Thursday, February 17, 2005

Loud And Clear And Alive

Another example of mirror neurons in action, where the lifeless gain life. This is about Paul Winchell and his wooden sidekick, Jerry Mahoney, courtesy of Mark Evanier:

Back when TV was just beginning, Paul was asked to make his first appearance and they brought him in to do a test. Throughout the test, the director kept telling him, "We can't hear Jerry." Paul could be heard when he spoke as Paul but the "thrown" voice could not. He raised the volume as much as humanly possible to the point of almost bursting a blood luck. The consensus was that, for some unknown technical reason, there was something about a ventriloquist voice that did not register on TV microphones.

Word of this spread throughout the business and Paul, of course, was depressed that his skill — ventriloquism — would not be a part of this new medium.

His agent finally got another producer to give it a try. Another test was arranged and Paul went in. It went just like the first test: Paul's voice could be heard when he talked as himself but, when he did Jerry's voice, the boom microphone suspended over their heads could not pick it up.

They were about to declare it a disaster but then Paul happened to glance up and he noticed that the man who operated the boom mike was moving it back and forth — the way he would do if two performers were talking on stage, pointing it towards whoever was speaking. He asked the man, "Where are you pointing the boom when Jerry is talking?"

The man shrugged. "Over Jerry's head, of course."

Paul patiently told him, "Keep the mike on me at all times." The man did, they tried it again...and Jerry Mahoney was heard, loud and clear and ever after.