Improv Training and The Voice Actor

Tracy Pattin over at VoiceRegistry continues her interview with improv teacher Bill Applebaum and a panel of students. Here are a few tips as to how improv training can give the voice over actor a competitive edge:

• The client LOVES Voice Actors with Improv Experience because “they can’t be thrown.”

•Improv gives you a plethora of choices. The more choices you bring to the table, the more your odds improve of getting the job.

•Improv helps the voice actor help the client to figure out what they want by offering a new delivery of the copy. Often something the client never thought of!

Be sure to listen to the podcasts.  They are well worth your time.

Thanks, Tracy, good work!

5 thoughts on “Improv Training and The Voice Actor

  1. Greg Houser

    Experience can give a voice actor most of those (though the third comment is definitely true).

    My experience (both as a voice actor, and as an improviser) is that improv gives you two things which no other form of acting can teach you. The first is to learn to commit 100% to whatever choice you make with your character and to not worry about whether you made the right one. The second is to “have a deal”. Sure, you made your choice, but what’s the “deal” that makes your choice interesting. I can be sarcastic in a read, but why is my character sarcastic? I’ve made my choice, but what makes mine more than generic?

    Both of these are critical, in my opinion, to believable voiceover performances.


  2. Bill Post author

    Good points. Greg, if you happen by again maybe you can explain further for the beginning voice actor what you mean by “having a deal.”

  3. Greg Houser

    Hey Bill,

    I’m sorry, but with all the stuff going on as of late I didn’t see your response.

    “Having a deal” means just that. When you’ve made your choice for the copy there are going to be certain things you notice which drove you to make your choice and committment, right? Well there are also going to be those things (often the same things which drove your choice) which take you further than that. A descriptive word here or there, sentence structure, or just your own interpretation of the choice will have you develop a character for that copy. That character will have a “deal”, a little something which makes him/her/it uniquely identifiable. It might be something as simple a a slight change in dialect or speech pattern, but usually is something more (in some cases it might even deviate you from the copy a little bit).

    Here’s an example: a few month back I was studying with one of my VO instructors and she gave me a piece of copy for Greyhound. I quickly scanned the copy, found the key words and phrases, but it didn’t really do anything for me. I ended up making my choice to be a little smart-assed about the read. Further scanning of the copy showed me some key lines that really validated the choice, but they gave me a better description of what my deal was. Sure, I was a spokesperson for Greyhound, but the character made a slide comment about his family. There’s my deal. If there was a chance to toss in a comment about a family member with the copy, I took it. In one take the copy turned into a Richard Jeni’esque take on bus travel throughout the US. Whenever there was a line of copy that I didn’t like, it’d get twisted into a line about dealing with your family. The end result was that the copy turned into a performance that was uniquely mine with a character that I could now pull out whenever I needed him.

    If you use improv for your voiceover, you’ll find that as your improv skills improve that each character will have some kind of angle or motivation that drives them to the copy and makes it believeable. That’s their “deal”.



  4. Bill Post author

    Thanks Greg!
    Kids, Greg has just described a valuable technique for lifting those words off the page and making them your own.

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