My Secret’s Out – By Doug de Nance

February 11, 2010  |  Articles, Funtime

Doug de Nance

As a voice professional, I perform the craft in the traditional way – the way you’d expect.  I voice commercials and promos and do a whack of corporate narration.  I even sneak in a little animation voicing now and then.

But I have a secret.  A dirty little secret.  A secret that Taji asked me to share with you.  It took me a while to work up the courage, but I feel I have finally come to the moment where I can share it with you.  OK, so here goes…

I announce monster truck shows.

OK, so it’s not really much of a secret.  It’s kind of hard to keep it quiet when you’re paid to scream and yell really loud in a really loud environment.  And it is loud all right.  That’s part of what makes a monster truck show.  Bigger and louder than life.  After all, leading the category of “motorsports entertainment”, monster truck shows could be easily classified as the pro wrestling matches of motorsports.

The Hats I Wear

Then again, maybe monster truck announcing really isn’t so far removed from voice acting as it might first appear.  There is a great deal of acting involved – monster truck announcer is just one of the characters in my repertoire.  There’s copy writing… (you don’t really think most of what happens at a show is all by chance do you?)  There’s audio production – both the pre-recorded intros for the various show elements and pre-show promotions and commercials.  Oh, the commercials…

Once someone knows that I do this – especially the commercials, guess what I’m always asked to say?  You got it… “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” and “We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge”.

Once you distill it all down, like voice over, monster truck announcing is using your voice to make a living… to entertain, to inform, to inspire, to dramatize, to sell.  Most importantly – just like voice over, it’s a whole lot of fun.  And just like voice over, it’s a business – and sometimes that’s not so fun.

The Fun Bits

So what’s fun?  In reality, many of the same things that sometimes aren’t so much fun.  Take travel for example.  I’ve been fortunate to see a great deal of North America traveling to announce monster truck shows (and various other motorsports entertainment shows such as Freestyle Motocross).  I get to fly into the city, then hang around in the hotel hot tub while the guys and gals in the show work on trucks and set up the track, merchandise stands, etc.  Then I just show up a little while before show time to have some laughs and get caught up.  I’ve known many of the production folks, track rats, wrench wenches, the drivers and their crews for so long, it’s like a family reunion in a different city each weekend.

On The Other Hand

On the other hand, I spend a lot of time alone by myself – in those hotels and sitting in airports.   For most of my now grown children’s lives, I’ve been away from home for up to 25 or more weekends a year.  I’ve been interrogated by customs officials and held up at borders without work permits and paper work properly supplied by promoters.  I’ve had more x-ray scans and invasive searches than many guys in prison.

How about those guys and gals who really are the show?  They’re a lot of fun. They have to be. These folks spend hours and hours driving together in semi trailer trucks and pickup trucks, trailers and motorhomes to get from one show to the next.  So a sense of humor is a must.  I always look forward to arriving at the next show so I can hear all the latest jokes (absolutely none of which are appropriate to be written here).  And the practical jokes – everything from shaving cream inside a helmet to, well, “adult toys” replacing the shifter knob inside a truck.  Like seeing familiar faces at studio auditions, I always break into a smile when I arrive at a venue and see these people once again.

Tough Decisions

But sometimes that heavy travel schedule takes its toll.  Being with each other 24/7 can be tough no matter how much fun you have.  Plus, the show script calls for stars and supporting roles.  Sometimes how you’re cast can get you down (now there’s a parallel with voice over).  As the guy who often writes those scripts and determines the roles within them, there can be some tense moments defending those decisions.

The thrill of motorsports is fun – especially when you have the best seat in the house.  Lots of noise and speed and stuff getting destroyed – what’s not to like?  What’s not so fun is the danger to my friends.  While a monster truck show is as controlled an environment as possible, you are still dealing with 10,000 pound trucks flying through the air.   The stories you tell later are like the one about the guy last year who drove so hard during the last show of the season that he literally burned the truck up.  Some tranny oil spilled onto a glowing red hot brake rotor and poof – up in flames went a $250,000 truck.  The scary part is that methanol fuel burns so hot that the flames are literally clear.  The driver slid out of that truck and dropped the 12 feet to the track floor like poop through a goose.  Fortunately his firesuit protected him from injury.  We laughed about his crispy eyebrows later.  Unfortunately, many others I’ve known over the years have been hurt or even killed.

The Prep Work

Like voice over, I spend a good chunk of time before the show thinking about the audience.  I remind myself that I’m really an audience member with a better view of the action and not a “star’ in the show.  I try to remember my children when they were small sitting inside a monster truck wheel rim, grinning from ear to ear.  Then I visualize seeing another new little kid having the time of his or her life.   The big difference is that later I get to actually see that little kid with the big grin I envisioned reacting to the show.

Being Put On The Spot

Like voice over, I prepare by thoroughly researching and then studying the notes I make about the show performers.  I review the sponsor commercial copy and mark it up.  But aside from reading the sponsor ads live, any other written copy isn’t read – it makes up the content of my ad-libs.  One never knows when a truck will roll over or when mechanical failure or injury will slow down or stop the show.  I have to be ready to enthusiastically, excitedly and intelligently redirect the audience’s attention and fill in the time.  Thank goodness for that improv training as a voice actor.

Jason Britten & Doug de Nance in Edmonton

Breaking In… To The Business

Like much of voice over work, the pay is pretty darn good for how much fun I have.  Like voice over, I had to hustle hard for the work at first and it was hard to break in.   The gigs were few and far between for the first 5 years of so.  Eventually, consistent performances and – perhaps more important – being professional help bring awards, pay increases and lots of repeat business my way for many years now.

Unlike voice over – at least in today’s world of internet casting and home studios – there is still a strong team that makes my performance stronger.  There is still a sound engineer who controls the mic levels and effects to enhance what I’m doing on the track and mixes the music and other sound elements to create a complete audio package.  There is a show producer who provides directions though the headset down to me running like a crazy man around the track.   Then there are the guys and gals who work the track who I depend on to help to keep me safe and out of harm’s way.  They know my concentration is on the audience and not always on the dangers that are part of motorsports even when it’s entertainment.

Hear Me Roar

Both like and unlike voice over – there is the voice.  The voice needs to able to deliver time and time again.  Yet, it seems there are only a few announcers who can shout and roar and scream and yell for 2 to 3 hours a night over and over again.  I wish I could share with you some sort of secret to maintaining my voice under this strain.  But everything I do keep that voice going goes against common sense and good advice.  I’m working in drafty, dusty, smoke filled environments with terrible acoustics.  I depend on strong black coffee to keep my throat loose and suck on menthol cough lozenges to keep my air passages open.  These are not practices I’d ever advise for anyone else.  But somehow they continue to work for me.

The Monster Voice

When voice over people find out that I announce monster trucks shows, they always say two things… “How can you scream for three hours a night for three days straight and then do voice over work starting on Monday?”  Well, truth be told, it’s usually Tuesday.  And they say, “You should brand yourself with monster trucks for voice over – you know, have wheels and trucks and engine sound effects on your website.  Maybe even brand yourself “The Monster Voice”.

Now that my secret’s out – maybe that’s a good idea.  What do you think?


11 Comments


  1. A wonderful article and congratulations on you varied career. I also have a varied career as a studio singer, voiceover talent, and educator, recording studio owner, audio engineer and producer. Plus, I have a telephone messaging company I started with a friend. He dropped out but I still work the company. And I’m a writer and enjoy creating articles, books, and audio books. That’s what I preach to all my students…diversify. Actors and Singers learn that early. Don’t sit waiting for your agent to phone and don’t count on getting internet jobs from the PAY TO PLAY sites..at least don’t count on getting a lot of them. Think of that as a nice surprise and extra money. I have always made money by doing six or eight things. That makes for a diverse income stream and helps with \slow spots.\ That’s my advice to newbees!

  2. Thank you for sharing your special niche in the voice-over world. You are so fortunate to have worked your way into an activitity that uses so much of your talent and skill.

    Best wishes for continues success!

    • Dan, you are too kind. You make it sound like it was a plan or something. I think it was more stumbling around and falling into it. And talent and skill? I think loud and melodramatic might be more appropriate.

      dD

  3. Thank you, Bettye. “Varied” certainly describes it… for over 30 years!!! For example, tonight I’m voicing very serious and subtle narration for a legal company – tomorrow I fly out to announce a monster truck show. Maybe schizophrenic might be more suitable :-).

    dD

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Doug. Varied is right! That’s fantastic. And it’s great that you really enjoy what you do, despite the difficult parts of it. I came at voice overs from the singing end myself and created and administer for a songwriting resource site that’s been on the web since 1995 (spent much of my early career doing Internet Marketing – and it’s funny how much has changed … while really staying the same. ;)). The site was written up in Billboard magazine some time back. Wow was *that* a thrill. 🙂 These days, I get my thrills from doing voice work for Hooked on Phonics. It’s still a thrill though!

    After 30 years, if you’re still enjoying what you do, you’re DEFINITELY doing something right. 😉 Congratulations to you, Doug. All the best, — Jodi

  5. Thank you Jodi, for your thoughts. I would have responded sooner but… you guessed it… I was on the road announcing a monster truck show this weekend. I so envy you being able to sing. I’m such a fan of music, but realized early on I have absolutly no talent – that’s why I originally became a radio announcer!

    dD

    • I hope the monster truck show went really well, Doug! 🙂 And I’m sure the radio announcing experience has come in really handy over the years. I’ve always wished I could draw … or do graphic design … I can’t. It’s pretty pitiful when I try. 😉 To be near to graphic design, I handled advertising budgets and went into Internet Marketing way back … And lo and behold, it’s been really invaluable to me now. As Bettye has already insightfully mentioned, the key is to diversify – do what you do really well. And what you do is rarely just *one thing*. 😀

      I don’t know if you’re attending, but if you are, I hope to meet you in person at Voice 2010. 🙂 All the best, — Jodi

  6. Jodi,

    Thanks again for your note. It’s particularly frustrating when I could sign as a child actor. But when my voice changed – poof. But like they say, when one door closes another opens. Voice work and being the best fan of music I can be is the payoff.

    As a voice talent, radio was both a curse and a blessing. While the announcer sound has paid off for me it also has held me back and has taken a great deal of training to become just a character choice. But my real love in radio was production – and that is something that has paid off well in my voice over work.

    I am blessed to be able to draw. It is a lifelong hobby, thanks to my grandmother who was a professional oil painter. I do pencil sketching and pen and ink pointalism – although not much much as I’d like to lately :-). I actually took a framed drawing I had done down for the shot of my studio set up in the article.

    And we will meet at Voice 2010.

    dD

    P.S. Say hi to my voice talent friend Pat Sweeney out in Ontario!

    • I hear you on the announcer stuff. Yeah … But you know, it kinda sounds like it’s coming back around again. The market for voice overs seems to go in cycles. That production training will *definitely* help you though – especially in this day and age when the voice actor is supposed to be able to do everything (it’s not just about voices anymore!).

      Re: the artistic talent, go YOU! That’s fantastic. I’m envious. 😀

      Looking forward to Voice 2010 – and I’ll say hi to Pat for you when I see him at the upcoming TOVO meeting we’ll be having here in northern Toronto on March 8th. He and I are actually taking the flight down to VOICE 2010 together, as it happens. So you’ll get to see him again there. 🙂

      Take care, Doug. 🙂 All the best, — Jodi

  7. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for a great article and a behind the scenes look at announcing at a Monster Truck Show. I look forward to taking my kids to the next show here in Ontario. Let us know when you come.

    I also will look forward to introducing you to my good friend Jodi down in LA at Voices2010. It should be fun!

    Take care.

    Pat

  8. It really is all about the kids, Pat. The little ones and the big ones (like me). Had a blast announcing Monster Jam this past weekend for just that reason – the kids. Next show closest to you is Montreal in April – you could be some of 60,000 fans having fun at the Big O!!!

    And speaking of fun, looking forward to hanging out with you and all my friends at Voices2010.

    dD