Two-time Emmy-nominated actor Bob Bergen has been heard in thousands of commercials, promos, games, animated series and specials. He’s voiced dozens of animated features, including Minions, Wreck it Ralph, The Lorax, Tangled, Tinker Bell, Spirited Away, A Bug’s Life, Iron Giant, The Emporer’s New Groove, Up, Trolls and The Secret Life of Pets. He voices Luke Skywalker in Robot Chicken: Star Wars specials and is an Annie Award nominee for playing Cadet in the two-time Emmy-nominated series Duck Dodgers. Current animated series work includes Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Clarence, Mr. Pickles, Trip Tank, Robot Chicken, and as the voice of Porky Pig in the animated series Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. (And he also happens to be my cousin.)
With that, here’s Bob!
Dear Advertising Industry,
First and foremost, thank you for the work! Over the years you have invited me, a voice-over actor, to speak both for TV and radio on behalf of everything from fast food chains, to cars, retail stores, healthy food, junk food, and things that I think might be food, but the jury is out. While they deliberate, I must confess I did deposit the residuals. And I am grateful to live in a lovely home that has been partially paid for by my work in commercials, so again, thank you!
Our goal as voice actors is to book the job. We live to deliver in our auditions what you want. You want to deliver to your client what they want. Basically, we all want to be loved.
An audition is like a first date. You ask us out by sending us the audition sides. Well, to be more accurate, you send them to our agents who then decide if we have the chemistry to date you. Our agents are, for all intents and purposes, an advertising Match.com for which we pay them 10%, but only if we get lucky! Not a bad deal for the voice actor. From what I understand a pimp gets paid whether there’s a happy ending or not. So, the agent basically works for free unless the date gets consummated with a booking. Pretty generous of our beloved agents!
During the audition we look over the sides and get a sense of what would please you on this first date. We are hoping for a second date. Often that second date is a callback. Perhaps we might get to third base, which would be to demo the spot. Or, be still my heart, will we go all the way with a full booking? Course, then there’s the ultimate relationship heartbreak when we see the finished spot on the air and realize you’ve decided to see other people! What, not even a phone call? A fruit basket?? Nothing?? Sigh, well, that’s show biz!
In an effort to make our dating life more, uh, passionate and productive, I thought I’d offer some insight on us voice actors. And, I have some questions which I hope will make this whole dating process less confusing. I mean, lets face it, it does feel at times that we could collectively write a book entitled, “Voice Actors Are From Mars, Advertisers Are From Venus.” We SO want to understand each other and relate to each other in a healthy, loving way. Both of us at times have at least thought, “It’s not you, it’s me!” when things don’t work out. But who is at fault? Is there a fault?? Dating comes with such insecurity.
So, let’s start with a puzzling word: conversational. Yes, we are very aware that conversational is in, announcery is out. That is a good thing for me, as I was not born with that stereotypical announcer’s deep voice or delivery of yesteryear. I came out of the womb more conversational. That said, how are we to deliver copy in a conversational way when copy is often written so non-conversational? YOU try saying “prices and participation may vary” in a conversational way! Couldn’t the copy just say something like, “Here’s the thing, folks. Ya may not find the same deal at every store, so just get over it!” Now that I can deliver in a conversational way!!
Second, let’s discuss specs vs creativity. We voice actors absolutely appreciate the time, effort and levels of approval the copy goes through before it even gets to our audition first date. But there are indeed those times where we hear the finished spot on the air, and the actor who went all the way did something completely different from the original specs! Did they just happen to take a risk and try moves on their first date that were unexpected yet appealing? Did the advertiser just get bored with the same dates over and over and decide to go for something a bit more adventurous and, dare I say, kinky? Personally, my style on that first date is to give the advertiser two takes. Who doesn’t like a lil versatility on a first date??!! Take one is what the specs tell me you want in our relationship, and take two is what I think you really want! C’mon, you know you want it, don’t you! Don’t you!!! Then I see the finished product and find out, no, you didn’t really want it. Was my versatility more of a mixed message? Did it just confuse?? Did I come off too aggressive? Hey, ya can’t blame a guy for trying!
I’ve already decided what I want on my tombstone when I go to that big recording studio in the sky. It will read, “Let’s do this one more time for safety.” Now, as much as I wouldn’t mind a life rerun, especially if it comes with Class A residuals, I’ve always wondered in a recording session, especially since God created the playback, what was unsafe about that read you said floated your boat? Should we actors in our minds substitute the word safety for better?
Then there’s that very loud silence during a session. This often occurs in that ISDN session when, after a take there is a very loud quiet as the advertisers discuss amongst each other without hitting that talkback button. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read the bottom of a SAG-AFTRA card, but it states in very tiny print, “The carrier of this card brings with them paranoia and insecurity.” When we actors hear that very loud silence in a recording session, we are certain the advertiser is phoning CESD, SBV, Atlas, etc, requesting a replacement actor. The following phone call is to our agent advising that we go into mime.
If ya happen to think about it, please keep that lil finger on that talkback button even if the chitchat is about what to order for lunch. Hey, we may have some great ideas on that as well!
Then there’s that 5 second tag with 30 seconds of words. Would you really like us to cram it all into a 5 second read at a Chipmunk’s pace??
When the first date audition is accompanied with a temp track to reference, do we stand a better chance of getting lucky by mimicking the temp as close as possible or should we try to woo you with our own individual personality and style? And what are we to think when we get celebrity references that contradict? “Celebrity prototypes include George Clooney, Robert Downy Jr., Josh Gad, Whoopi Goldberg and Owen Wilson.” Now, I translate this to mean, “WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE WANT AND ARE UP FOR HEARING ANY AND ALL INTERPRETATIONS!” Is it OK to just try, oh, I don’t know, me????? Especially when I have nothing vocally in common with any of the references!!??
And lastly, let’s say we go to go all the way. Again, thank you!!! Was it good for you, too?? I hope so. How can we stay close? I mean, I’m an old fashioned kinda guy. I’m not going to be presumptuous and call YOU for another date. But you know I’m waiting by the phone, uh, rather the computer, hoping to get lucky again! It doesn’t have to be anything permanent. Hell, I’d be happy with an old fashioned regional or internet only one night stand! They can’t all be National Network! I’m easy! But how do we keep this relationship going? Do I connect with you on social media?? Or do I then come across as a creepy stalker?
Bob Bergen, voice actor.