Mr. Anderson said that recording a single 30-second spot can require as many as 20 takes. Actors shouldn’t eat before working because sensitive microphones can pick up stomach noises.
For the same reason, soft, loose clothing is preferred.
“Otherwise, it can rub up against things and make noise,” Mr. Anderson said. “I worked with one guy over the years that would come to sessions wearing nothing but shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. Of course, that is one of the main reasons to do this job.”
According to industry sources, voice actors make $400 to $1,000 per ad. The money, one actor said, is “good but not great.” Most actors have other, nonpolitical jobs: Mr. Douglas does voice-overs for video games and a national automotive insurance company, while Mr. Walker works for Sporting News radio and had small parts in “Minority Report,” “The West Wing” and “The Wire.”
“We’re all doing the same thing — a little of this, a little of that,” Mr. Walker said. “The political stuff is seasonal work.”
Tell that to Mr. Smith. When he first moved to Washington in the 1980s, he went to a department store to buy a television set for his apartment.
Within seconds of approaching a female sales clerk, Mr. Smith realized she had a cold.
“I didn’t want to even say hello to her,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m really sorry ma’am, and I know I’ve not given you a reason. But I can’t tell you how much money I will lose if I catch your cold.’ And then I turned and walked away.”
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Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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