Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

How To Improvise and Ad Lib as a Voice Actor


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 6, 2014

Comments (5)

Male actor wearing a bowler hat and black bow tie, smilingDo 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.

Improv Interview with Jonathan Hanst

Jonathan HanstVOX: 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.

Do You Love to Improvise?

Comment now if you do your fair share of ad libbing!

Take care,



    Yes - I discovered anime is a great arena for ad-libbing: 'effort' noises, animals and even dialogue. Just last week, I needed to fashion up 'Angelic' talk and nonsense Orc - or OrcWellian as my friend Jeff calls it. Handy for angels is the printer's Lorem Ipsum blank text, as it is quasi-Latin. Orcs are primal, small, not very nice - so for those it was mic on the floor and me well out of control alongside. Getting physical really helps improv, I think. Result just posted here http://www.voices.com/demo_detail/139627

    Posted by:
    • Howard Ellison
    • May 7, 2014 9:00 AM

      Great post.

      Posted by:
      • Darryl
      • October 23, 2014 4:46 AM

        Howard: Thank you for sharing the result. The production values are off the charts. I love how you gave us a glimpse into your creative process. Thanks for that!


        Carmi Levy
        Senior Writer

        Posted by:

          Thanks Darryl. Glad you enjoyed it!


          Carmi Levy
          Senior Writer

          Posted by:

            There is definately a lot to know abhout this subject.
            I love all the points you've made.

            Posted by:
            • Candra
            • November 4, 2014 6:45 PM

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