Happy new year! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and are enjoying this day. Each New Year’s Day, I strive to engage in activities that I want to occur all through the year. Symbolically and realistically, I can start the new year by focusing attention on things that matter to me. For instance, I went to the gym first thing this morning, and now I’m writing a blog entry before recording a script.
In mid- to late December, Drew and I took a holiday trip, which may provide musings for future blog entries. During the trip and in recent days, I have been catching up on some reading for pleasure. While I encouraged you on this day one year ago to look forward, today I want to tell you about a commercial script that was written almost 30 years ago.
The commercial in question wasn’t mine, but rather one for Michael Palin, member of the hilarious Monty Python team, fantastic travel writer, and charming TV documentary host. As a longtime fan of Monty Python and avid journal writer, I was excited to start reading Palin’s Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years. In numerous entries, he has mentioned various voice-over roles. Palin does not indicate whether the commercial discussed in his entry transcribed below was for voice-over or on-camera work, but I certainly admire his refusal to perform it.
Wednesday, April 19th 
Arrival of the Pascall Bon-Bon script over breakfast. I read it and straightaway felt slightly nauseous. Jill had mentioned a figure exceeding 20,000 for this commercial, or possibly two, and what I had just read was a 30-second piece of trivia — worthless, unoriginal and banal. It looked as though it had been written in four minutes after a drunken lunch. Yet again my mind boggles at the huge discrepancy between money and talent.
I could so easily pick up the phone to Jill and say yes. Yes, I will ignore all my creative and artistic instincts. I will get an injection from the doctor on the morning of the commercial which will render me intellectually numb for the period of a day — at the end of which I will have done the horrendous deed, and be thousands of pounds better off.
Quite a temptation. But I realise that if I did this script I would be committing a crime against all the principles that concern me — honesty, value, integrity — all would be totally compromised. Helen read the script and agrees. So I have to phone Jill and withdraw my toe from the seductive waters of advertising yet again.
Fortunately Jill has seen a script and is equally unimpressed, so the problem of hurting her doesn’t arise. She phones the agency. An hour later the director calls back and asks if I would still be interested if the script were entirely rewritten.
While you may think that Michael Palin is a big name who can afford to make a decision to turn down a lucrative offer, the power to say NO rests with each of us. Palin wrote in his 4/13/78 entry some words that I hope will give you pause throughout this coming year and throughout your voice-over career:
So John has polarised his life into earning (routine, no great pleasure) and non-earning (creative and artistically satisfying). A dangerous set-up, I would say. I believe the only sane and satisfying way to live is to fuse the two and avoid, wherever possible, cheapening yourself for money. In that way talent gets eradicated.
I write in my journal almost every day, but I can only wish I had written something so profound. By sharing his journals with all of us, Michael Palin is a teacher to voice-over artists and performers everywhere.
In 2008 and beyond, may your every voice-over job and your entire life bring you artistic fulfillment, prosperity and happiness!