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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BackTalk
  • Kathy Kraft

    JohnnyZ, you nailed this. Loved Larry and will miss the hell out of him. xo Mrs. Kraft

  • Boy this brought back memories…. back when talent auditioned with other talent and the producers and writers and others directed us. Larry always made us laugh and made everyone feel comfortable and creative. When I last heard from Larry, he said he did voiceover work strictly for the money. That made me laugh. If you knew Larry you’d agree, he did it because he was having a ball. He loved to entertain and he was so gracious while doing so. Those of us who called him our friend, know that he held a bit of magic that most people never achieve. I’ve been missing Larry since he left for Michigan. Now the missing is more.
    Great article, Z

  • angelo bosco

    Larry was a great talent, but an even better human being. Amazingly talented, great sense of humor, and ridiculously generous with his time, advice and friendship.

  • David Lewis

    “Laugh in Peace”, Funny Voice Man.

  • Steve Doroba

    I did my first radio spot with Larry. He was the Funny Voice Man so I wrote a funny spot with 8 voices, including a woman’s voice—all Larry. There was one voice that he’d never done before—a Jamaican. So he called Air Jamaica and asked the agent to read him the schedule, Chicago to Montego Bay. You could see his eyes twinkle and mouth form the words as he absorbed the accent. Then he abruptly hung up, ran into the studio and nailed it.

    Many voices. Only one Larry.

  • CraigBrolley

    Larry and I voiced the “Soggies” for Cap’n Crunch cereal commercials in the ‘8os and ’90s and had a blast doing it. After a great run the account guy took us aside one day and told us the campaign was finally ending because our characters were testing higher than the Cap’n. Oops. In essence we were fired for being too good. At the last session Larry presented the producer with two beautifully wrapped gifts–one from him and the other from me, he said. A very nice gesture from a very nice man.