When it comes to being funny with just your voice there’s more to it than just… well… a funny voice. Whether it’s animation, radio or podcasts, making your audience laugh when they can’t see you is a tremendous skill. A great comedy voice over needs talent, training, and timing.
While we are a hilarious bunch here at Voice Squad, we thought it would be better to ask an expert for a little insight. Naturally we turned to our own funny man, Laurence Dobiesz, who has written comedy for podcasts and radio. He also knows a thing or two about performing comedy voice over himself, and he was happy to tell us more...
The Comedy Voice Over by Laurence Dobiesz
It is often said that writing comedy is harder than writing drama. Perhaps the same thing can be said for performing it, too.
After all, comedy is entirely subjective - I say Stewart Lee, you say Roy Chubby Brown (shame on you). And being funny using just your voice? Don’t make me laugh
If you're given a genuinely funny script - whether a sketch, sitcom or commercial - half the work has been done for you. However, you need to honour the writing, it’s not about squeezing out all you can from a gag.
You also need to know your audience. They will probably be listening through headphones or on the radio, so the experience can be an intimate one. Because working with a microphone brings you closer to the listener than in other mediums, you can find comedy in subtle places - moments of pathos in particular.
That isn't to say that a more bombastic, physical performance won't work… Kenneth Williams wasn't slouched over his microphone with a cup of tea in his hand while recording Round the Horne!
Character is also hugely important for a comedy voice over. You might be playing a larger than life character, or someone who is quite different to you, so they must be embodied both vocally and bodily. You can hear physicality, after all.
Pace, not race. This is what a respected radio producer taught us at drama school, and I think it applies to comedy most of all. Another great drama school tutor used to say ‘Faster, funnier, better’, which is absolutely true.
But what do I know? I actually have a soft spot for Roy Chubby Brown.
Thank you to our fantastic Laurence Dobiesz. To sample some of his own comedy writing and performing, check out his podcast Wastes of Space.
For more articles from our artists, see Imitation and the Voiceover Artist – Inspiration, Impersonation and Perspiration and Let’s Get Down to Business: The Corporate Voiceover.