I’m a voiceover. I talk for a living. I read commercials, on-hold scripts, corporate presentations - anything really that needs a voice. I’m one of the people you hear urging you to buy cheap meat in supermarkets, telling you to “press four for accounts” and chummily informing you that “there’s never been a better time to buy!” If voices like mine piss you off I can only apologise - but hey, a girl’s got to eat.
One of the commercials I had to read this morning was for broadcast on a local radio station for an out-of-town ‘adult superstore’ on an industrial estate in Northern England. Personally, I can’t for the life of me imagine spending a Saturday afternoon shopping for sofas, household electrical goods and discount sportswear and then nipping next door to browse a shelf-full of dildos - or, as the ad so gleefully suggested “erotic funwear.” I love that phrase; can you honestly picture your average Joe using words like that, words so obviously created by a marketing professional? “Hey, honey, let’s turn ‘Top Gear’ off and put on some erotic funwear!”)
Sadly, the copywriter hadn’t had the opportunity to elaborate on the true nature of what erotic funwear is exactly; the suggestion was cheekily left to unfurl in the listener’s panting imagination. And this thought let my mind drift to a mental picture of my portly beloved in a leather thong, gimp mask and nipple clamps. Regrettably, I didn’t find the image erotic or fun – it was hilarious.
At this point I realised that the role play element was obviously crucial to the success of funwear. You can’t pull it off successfully (so to speak) without really entering into the spirit of it. For instance, I doubt that anybody wearing a French Maid’s outfit would be seriously willing to scour a griddle.
But I digress.
The start of the ad was a three-line exchange between two women to be read ‘in a suggestive manner.’ I was to play the part of the first woman.
First woman: It’s huge.
Second woman: Is it really?
First woman: Oh it is! In fact, it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen in my life!
And at that point, a male voiceover (who sounded as if he was lounging on a leopardskin chaise wearing nothing but a sheen of baby oil) listed a taster of the products available and informed the listener how to find the store, and that was the end of the ad.
My performance was a masterpiece of aural cleavage; you could practically hear the rubbery creak of erotic funwear on the word ‘huge.’ I was awesome.
So having briefly read through my bit the gag was obviously a nob gag. I was meant to sound like I was talking about a massive penis but actually – do you see what they did there? – I was talking about the spatial proportion of the actual superstore. Clever, eh?
So I read it, did the obligatory sexy giggle at the end of the sketch to help the conceit along a little, said my goodbyes to the producer and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
It came back for a remake.
“What’s wrong with it?” I said.
“The client wants it to sound more tense at the beginning,” said the producer.
“Yeah. He wants it to sound dramatic and full of subtext.”
“But it’s a nob gag,” I said. “For a shop that sells love eggs. It’s not fucking Chekov.”
“Just do it,” said the producer.
So I re-read it with all the seething, stormy tension I could muster, the steamy, sensual subtext thrumming darkly through the words. My performance was a masterpiece of aural cleavage; you could practically hear the rubbery creak of erotic funwear on the word ‘huge.’ I was awesome.
“Yeah, that’ll do,” said the producer, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
A couple of hours later, he rang again.
“It’s back,” he said, on the verge of tears.
“What’s wrong with it this time?”
“The client says he wants you to sound more surprised on the word ‘seen’ as if you really never have seen anything so enormous in your life. As if you’re talking about a huge penis.”
“I was,” I said.
“Were you?” he said, sounding intrigued. “For real?”
I didn’t reply.
We recorded it again. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever SEEN in my life!” I breathed down the microphone. I did it a few times, putting the emphasis on different words, upping the inflection on the end, then going down on it. So to speak.
“Yeah, that’ll do,” he said. And that was that.
Except, sweet Jesus preserve me, it wasn’t.
“What’s wrong with it now?” I said. Now I was virtually on the edge of tears.
“He wants you to say that line quicker.”
“But I thought he wanted it to sound tense.”
“But if I go quick and try and sound tense, I’ll just end up sounding shifty.”
“Just do it,” he said.
This time, the head of creative came to listen in, just to check we weren’t going to make a mess of it again.
“In fact, it’s thebiggestoneI’veeverseeninmylife!” I gushed, several times.
I tried to suggest tension on the languorous ‘in fact’ then rushed out the rest of the line as if on the brink of an orgasm and not an embolism, which was becoming a distinct possibility.
Spent, I put my head in my hands and waited for the verdict from the Head of Creative.
“It’ll do,” he said, giving my performance the ringing endorsement it so richly deserved.
And that, finally, was that.
So if you’re lucky enough to hear the ad, picture me giving it my oral all, tense yet turgid, surprised yet satiated and don’t, whatever you do, think of me wearing erotic funwear. I so don’t have the thighs for it.
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