On natural conversation that comes up whenever we meet new people, and strangely, the reactions all seem to follow a similar pattern. Tell someone you’re a comedian, and they’ll instantly ask you to say something funny. Why? It’s not like you get that in other walks of life do you? “What do you do?”, “I’m a proctologist”, “Well take a quick look at THIS then!”
Tell them you’re a voice over artist and they’ll generally ask what they’ve heard you in, or if you do impressions (and then you actually have to do those impressions), but one of my favourite questions is how I got into the business in the first place.
Indeed, I often receive calls from voice artists just starting out, looking for hints and tips on how they can further their careers. I’m happy to offer stories from my own experience, because I can remember calling people and asking those same questions, and those voice overs were all very friendly and helpful to me. So anyway, here is the first part of my story:
It all begins in the small offices of a recruitment company late 1990s. I received an unsolicited email, and back then receiving any email meant that you had truly arrived, and as spam wasn’t really a thing yet, I opened it
What was presented was a flash animation that someone had created. There was an image of a fat little boy in a red top and a blue bobble hat who then broke into a very unflattering song about someone called Kyle’s Mom.
I thought it was quite funny, but also thought little more of it, but months later and I saw a trailer for a new cartoon series coming to Friday nights called South Park and naturally, I recognised one of the characters straight away.
Friday nights were a gathering at my place back then. And so South Park began and the little fat boy in the blue hat started talking to his friends and without even blinking, I copied him, much to the delight and amazement of my friends.
Well this continued for a little while until someone asked me the question that was to change everything. “Who else can you do?” he asked. Well I had always played around with voices but I had never really thought about it. Voices were just something I had always done.
Turned out that I ‘did’ a lot of people, mostly cartoon characters, and it was suggested to me that I might be able to do something with that skill. So I recorded some voices and built a rather crude website. All graphics, little text, it’s little wonder that no search engine ever found it, but back then the shed that housed Google was still a flat pack in a garden centre.
Well I put myself out there and waited. And waited. And waited some more. As for what happened next, well in the interests of turning this into a series, I’ll leave that for next time.
Cartman continues to be one of my favourite voices to do. I don’t remember who sent me that mail or why, but if you’re reading this then I would like to thank you. That one, seemingly insignificant act changed the course of my life forever.