Never a Dull Moment In Front of *This* Mic!

As someone who voices the telephone prompts for a wide variety of companies, I get a front-row seat to seeing the inner workings of a wide variety of industries — most unassuming and straightforward; others so extremely bizarre, they provide great fodder for dinner party talk — and now that I’m blogging — endless material for my articles. When I first wrote about odd/unusual/interesting projects last Fall (when the blog started), I envisioned that theme of oddball projects would be a one-off or easily exhausted — luckily, I’m provided with a constant flow of projects which keep me shaking my head and perpetually entertaining friends and colleagues with amazing stories about voicing for largely unbelievable — but very real — projects.

Case in point: there is an online company (who shall be nameless, as are all companies I mention in this article; I have not been paid to promote them nor have I obtained clearance to use their real names..) who — for a modest subscription fee — will break up on your behalf. Boyfriends to whom you need to give the heave-ho; girlfriends whom you need to send packing; a job which you need to resign from (but don’t actually want the discomfort of quitting face-to-face); a needy friend whom you hope to extricate yourself from once and for all — these sticky entanglements and many more can be assigned to this company, who, diplomatically; gently, and ever-so-in the third person will relieve you of your responsibility. The question which initially came to my mind was: “A *subscription* service? How often or ongoing would this need be? Wouldn’t you think that any given person might have *one* sole messy situation in their life that they would gladly pay someone to outsource: a subscription which entitles you to *several* such “get out of jail free cards“? And like a coffee card, which gets punched with every fill-up, is the tenth “breakup” free?

An incredibly witty friend of mine asked if the IVR I voiced for this company was turnkey to the point of a vocal ”form letter” being drafted, not unlike an autodialer: “This is a message for (RECIEPENT’S NAME). It turns out that (SENDER’S NAME) is no longer interested in seeing you. (SENDER’S NAME) would like you to know that it’s not personal, and that it’s not you; it’s them. (SENDER) wishes you all the best in your future relationships. Please do not contact (SENDER‘S NAME) again.” As far as I know, it’s a live operator who “breaks up” with your former paramour/job/friend — or does it via e-mail. But it provides hours of amusement speculating on the bizarrely cold and detached nature that such an automated call would present. Nora-Ephron-film-like.

Recent Bizarre Job #2: the IVR for an importer of hair. Human hair. To be made into wigs, falls, hairpieces — not a new concept. The natural human hair pieces have always been very prized — and extremely expensive. My mother was a former hairdresser who exercised huge caution in keeping her human hair wigs locked away from us yard-apes tearing through the yard in various costumes (I was usually pretending to be Cher). What gave me pause for thought for *this*client was their “feature product” — the jewel of their product line: *Virgin* Indian Hair. Yep — you read right. Apparently *highly* sought after. It made me think about all the Virgin Wool Sweaters I have in my winter arsenal and how little I care about what the sheep was up to before it became my sweater. Would “virgin” be a deciding criteria for my purchase of a hairpiece? Is the hair from a non-sexually-active woman compositionally different from a donor with a busy social schedule? More desirable/less sullied/purer? (Fewer dates = less hair product residue). And how do they screen donors carefully who might have an incentive to lie about such a thing? As with blood donors – in markets where money crosses the palm in exchange for a donation, there might be the inclination to lie about the “purity” of the sample in order to profit.

Which brings me to strange contract #3: awhile back, I was enlisted to voice a short infomercial for a company who will bank your DNA — and the reasons for doing so were vast: your loved ones are worried sick about your remains being among those found in a fiery plane crash and need a way of definitively identifying you fast? Not sure if the baby’s yours? Need to be acquitted of a crime right quick? For a paltry fee of $39.99, this company will catalogue and store your DNA for future testing in a safe, neutral, fireproof location until needed. And what is in this amazing, never-seen-before-on-TV kit? Tweezers, cotton swabs, small scissors, and a series of re-sealable plastic bags — and a postage-paid envelope to ship all your goodies back to them. Although it would save time if this “evidence” could be stored in your own fridge, I thought about the implications of same: “Let‘s see what‘s for dinner here in the freezer; we have porterhouse steaks, lamb chops, edamame beans, oh — and……um….looks like toenail clippings. Wanna go out?”

The last of the interesting recent jobs was the IVR for a rather large medical marijuana collective in California– which was, for all intents and purposes — so normal and “corporate” it fairly screamed out to have fun with it. I wanted to add fake mailboxes such as: “To be connected correctly to the Cheetos hotline, press 8”, or — after all the options had been given, chirp in an exasperated voice: “If you’ve *already forgotten* which option you need…” The clients took their service very seriously, and I sensed that there wouldn’t be a positive reception to “riffing” on their material — but I desperately wanted to.

I know I will have a steady influx and no shortage of interesting clients to report back on — count on similar articles in future updating you on the more colourful contracts which come my way. Voice talent — let me know about some of *your* more “unusual” projects!

Next week, I’ll delve into the current phenomenon of recording voice-over on the road — many high-profile voice talent are big proponents of hauling their mics everywhere they go, but I can’t — for the life of me — make it work. Sound quality is compromised, and vacation time is for Mai Tai’s, darnit!

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