Voiceovers: All Foam, No Beer?

Smoke and Mirrors

SMOKEMIRRORS

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The Worldwide Wrestling Federation

Dave Batista in Newcastle upon Tyne

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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.

Events like Smackdown. Raw. Wrestlemania.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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PPS, I stand with Ukraine.  Do you?

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Joshua Alexander
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22 thoughts on “Voiceovers: All Foam, No Beer?”

  1. This abnormally short (for you) blog post has caused me to be unusually thoughtful (for me).

    • As you know, I also +enjoyed and valued the X-session with Thom Pinto at VO Atlanta. I don’t remember yelling you mentioned, but it might be because I was distracted by your crying.

    • You have prompted a personal assessment of whether I am being real at all times. Am I sometimes real and others not? Am I fluxing between different metaverses? Which one is the real me? Am I ever real? What if I am a cartoon character like in Avatar and don’t know it? Would I even know? What is real anyway? So many questions.

    • I am now obsessed with the idea of not hearing my arteries harden. I imagine it would be like someone raised in the city who goes completely neurotic when placed in an environment without all that background noise. In fact, I am developing a new facial tic even thinking about it.

    • As much as I want to embrace your core admonition to be always about the beer, I cannot since I must maintain a gluten-free diet. I am concerned this may exclude me from delivering to my clients a service which is superlative, which means excellent (#themoreyouknow).

    Thank you for this thought provoking article.

  2. Hey i’ve always been a wrestling fan!! My husband and i like “Nona” – it’s a Disney short, have u seen it? It’s very cute. Campy…but cute, yes! but youre right: we should be paying attention to how were delivering our scripps and if were really being truthful in them thats the goal. Thanks again Josh.

    1. YES! We’ve definitely seen this one. I love the name “Leg Day” – ha! What a great character name. Before the boys go to bed each night, we usually let them each pick two Disney+ shorts. Asher always picks Nona! It’s very cute.

  3. Josh, I’m so glad you record your blogs. I miss the GIFs, but it’s nice to have the option to listen instead of read, so I can liven up my household tasks with your voice. Thanks for another great one!

  4. I do not like foam…. but then I do not like beer either. Oh no. I like bourbon, which has no foam. Perhaps I shall be all bourbon.

    Or rum. I like rum. Then, I’m sure, Captain Jack Sparrow could be involved somehow…

    Soundssh like an exshhcellent career moooove!

  5. Hahaha, guilty to watching WWE at some point and actually enjoying it. Also had a soap opera phase. Seen one episode, seen ’em all, but I was there so I get why people like it, despite having no desire to watch it. I’m in an anime phase right now, where I scoff at live action. Just this morning, I had to run fast after scoffing at a jogger for having too high a frame rate, LOL, JK, not really, but would’ve been funny anyway.

    Authenticity is a big issue with 2D being done with 3D models and can very quickly get into a weird place. The more real it feels, the better and the same goes for a performance… If it sucks it sucks and it needs work. I read a rant recently, and I’m sure you saw it, where a casting agent said that people should stop removing every breath from their recordings and I wanna try leaving more in going forward. It really adds authenticity if it’s not like a series of plosives.

    Oh, I don’t know if it’s true, but WWF was changed to WWE, because they lost a lawsuit against the World Wildlife Fund. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but interesting! hehe.

    1. Definitely saw that their name changed. No clue if it was due to a lawsuit, but I wouldn’t be surprised! I’m sure Comcast didn’t just “change” to XFinity off the cuff. Sad. Also I am sorry about your high-frame-rate jogger: I know those can be annoying and I want to wish you only the very best of luck and progress with your therapy. I hear leaving breaths in helps.

  6. I repeatedly tilted my head to the side at every major point you made in this writing – and you made some really, REALLY great points and tied it all together beautifully Josh. I LOVED this blog!
    HOWEVER. My head has rotated a few too many times and I require the un-foamy assistance of a legitimate neck fixer who will authentically correct this issue and not dramatically headlock me, leap from atop a chained cage (with my head, neck, and remaining soon-to-be corpse in tow), and gently (by gently, I mean destroy in an exuberant and oily war-cry induced rage) correct this awe-induced bent neck syndrome. ….WHEEW!

    My week is now off to a proper start!! Thank you my friend.

    1. Hahaha! Well I LOVED this comment, and you made some really, REALLY great laughs! I am sorry about your neck, but hey! At least you and Jon Gardner are tied for having won the Internet with your comments, that’s gotta mean SOMEthing, no?

  7. “The Rock, whose eyebrow ultimately went on to great fame and fortune”🤣

    I so enjoyed this.
    Also…I agree with every quick witted thought you shared with us.
    I love that you’ve challenged us give Superman-like branding!
    I am always about the beer! You’re the best!

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