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Smoke and Mirrors
Used by permission from creatifrankenstein via Creative Commons
The Worldwide Wrestling Federation
Used by permission from nWoSyxx via Creative Commons
Triple H. Kurt Angle. Brock Lesnar. Edge. Undertaker. Kane. ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Rey Mysterio. John Cena. Randy Orton. Chris Jericho. And of course, The Rock.
Back in the early 2000’s, the cheese-schtick that Vince McMahon served up every week certainly did not captivate everyone. It did however captivate my brother Jarod, to a degree I found fairly concerning because there was so much other quality programming he could have availed himself of. I am of course referring to Jerry Springer. Jarod would put life on hold each Friday night for Smackdown, and as I happened to be briefly living with him at this time, it fell to me to try to ignore this soupy offering of eye-rolling “drama”, hoping against hope that it would soon be expelled into that "Phantom Zone" place where belong all malefactors such as mullets, lawyers, Tonya Harding, and all Michael Bolton music.
The Worldwide Wrestling Federation. Some people called it WWF (it is now known as “WWE”, and I think this is because they can no longer afford to buy a vowel); I call it theatrics on steroids. Some people lapped it up. I puked it out. Call me crazy, but guys whose necks start at their ears, wearing battle thongs, pulling their punches, jumping on and rolling around on the floor with other guys is not precisely how I roll around. I am more of an Ostriches-in-capes mud-wrestling-while-whistling-the-first-seven-notes-of-"It's-a-Small-World-After-All"-on-a-loop kind of guy. But who isn't.
You see, professional wrestling is an American sport that is dominated by men in tights, which is a spectacle in and of itself due to codpieces which I am fairly certain are only meant to be worn during warfare so as to intimidate the enemy. However, wrestling is infused with theatrics, over-embellishment, and attitude. Thus, huge bulging neck muscles are really only topped by incredible ego and oil-drenched skin, highlighting biceps that I can only ever dream about were I to have a complete body overhaul that no longer includes imbibing milkfat and other things that allow me to actually hear my arteries hardening.
That being said, I did develop an unnatural interest in warfare codpieces and am just waiting for Burger King to release the "collect the whole set" compilation.
I also developed a surprising interest in WWF itself. On Friday nights, since I was sleeping on my brother's couch and had no life, I would find myself readying for bed in the living room, facing away from the television while Jarod busied himself with the campy theatrics at hand. He would be utterly engrossed with Smackdown, as well as the ensuing post-Smackdown Smackdown, until that point late in the night where it is actually the next night. At first, I sneered and scoffed at every single "major development" coming from behind me in the ring, where someone apparently just pulled off the most mind-blowing stunt, piledriving their fellow human being into oblivion. “Come on…” I would mutter and scoff in incredulity, roll my eyes, and try to sleep over the campy mayhem. You could almost see the Batman exclamations flashing across the screen: "Pow!" "Boff!" "Kapow!" "Thwack!"
However, over time, there was too much mystique to resist. Gradually, I would find myself fascinated at the announcement of each new flamboyant character entering into the ring. Slowly, my head would rotate to drink in the awe-inspiring view of a leather-bound maniac with rippling muscles, long hair, and crazed eyes. I am talking about Jarod, who has always looked like that. Anyway, Jarod would draw my attention to the screen, where Kane, who became an unexpected favorite of mine, would be stalking his prey: another man whose impending doom included being flung around like a rag doll.
Girls would ask if I was busy Friday nights. I would reply, "Sorry, Sugar. I've got codpieces to watch." At which point I would race home to religiously watch this soupy nonsense with my brother.
Silly. Just Plain Silly.
Many of these wrestlers went on to careers as actors. I am not shocked by this. Some of them even went into politics. Take for example Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, whose eyebrow ultimately went on to great fame and fortune. Or Kane, who ultimately turned mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. Or Jesse Ventura, who ultimately turned completely insane.
All in all, it was a sham. Smoke and mirrors. Carefully orchestrated kitsch and glam. With their flowing hair, ornate masks, skin-tight uniforms and asteroid-sized pectoral muscles, what was there not to be intrigued by? As they engaged in battle with each other, complete with name-calling, eyebrows-up vein-popping square-jawed threats and fist-clenching, I eventually lost interest because it was just so obviously silly, like using a lightsaber to cut a slice of bread. Or laughable, like injecting bleach to destroy a virus. Or asinine, like our Comcast bill.
"Battle"? That was not battle.
- Ukraine is in a battle.
- Christian bakers are in a battle.
- Parents trying to awaken their kids for school are in a battle.
- Optimus Prime and Megatron are forever locked in battle.
- Training my wife to put the remote back in the same place is a battle.
I saw through the charade. Those silly performances became outright ridiculous. And in retrospect, one thing is now utterly clear to me:
Our voiceover performances must always be the genuine article.
The “Give a Damn” Factor
Used by permission from Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay
One takeaway from VO Atlanta 2022 that I will never forget is Thom Pinto’s “Give a Damn Factor”. Of all my breakout sessions and X-Sessions, his was my favorite. He’s a tremendously respected, experienced, and effective director and coach. I found him incredibly intelligent, articulate, and passionate. He repeatedly brought up the “Give a Damn Factor” whereby it needs to be painfully clear that we actually give a damn about what we are reading.
It is kind of like “truth in advertising:” we need to be what we say we are. We need to be authentic and real. Not showy, and not fluff.
Wrestling is different. It is all foam, no beer. Todo lo contrario, our voiceovers need to be passionate, authentic, and...like we actually give a damn. Es la verdad, Thom?
Through our session, Thom challenged me – and everyone – sometimes through a bit of ferocity. Thom feels passionately about extracting the best performances from us, and sometimes that involves what some might consider yelling. Up until that point, I do not believe I had ever been in a coaching session where the coach was as fierce. I'm not crying; YOU'RE crying.
Thom wants real. Thom wants us to correctly represent, so there is no ambiguity.
Just this past week I had a debate on Facebook, which I am sure has never happened with anyone else ever. This is where two human beings come together to demonstrate to aliens that planet Earth is ready to be detonated, as the humans once again create yet another interaction attesting to mind-numbing stupidity. Such debates help to segment our society into those who are intelligent, and those who should be ground up for food. Such people debate issues IN ALL CAPS that, in that moment, apparently matter more to them than the war in Ukraine, gay cakes (herein known as gaykes), sleeping kids, wife remotes, and robots fighting combined. This particular debate happened to be over whether the James Cameron movie Avatar is actually a cartoon or not. These debates are important to win, of course, because:
- Our Honor Is On The Line, and
- It's The Principle Of The Issue, and
- We Need To Show Our Maturity, and
- AVATAR IS NOT A CARTOON AND YOU ARE A DUMB DOODYHEAD.
Let us settle this once and for all. Wrestling is fake, and the movie Avatar is not a cartoon. It does not even faintly resemble a cartoon, although wrestling more or less does. Rule of thumb: If it does not seem like something, then it probably isn't that something. Also, I have never ruled anything by my thumb. Also, my thumb rules.
I believe in authenticity. So do so many of the scriptwriters these days: that is precisely why we continue to see "natural", "conversational", "guy next door", "not an announcer", and "authentic" in casting specs. I have set the bar for pretty high for myself with Superman-like branding. “Super” means “above.” (#themoreyouknow) So I have to ask myself, and I encourage you to ask yourself in turn:
- Am I giving a cut above the rest?
- Am I going over and above in terms of authenticity?
- Am I going over and above in terms of passion?
- Do I really give a damn?
- Would I look good in a codpiece?
Wrestling is overpromising and underdelivering. Just like when you go to see the doctor, and they tell you that he will see you shortly. You assume this will mean in 20 minutes, but we all know they mean sometime in the year of our Lord 2146. Overpromising and inauthentic.
Wrestling is all foam, no beer. Our performances are not intended to be a ruse, a fake; smoke and mirrors.
So, dear voiceover artists, let us be always about the beer.
PPS, I stand with Ukraine. Do you?
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Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Artist for hire