreverence and (some would say) obscenites, it was his fascination with language and human behavior that had me hooked from way back in the 60s. Example: one of my favorite headlines – “Dock workers walked off their jobs this morning. Rescue operations continue…” or “Why is it we drive on a parkway, but park in a diveway?” And i’m forever obsessing about, as he so aptly observed it, a place for my stuff.

I’ve just added a new favorite quote from George Carlin, found in a memorial piece on the Huffington Post this morning. And regardless of political or spiritual leanings, it resonates:

‘It’s a wonderful feeling to have found something you’re good at, that you love to do, and that other people think you do well. Those are the three elements, I think, that go into being happy: Find something you love, be good at it, and have other people pat you on the back and say “good job.”

Whether you work as a voice actor or anything else…that’s Good Stuff.

– over and out –

I had one of my rare on-camera character jobs recently, a repeat appearance for a good client. From the sound of the call, I had thought we were doing some pickups or additional scenes from a training video done several weeks ago. But no.

This was a separate piece, featuring the company’s top exec, who (contrary to most others I’ve encountered) didn’t really want to be on camera as the “star”. My contact with the company greeted me with a big smile at the outset and while complimenting me on our previous video, gave me an especially valuable testimonial: “We thought putting you in part of a scene with him (meaning ‘the Boss’) would help him feel a little more at ease.” 

I was given to understand she had observed my interaction with the crew and other cast members on our previous shoot. While I did nothing special to draw attention to myself between takes, I evidently projected a friendly, easygoing persona that was noticed in a favorable way.

There were several other very fine actors in that earlier video. Any of them could have easily done what little I had to do in this latest piece. But I was the one they brought back.

Now that’s something to hold onto mentally as I spend another day sending auditions and marketing inquiries out into the void!

— over and out —