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Who in Dat Commercial? Our 10 Favorite Super Bowl Voiceovers

This Sunday, February 7, 2010, over 100 million viewers across the country will converge to watch Super Bowl XLIV (that's 44 to you) in South Florida (A.K.A. Miami). Both opponents have their own unique storylines that you'll no doubt hear again and again as we inch closer to the ultimate “human drama of athletic competition.” Can Peyton Manning lead the Indianapolis Colts to a second Lombardi Trophy in three years and solidify his status as the greatest quarterback of all time? Will Drew Brees take the New Orleans Saints — America's team, armed with their very own trademarked catchphrase — to their first Super Bowl victory and bring much needed inspiration to a city on the mend?

Of course, while millions watch the drama unfold on the gridiron, just as many — perhaps a few more — will tune-in for the commercials. Super Bowl ads have moved into a league of their own — complete with controversy, stats and legions of fans. And if once a year isn't enough, websites like SuperBowl Commercials and Adland are devoted to compiling and reviewing hundreds of Super spots.

In the spirit of 44, and the advertising explosion it brings with it, we culled through the last decade of Super Bowl commercials to look for notable voiceovers, and found a few that speak for themselves. Read on for our ten favorites. 

One observation before we begin: The majority of Super Bowl commercials, especially the ones over the past three years, are also notable for their lack of narration. It appears that the formula for "success" is to show, not tell — a trend that will likely continue in 2010. In fact, many recent ads have zero dialogue — no doubt to set the stage for the big payoff at the end. However, there are still a few commercials that are all about the voice; here they are, not necessarily in order.

Blockbuster: "Mouse" (2007)
In this 2007 commercial for Blockbuster's Total Access service (designed to compete with Netflix), Carl the Rabbit and Ray the Guinea Pig click and drag a mouse in an attempt to get on the information superhighway. Carl is voiced by James Woods, Ray is played by Jim Belushi and the narration is provided by Alec Baldwin. UPDATE: Make sure to listen to the voice of the mouse at the end, provided by none other than Bobcat Goldwaith (hat tip to The Singing Exterminator). Watch below:

Hewlett-Packard: "Orange County Choppers/Paul Teutel Sr" (2007)
In HP's first Super Bowl ad, the voice of Paul Teutel Sr., the mastermind behind Orange County Choppers and star of TLC's American Chopper, explains the benefits of the brand's personal computer. Mr. Teutel might be a wiz when it comes to fabricating motorcycles but he should stay away from narration. Especially when it's for any kind of computer. 

Denny's "Nanerpuss" (2009)
This no-frills commercial for Denny's (free) Grand Slam breakfast (available again on Tuesday!) stands out for its seemingly DIY, low-fi quality — especially on a day when so many other spots are carefully produced. Nanerpuss became a viral hit and even inspired its own response videos. But as basic as the ad is, it relies on voiceovers to get the point across — goofy Nanerpuss gets "tackled" by the narrator, played by Burt Reynolds. And, although not confirmed, we're pretty sure Human Giant's Rob Huebel voices Nanerpuss. Take a look:

Mastercard: "Priceless: Homer Simpson" (2004)
Homer Simpson and Billy Crudup together at last. In this 2004 commercial for Mastercard, Homer Simpson (played by Dan Castellaneta) goes through his daily routine while each of his purchases are narrated by the "priceless" voice, Billy Crudup. This spot works because it plays off the fact that viewers already know the style of these ads (which began airing in 1997), enabling it to seamlessly break the fourth wall whenever Homer interacts with the "stupid voiceover guy."

Visa: "Race" (2002)
We're including this one because, like Mastercard, Visa relies on a familiar voice for their "everywhere you want to be" commercials to paint the auditory picture. While most of the other Visa spots from this classic series are narrated with a serious tone, "Race" shows a hint of humor. We're still trying identify the name of the narrator by the way, so give us a jingle if you know. 


Pets.com: "If You Leave Me Now" (2000)
Sure, these days he has over 1.5 million followers on Twitter and and is a wildly-successful novelist. But before Michael Ian Black was shilling for Sierra Mist and way before Stella or Michael & Michael Have Issues, he was was the voice of the Pets.com sock puppet. Check out the spot, which aired in 2000's Super Bowl XXXIV, below. The Amazon-backed company ceased operations later that year.  

HotJobs: "Negotiation" (2000)
In this 2000 spot for HotJobs (a newly minted Monster.com company), the mighty hand, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson plays hardball with the corporate suits for the little guy. These stodgy old-schoolers may not like him but they'll give him what he wants. That hand is one tough negotiator



Apple, Inc.: "HAL 9000" (1999)
Our favorite spot. So simple, yet so powerful, and relies strictly on the voiceover. For this commercial, Apple uses the Y2K "Millenium Bug"craze to their advantage, claiming that their computers won't have a problem when the clock strikes 2000 because — unlike all the others — Apples were smartly engineered from the beginning. This 30-second commercial also shows how far technology has advanced in the last eleven years. 

An impersonator by the name of Tom Kane plays HAL 9000, the diabolical super computer that originally appeared in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. In case you're wondering, the real HAL 9000 is voiced by canadian actor, Douglas Rain.  

Intel : Detective (1998)
A Pentium II processer is stolen from the Clean Room, and Steve Martin plays the voice of the detective on the hunt for the culprit in this 1998 commercial for Intel. Was it Jimmy the Wire or Suzy the Mouse? Viewers are asked to "go on the net" and vote on who dunnit. The ending, which aired in the fourth quarter, was based on whichever character received the most votes. Cutting edge stuff.

New Line/Austin Powers: "Death Star" (1999)
And finally, a commercial for 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The late, great Don LaFontaine provides the initially serious voiceover: "Years ago a battle was fought and empire was destroyed. Now the saga will continue..." on top of Darth Vader-like breathing and image of what appears to be the Death Star. The first 10-seconds seem like a trailer for Star Wars before the big reveal: it's actually a commercial for Austin Powers. The kicker line: "If you see only one movie this summer, see Star Wars. But, if you see two movies, see Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."




These are just a few of our favorites. This year, take a close listen when you're watching the commercials; we bet you'll recognize a few voices. 

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Reader Comments (4)

Nice article! For the record, the voice of HAL 9000 in the Apple spot is Tom Kane (http://www.tomkane.com), who has done Hal soundalikes on more than one occasion, but this was his best known showcase in that part, plus tons of animation (Professor Utonium on "Powerpuff Girls") and video games.

February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Leal

I love this blog!

Let's pause to give credit to the Cat who played the Mouse in the Blockbuster spot. Bobcat Goldthwait's voice is unmistakable

February 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mikelberg

Haha. Great call and duly noted! Thanks for reading David. Glad you like the site. It's fun to put together.

March 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterWViT

Just listened again. That's a great find!

March 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterWViT

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