Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"This is GOD!"

Here’s one of those Friday Questions that became an entire post.

It’s from Liggie:

FQ based on your podcast with Randy Thomas (yes, I'm behind on all of my podcasts). If you wanted to be a public address announcer for a sports team, what skills and qualifications would you and she recommend?

First off, really know the sport. Know the rules, know the foul calls, and be able to anticipate things like player substitutions and time outs.

Next you have to be enthusiastic. You’re a little bit like a warm-up guy. It’s up to you to get the crowd revved up when you introduce the starting line-ups.

You must be able to read commercial copy well. You’ll be announcing upcoming events and promotions. You can’t stumble all over them. This is also not the place to goof on the copy.

Diction is important. Speaking clearly is important. You must sound like the consummate professional.

A good voice helps, but it’s not mandatory. It’s not even mandatory anymore that you be a guy. The San Francisco Giants have a woman PA announcer, Renel Brooks-Moon, and she’s terrific.

I once applied to be a sports team public address announcer. This was in the ‘80s when I was sitting in the stands learning to do baseball and basketball play-by-play. There was an opening for the Clippers. So I applied, more as a lark.

Six or seven of us were told to report to the Sports Arena (then-home of the Clippers). That afternoon there was nothing on the arena floor. No basketball or hockey configuration. And the lower level stands had been removed. It was just a giant concrete slab of a floor. Off to one side was a little card table with a microphone.

Ralph Lawler, the team’s longtime radio/TV announcer (who should be in the basketball Hall of Fame) was there along with a couple of team officials. They went way up into the upper deck somewhere to listen.

We were instructed to announce starting line-ups and read several pieces of commercial copy.

Since I don’t have the classic announcer’s voice I figured I had no shot.

So when it was my time to audition I sat down at the mic and started by saying: “This is GOD! And I have to say, some of the things you people are doing lately is really pissing me off!” It sounded hilarious swirling and echoing around this cavernous concrete shell.  I was amused anyway. Then I did the line-ups, copy, etc.

When the auditions were over, Ralph and the team officials asked if I’d be interested in the job? I was blown away. I said yes, but my only conflict was that I couldn’t work Thursday nights. That was the CHEERS rewrite night and I was committed to that. Unfortunately, they played a fair number of games on Thursday night so I had to turn down the gig. But like I said, I was gobsmacked that they even asked me.

Now I can’t say I recommend that approach, but it did work for me.

Good luck. And drive home safely.


Peter said...

Off topic (yes I know I'm guilty of a lot of those) but I finally got round to listening to your stand up debut. I thought you did terrific. You should consider devising an "Evening with Ken Levine" type show which is just you telling funny stories from your career and life. You have a very natural and relaxed style of delivery.

By the way, I loved the punchline to your Oreo cookies story.

Mitchell Hundred said...

Friday Question: Are there any other kinds of job interviews at which introducing yourself as God would be (in your opinion) a good idea?

Michael said...

The Dodgers had John Ramsey, who DID sound like God, and played it straight. The current PA announcer has great pipes, but I hate the way he screams on behalf of the Dodgers.

In Brooklyn, the Dodgers had the legendary Tex Ricketts, who could be counted on for malaprops. He once heard from the plate umpire that the fans draping their jackets over the rails could interfere with play in the outfield, so Tex said, "Will the fans in left field please remove their clothing."

John in NE Ohio said...

Back in the day Howie Chizek was always pretty good. I don't think he made it from the Coliseum to the Gund (now the Q), but he was there for the best days at the Coliseum. He was having throat issues and his doctor told him he had to quit his day job (radio talk show) or announcing the Cavs.

Who that went to those games can't still hear "Craig Ehlo/Mark Price/Danny Ferry for thaaareeee!" in their head. Not the same anymore.

Harold X said...

Mitchell: It seems to work for "President."

Chris said...

Reminds me of a silly microphone story of my own.

In college, I was sitting in one of my big lecture hall classes listening to group presentations by my fellow students and bored out of my mind when the next group got up. Their presenter, a big black dude I went to high school with, picked up the wireless mic and as he was clipping it to his shirt, he leaned into it:


And in the seconds of silence that followed, he looked up with a shit eating grin: "I always wanted to cuss into one of these things."

One of the loudest laughs in the room was the professor. The other was mine.

Anonymous said...

And I thought that George Costanza was based on Larry David.


Ralph C. said...

Friday Question: I'm sure you might have addressed this before, Ken, but... was Shelley Long really disliked a lot on "Cheers"? I once read a book about the history of the show that pointed this out more than once. If you've addressed this before I might not have read it or remember it. Thank you for your time.

DBenson said...

Every once in a while there's fun to be had with a doomed audition.

Some years back I was in a community theater production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". At tryouts they had most of the men read for ALL the male leads. One character, Marcus Lycus, is a procurer who delivers a long, lascivious sales pitch for his top-of-the-line girls. That was one part I knew I was out of the running for (among other things, one guy was already standing out as brilliant). When it was my turn I did it as a double-time, shouting used car commercial. Since it was a monologue I wasn't messing up anybody else's reading. Huge laugh, although it would never work in an actual performance.

I did my other readings "for real" and landed the part of Senex.

iamr4man said...

Ken, since you are talking about PA announcers, maybe you'd like to mention John Ramsey. He seemed to be the announcer for every sporting event in LA when we were young. What a great voice.

Doug said...

So, in other words, Cheers saved you from having to work for Donald Sterling.

Andrew Ross said...

Would you recommend any kind of voice coaching if you wanted to give sports announcing/PA announcing a try? I mean in a "do the job better" sense, not "make it easier to get a job" sense.

Andy Rose said...

Like most professions, the best way to get into PA announcing is to start at the lowest level that will have you (there's probably a local middle school or high school that would like someone - anyone - to announce their games), get better as you get experience, and then look for bigger opportunities. You never know when opportunity will strike. The guy who is now the Braves PA announcer started doing Little League games, and one of the players happened to be the child of the Braves general manager. The GM liked what he heard and invited the guy to join the auditions when there was an opening later.

As Ken says, the biggest problem with having any sort of ancillary career in sports is that you are usually paid by the game and are expected to be at every game, but games can happen at just about any time. Especially during the post season. I used to be a producer for a college football radio network back when games were always on Saturdays. Once they started playing regularly on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I had to give it up because I could not take that many days off from my "real" job. That's why lots of big team PA announcers either have another full-time job with the team, or have an entrepreneurial job where they set their own schedule, or they're semi-retired, or they're independently wealthy.

AAllen said...

I remember hearing one PA flub. On Mariner's Fan Appreciation Night, their PA, Tom Hutyler, was reading fan's seat numbers for prize giveaways. He stumbled when he saw the initials "KES" as a location, but correctly interpreted it as "Kingdome Executive Suite." Someone sitting in the lap of a luxury box was getting a prize, and the crowd booed.

Ed Dempsey said...

Two words. Rex Barney. You're thoughts?

Ed Dempsey said...

"Two words. Rex Barney. You're thoughts?"

Damn auto-correct. I meant your thoughts.

I was a few weeks behind but am caught up now. Keep up the great observations, stories, and perspective. Thanks!