By Stephanie Ciccarelli
May 6, 2014
Do you ad lib?
Are you someone who can create copy off the cuff?
For most people, ad libbing is scary but for actors, it's all part of the creative process!
There is certainly a time and place for improv. When done recreationally, the sky is the limit but when you're using that skill on an audition or for a paid job, you need to be more selective.
Join me in this interview with voice actor Jonathan Hanst as he shares how improvisation makes him stand apart from the competition and improves his ability to book jobs in today's VOX Daily.
VOX: Do you have a background in improv?
JONATHAN HANST: Not really. But seriously, anybody can improv. Check it out: "skq~~o8&del+_&k2l32/@#3jkl;." I just made that up. I improved that right now on the keyboard. I tried an improv class once, but essentially chickened out. I've done stand up a few times, but I guess I just find it fun to say things that pop into my mind. It keeps things interesting, especially in dialog spots.
VOX: What is it about ad libbing that you feel makes your reads more compelling/interesting/bookable?
JH: Boy I hate to deem myself compelling. Ad libbing is definitely one of those "a little goes a long way" things. You have to pick your spots and you need to certainly need to get a sense of the session you're in, the director, and the subject of the piece you're working on. You're not going to catch me going off on a kooky tangent during some medical eLearning module. When it's done right, ad libbing will catch the listener off guard in a good way and, if you're lucky, make an audition or take stand out.
VOX: How often do you ad lib? Are you selective with ad libbing or is this something you do routinely?
JH: I ad lib all the time in the booth to myself. Anyone who stands in a little room all day talking to themselves goes a bit nuts, so I ad lib and make fun of copy and rant. I guess in a way, it hones the skill for doing it 'for real' in a live session. When you're live you need to be selective. I never ad lib the first take or two. That's the time to get familiar with the copy and feel the director out for what might be cool to say or do. That's why wild lines or ABC takes are fun; I usually take that as a license to do something different on the 3rd take.
VOX: When is it appropriate to ad lib? Are there any reads where you purposefully choose not to ad lib?
JH: If a spot is comedic, it's the perfect opportunity, depending again on the director and your role as a talent. I can't think of many instances where I've ad libbed in a straight read. I would never do it on dry material like eLearning. But what can be fun, if you've established a rapport with an eLearning client, is to send some blooper reel stuff as an extra file. I think that keeps the client from seeing you as super serious all the time. It may also change their perspective about you and what roles you might be good for.
VOX: How much does ad libbing help you?
JH: Ad libbing is what I like most about doing voiceover because it really gooses the creativity aspect, so it helps me stay engaged with my job. I have a handful of radio imaging clients and they love the ad lib stuff. That's what cuts through because it's not expected. So many people are doing VO these days and a large percentage of them have good voices. Where do you go from there? You have to really train yourself to stand apart. A lot of that is through your performance and connecting to the script, completely separate from ad libbing. But when there's an ad libbing opportunity? That's great fun for me.
Comment now if you do your fair share of ad libbing!