Johnny Z remembers “The Funny Voice Man”

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Moran, Johnnie Z, voice actor Thompson Howell

Moran, Johnnie Z, voice actor Thompson Howell

Native Chicagoan Johnny “Z” Zwiersko’s advertising, entertainment and film accomplishments include producing numerous national broadcast spots for J Walter Thompson (JWT), where he frequently hired Larry “The Funny Voice Man” Moran.

Back in the day, agencies used to do voiceover (VOX) auditions in recording studios, with talent in front of the producers, writers and art directors.

In order to be considered for these auditions, a talent either had to be recommended by a agent or be known by whomever was doing the casting.

When I first met Larry, he had no agent. I believe that being a VOX was his third career.

He did possess a strong background in sales and he knew how to sell himself. Larry would call on every producer and writer in the city to meet and play his demo reel, which at the time was on a reel-to-reel tape, rather than cassettes.

Since I was just about the only person at JWT who knew how to use a reel-to-reel tape recorder I was stuck meeting all these VOX hopefuls.

Johnny
Johnny “Z” Zwierzko

Larry was peddling his first demo that the late Kirk Johnson from the old Studio One did for him. It was not a very good demo at all. But Larry did impress me with the voices he did in front of me at our first meeting, so I had added him to our roster of VOX artists and eventually landed him with his first talent agent.

Not only was Larry charming and easy to work with, he nailed every audition out of the box!

At the time, JWT was doing a plethora of animated commercials for clients like Quaker’s Dog Food brands, Jobes Plant Spikes, and Kitty Litter.

One of JWT’s creatives, Jeff York — one of the most talented writer / art directors I have ever worked with — used his own voice to pitch commercials, often starring characters he had created.

The clients loved Jeff’s voice, but could not use it in the actual spots. Larry not only met the bar that Jeff created but was able to raise that bar even higher.

Although he will be always revered as the funny voice man, we also utilized a different side of Larry’s abilities.

At some point in the mid 1980’s, Jovan decided to market a fragrance based on the Lionel Ritchie song “Lady.” When the editor on the commercial needed a vocal scratch track on which to cut to, Larry just happened to be in my studio, so I asked him if he we would read the copy for me.

Since he was only doing the Funny Voice Man schtick, he had no clue how to read it. The only direction I gave him was “read it like you are coming on to a beautiful woman.” Larry absolutely nailed it and his scratch VOX became a national TV commercial.

In retrospect what I can say about Larry is that he worked his ass off to get what he wanted, was talented, a quick learner, knew how to sell himself and whatever project he touched, was a great marketer and was one helluva nice guy to everyone.

 
To contact Johnny Z, call 312-402-1303 or email: johnnyz@johnnyzav.com.

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