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Johnny Heller’s energy and his youthful, boyish voice bring an immediacy to the many children’s and young adult titles he narrates. Having a well-developed sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either! He’s a pesky little sister in M IS FOR MAMA'S BOY, a charming Satchel Paige stepping out of history in SATCH & ME, and a snarky, intruding narrator talking directly to young listeners in A TALE DARK & GRIMM--and his audiobook performances engage kids every time. Narrator Johnny Heller doesn't write the jokes he tells in audiobooks like PLATO AND PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR, but he knows how to tell a joke. "I'm not sure that can be taught or learned. It simply exists in some people and not others." - 2011 Best Voice in CHILDREN & FAMILY LISTENING
Heller was a starving artist in Chicago, working as a bartender and waiter to support his stage and stand-up-comedy ambitions, when he auditioned and landed his first voice-over acting job, performing in a Campbell's soup commercial. His line: "Mmmm-ummm!" He's still amazed that he makes a living with his voice.
I love the immediacy of a live audience, " Heller says. Performing audiobooks, he adds, is similar because there's rarely time for multiple takes. He has over 200 titles to his credit, most falling into the categories of humor, young adult titles such as THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER , and children's literature such as the Horrible Harry series.
"I tend to speak fairly quickly, but for audiobooks I try to slow down so I can be heard--also, because I get paid by the recorded hour. For a long time, my checks were probably half of what they should have been because I didn't know what I was doing! Now, I can take my time," he laughs--"which is better for the listener and better for the old bank account."
Heller says there are certain decisions an actor makes when creating a character that are more inspired than instructed. "You're probably not going to be far off the mark in the choices you make as an actor. That's the reason they hired you for the job. For example, they know I can do comedy."
Heller believes the narrator needs to come into every project well prepared. "Mostly it's just allowing things to happen--not pushing so much. It's a different school of acting. You need to read the book, know the characters, and be a conduit for what the author wants to say and the listener needs to hear."
Summing up, Heller says playing all the parts and creating the voices are his greatest challenge. "I guess it's like a solo performance in a play. The funny thing is--I don't particularly like that kind of play!"--Randy O'Brien
2008 Best Voice in Children & Family Listening: DRACULA VS. GRAMPA AT THE MONSTER TRUCK SPECTACULAR by Kirk Scroggs.
Actor Johnny Heller has more than 200 audiobooks to his credit. Listeners delight in his energy and his youthful voice, which bring an immediacy to the many children’s and young adult titles. Our reviewers have called him “utterly persuasive” in these varied roles. His delivery of spirited characterizations defines the science fiction novel THE VOICES OF HEAVEN .--[DEC 1998/JAN 1999].
Photo by JoAnna Perrin
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