Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Even Ernie Anderson, voice of ABC, struggled with incompetent ad copy

Illustration for article titled Even Ernie Anderson, voice of ABC, struggled with incompetent ad copy

Voiceover legend and disc jockey Ernie Anderson (1923-97) certainly had an interesting and varied life and career. In addition to being the father of Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson and appearing in his son’s early films, Anderson was a pioneering TV horror host as the wisecracking Ghoulardi, portraying the wild-and-woolly, goateed character on WJW-TV’s Shock Theater in Cleveland from 1963 to 1966. Anderson left Ghoulardi and Cleveland behind him in the late ’60s to move to California in pursuit of his show business career. There, in addition to scoring some guest roles in episodic television, he established himself as a top-flight announcer, securing a gig on The Carol Burnett Show, a variety program featuring his erstwhile comedy partner, Tim Conway, who had worked with him back in Cleveland on radio and television.


But for millions of Americans, Ernie Anderson’s rich, nuanced voice will forever be associated with the ABC television network. He was the voice of the network for years, voicing countless promos in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. (He was noted during this time for his signature pronunciation of The Love Boat.) A behind-the-scenes video shot by one of Anderson’s protégées in 1989 captures the man at work and shows that he was very human, not some kind of promo-recording automaton. In the clip, Anderson records take after take of a commercial featuring clips of The Wonder Years, Who’s The Boss?, and Roseanne. The clips are so talky and so briskly paced that Anderson barely has time to squeeze in the hacky ad copy he’s been given. And he’s not shy about expressing his displeasure, at one point asking, “Who the fuck wrote this?”

The person who posted the video to YouTube says that “Ernie was my mentor, but I think that I made him nervous during this shoot.” Professional that he is, Anderson gets through it. And even though this is an audio-only gig, Anderson really performs his lines, complete with theatrical gestures.

Those who want more of Anderson in this mode are advised to check out the announcer’s eccentric 1983 appearance on Late Night With David Letterman. Here, Anderson talks about his experiences on The Carol Burnett Show and recites some fan-requested ABC promos for shows like Vega$ and Roots. Naturally, he is obliged to say the words The Love Boat a few times, too. He treats this talk show appearance like any other voice-over session, right down to the placement of the microphone. He also admits that he swears frequently on the job, which the behind-the-scenes video corroborates.

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