John Corbett, Interpreting Voice Over Specs and You

It seems like there is a run on audition specs that call for John Corbett of late.

“Should sound like John Corbett, but not exactly like him.”

“We like John Corbett.”

“We’re thinking that we want John Corbett. But not a soundalike.”


Don’t get me wrong, I love the star of “Northern Exposure” (among many other things). In fact, I tried desperately to sound like him when I was Portland’s worst DJ in the late 90s. John Corbett has a great voice, natural delivery — and pretty much sounds like someone I could hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee with.

So, what happens when a spec like this comes through?

I try to sound like John Corbett.

And I’m not.

I’ll spin up an Applebee’s commercial or two. I’ll watch some past episodes of “Northern Exposure.” I’ll practice his tone, inflection and delivery.


Not John Corbett.

Interpreting specs are always a dodgy proposition. In my experience, the talent that wins the day is the one who is fairly far off what the original specs are.

It happened when I heard a luxury automaker’s choice.

It happened when I saw an HDTV manufacturer’s spot (they went whispery — which I can do).

One can’t get frustrated with it. But, it is a bit perplexing when you hear the finished product and realize, “ohhhhhhh, that’s¬†what they were looking for.”

That’s the beauty of the second and third take — especially on shorter auditions.

The first take? Go for that John Corbett.

The second (and sometimes third)? Get at it a little differently. Give ’em some variation.

As those of us in voice over know, it’s kind of a crapshoot. You have to keep auditioning and doing what you can to improve so that when it’s your time, you’re ready for the win.

So, go forth with your inner John Corbett (or the female equivalent).

But, go with your gut on takes two and three outside the specs.

You might be surprised at what you come up with.

1 Comment

  1. Ugh. John Corbett’s is not a voice to which I would aspire. Aside from his sound being overexposed and played out for many years, he has exactly one note.



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