A monster voice

Larry HuffmanThis is Larry “Supermouth” Huffman.

He may not have invented the manic “Sunday Sunday SUNDAY!” voice often mocked for monster truck rallies, used car sales and over-the-top rock concerts, but he certainly popularized it. He’s one of the most recognizable – and most cheesy and cliché – voices in radio and television commercials. He’s even been immortalized in one of my favorite Super Nintendo games – Rock N’ Roll Racing. (“The stage is set, the green flag drops!”)

I bring him up because he’s well respected for being incredibly original and over the top.

He is? For doing that tired old monster truck voice?

Well sure. He invented it. He was making it work before anyone else thought of doing it. And then, in no time, his style was copied to death, sometimes seriously, sometimes effectively through parody, always with a nod to what Huffman had created. Now, it’s either done tongue in cheek with an obviously humorous slant or it’s done seriously, because it works – because it’s familiar, if not incredibly original.

It goes to show that all of today’s clichés – the overplayed, no longer funny lines and voices and concepts, useful only for poking fun at and nostalgia sake – were once clever and effective.

Got Milk? was a one of a kind campaign – one of the best. Now, it’s competing against thousands of thoughtless followers, all banking on the easy gag – the Got (Insert Service Here)? theory of laziness and lack of creativity. The somber, “images of people enjoying life” prescription ads are quickly entering that territory as well – once effective, now commonplace.

Now, quality groups can pull off these clichés in a funny way – they’re fun, familiar and easy to laugh along with. Independent businesspeople with no sense of cutting-edge advertising moxie attempt to pull them off in a serious way, because they have seen it work before and don’t have time to be ultra-creative. Regardless, we all have to look back to the time when it WAS cutting-edge, thanking the person who originally created the idea.

Before a cliché can become a cliché, it has to be popular and original.

Like Larry Huffman. His voice lives on, in a million different ways, both funny and tired, clever and retread. It’s selling everything, from the typical monster truck shows to soda and frozen yogurt. It’s not cliché to him. It’s his baby, after all.

(simulcast from Post Haste)

This was lovingly handwritten on May 3rd, 2007