How Doing Voices Cost Me My First Job...

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a voice actor. Though I didn't find out there were such jobs until I was well into my 20's, I remember as a kid how I would not only want to sing the songs I heard on the radio, but I wanted to sound exactly like the singers too. And I also had a strange desire as a pre-teen to read anything I could get my hands on, out-loud, and without stumbling over the words (cereal boxes were perfect for this)

I recall being overwhelmed with excitment when, as a 14 year-old living in Orange County, I heard Hollywood Hamilton (one of the evening DJ's on KIIS-FM) announce they were looking for people to call in to be "guest-DJ's" and announce songs on their "Top 8 at 8" countdown. Even though they told me exactly what to say, I remember taking it so seriously and trying to be so professional in my "read" that first time. And I literally recall trembling with excitement as I waited to hear (and tape!) myself on the radio. Over the next two years, I would make this a recurring ritual. In fact, I called KIIS-FM so much to do this, they started to know me, so my first foray at accents on air came about not due to creativity, per se, but necessity. They said they coudn't put "Carl from Orange" on air anymore because I called too often - so I started calling as "Craig from Covina" , "Steve from Westminster" etc., always using different voices. Sometimes I was a surfer guy, sometimes a black guy, whatever I could think of. (Later on I had the pleasure of being an intern at KIIS-FM for several months, where I realized I didn't really want to be a DJ, since you didn't get to just play whatever you wanted to play, as I had thought - it appeared it was an actual business with "the Man" dictating what went on air!)

When I got my first paying job, working the drive-thru at the local Jack-in-the-Box there in Orange, I had a blast doing accents over the drive-thru speaker. And as long as they were subtle - British, a surfer, etc. the owner didn't seem to mind, since I was a hard worker, dependable, and very friendly and polite with the customers. One of my favorite things to do late at night when it was just me and a cook was to answer the speaker in a thick British accent (which customers seemed to enjoy), and then when they pulled around 10 seconds later I would be my regular voice. At times you could tell they were looking around for that nice British chap who took their order (to my delight!).

But one night when the owner was off and it was slow with no customers, I took things a bit too far. I was dancing around as I stocked up the restaurant, doing some silly rap parody I had invented for the crew's enjoyment, and I got a bit loud. Without my knowledge, the owner had come by and was in his office doing paperwork. When he heard my shenanigans, he called me back to the office and promptly told me he had to let me go, due to my irresponsible and loud (I'm sure it was) behavior. The fact that I needed the job (my family was very poor and it was the only way I had money to buy non-nerdy clothes, go to movies with friends, etc.) made me well up with tears, and I apologized for being irresponsible. I told him I'd shape up and stop acting foolish. He agreed, and I worked there for another year before moving on to the wonderful world of grocery stores at the local Vons near my high school. Of course, secretly, I would still do my voices when he wasn't there, but I was more careful to not get too loud. I couldn't help myself though - when it's in your blood to perform, to make people laugh, to entertain, you have to do it - whether you get paid for it or not.

So it's ironic that my voices now earn me money, even though back then they cost me my first job...for a few minutes anyway! ; )

When did you first realize you were born to do voicework? And do you have any funny / strange / interesting stories of things that happened to you due to your passion for the craft?

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Comment by Dina Monaco-Boland on June 3, 2008 at 8:19pm
Love your story! You seem like a real fun guy. I like how you just put yourself out there. Can't believe you nearly blew getting free Jack in the Box tacos... they're the BEST! We don't have Jack in the Box out here but I try and always get them when we travel.

We as a family do crazy things. On one of our "envelope trips" (if you're interested I can tell you what they are) we had to go through a McDonald's drive through and order as our favorite Simpsons character-- no repeats. Then there's the "what is this from?" game we play-- doing a line in character of any of the myriad of cartoons we watch. If you can't guess then you're kicked out of the family. Yeah, we're weird. I've often answered my phone with "Nerve Center..." and proceeded with whatever was off the top of my head.

My kids hate my voices (of course) but I always did them anyway. Their friends think they're kind of cool. According to my kids though I have only 2 voices, my annoying voice and my fake voice. Apparently my fake voice is when I'm not being annoying. I wonder how annoying it would be if I stopped paying for their college tuition!

I love having fun and playing!
Comment by Stephanie Ciccarelli on June 2, 2008 at 9:17pm
Hi CJ,

Now that's a story! You should pass it along to Marc Cashman for his book ;) Look him up at cashmancommercials.com.

Best,

Stephanie from Voices.com

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