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How To Master Your Robert Siegel Impression

Jan 4, 2018
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Robert, we have a confession. We know how much you love delving into language and voices, and you're not alone. Your colleagues here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED are also your fans. We are, not to overstate it, a little bit obsessed with your voice. And we're thinking about this because tomorrow is your last day on this program before you retire.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I think people are aware of that, by the way.

SHAPIRO: And try as we might, there is just no substitute for that voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I'm Robert Siegel.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm Robert Siegel.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And I'm Robert Siegel.

SHAPIRO: One of our best in-house Robert Siegel impersonators is Neal Carruth. Robert, you worked most closely with Neal when Neal produced ALL THINGS CONSIDERED for four years.

SIEGEL: Yes.

SHAPIRO: And like me, Neal has listened to you since he was a kid. Neal wanted to refine his Robert and give all the rest of us some tips, so he called in a pro - Jonathan Kite, a comedian who specializes in impersonations. Let's listen.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NEAL CARRUTH, BYLINE: Hello, Jonathan.

JONATHAN KITE: Hello. How are you?

CARRUTH: I'm great. Had you heard of Robert Siegel before we called you up?

KITE: That's what we listened to my entire time growing up. I'm from Chicago, and so we listened to NPR. We didn't - I didn't listen to music when I was growing up unless it was being played on National Public Radio. So I knew who Robert Siegel was since I could recognize voice.

CARRUTH: Should we listen to a little bit of the man himself?

KITE: Yeah. Let's do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIEGEL: Let your Gothic imagination run wild. We are deep underground in dank caves and basements that could be the set of a horror movie.

CARRUTH: So Jonathan, I'm going to try this, and you're going to tell me how I'm doing. Let your Gothic imagination run wild. We are deep underground in dank caves and basements that could be the set of a horror movie.

KITE: That's actually pretty good. So I always start with an impression in terms of the breathing. He sort of has two tones. He has an upper register, which - like, you said, let your imagination - he gets up there. And it's a very reedy sound. And then he sort of has a rhythm and a speed which is created through his breath, and he sort of drops into the bass as he goes down. So let your Gothic imagination run wild.

CARRUTH: Let your Gothic imagination run wild.

KITE: Yeah, that's great. That's actually great. And so he does a thing with his S's, which are - where he sort of doesn't close his mouth, and his tongue sort of hits the bottom layer of his teeth - caves. And he has a...

CARRUTH: Underground in dank caves.

KITE: Yeah, there's - you know, when I start off with an impression, I tend to over exaggerate things just so that I can feel it. I can, A, hear it out loud and in an obvious exaggerated way and then also so that I can do it for muscle memory.

CARRUTH: Let's try another clip. Let's listen to...

KITE: Great.

CARRUTH: ...Another clip of Robert and give it another shot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIEGEL: But he always wore a mask. He always pursued justice, and he never accepted praise or payment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LONE RANGER")

CLAYTON MOORE: (As The Lone Ranger) Hi-yo, Silver, away.

CARRUTH: But he always wore a mask. He always pursued justice, and he never accepted praise or payment. I sound like Casey Kasem.

KITE: Yeah, that's a little bit more like Casey Kasem.

CARRUTH: I'm Robert Siegel with the weekly Top 40 - long distance dedication with Robert Siegel.

KITE: You know what else he has? In this register right here, he sort of goes up and down. There is a very distinct way where he talks, and then he throws it away. Like, those highs and lows - they really help in an unconscious way keep the listener enticed and kind of going with him on the vocal journey.

CARRUTH: So Jonathan...

KITE: Yeah?

CARRUTH: Why don't you give us your best Robert Siegel?

KITE: I'm Robert Siegel, and this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CARRUTH: So I think you need a little more bass. Also...

KITE: You think I need...

CARRUTH: A key Siegel word is news.

KITE: News.

CARRUTH: From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KITE: NPR News.

CARRUTH: I'm Robert Siegel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

KITE: There you go - news.

CARRUTH: News - there's a sleepy quality to news.

KITE: Yeah, well, there - a hundred percent 'cause he is - that's the thing. It's - the more I feel like he's giving you information, the brighter he sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIEGEL: The fact that the name Anheuser-Busch is still in use at all is a tribute to its old owners, the Busch family. When August Busch Jr. addressed the American people by radio in 1933, he personified a remarkable piece of corporate survival - the survival of 13 years of prohibition.

KITE: He personified a remarkable piece of corporate survival - the survival of 13 years of prohibition.

CARRUTH: That's good - survival.

KITE: Survival, survival...

CARRUTH: Well, Jonathan Kite, thank you very much for helping us celebrate one of the many wonderful things about Robert Siegel, his voice.

KITE: Neal, thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor and a pleasure, and I've had a wonderful time. This is NPR News.

CARRUTH: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: Playing Robert Siegel there was Neal Carruth, who is currently the general manager of NPR podcasts, and his coach, comedian Jonathan Kite.

SIEGEL: He's a good general manager of NPR podcasts, too. I think...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) How is he as an impersonator?

SIEGEL: I think he should keep his day job, frankly. I do.

SHAPIRO: Give us that line one more time, Robert.

SIEGEL: All right. I'll warm up. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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