Los Angeles Times

A Voice For All Seasons

Friday, December 26, 1997 | By Monte Morin, Staff Writer

From 'Seinfeld' promos to Must See TV voice-overs, Steve Mackall is one of a small group of Hollywood artists who have achieved a faceless fame. It's totally weird watching a grown man do an impersonation of a "happy flea" - which might explain why folks never actually see Steve Mackall on television or in the movies.

Mackall - whose bubbly flea amounts to an explosion of high-pitched giggles, hiccups and squeals - belongs to that small_ but noisy group of voice-over artists who supply the audio backdrop for most of contemporary TV life, especially during commerical breaks and Saturday mornings. Whether it's a matter of talking up Fuji Film and Fruit Loops, building suspense for the next episode of "Seinfeld" or impersonating a talking dog or paranoid weasel, Mackall has a voice for all occasions.

"It's so much fun," Mackall said. "The greatest thing is you can just show up and do three or four voices for a cartoon. They don't care that you're bald, that your sweater doesn't fit. They just don't care."

The 37-year-old Brentwood resident is probably best known as the voice of NBC Must See TV on Thursday nights. It's his job to punch up and preview that night's comedy lineup. But he has alsom made an impression on Los Angeles residents as the voice of "Randolph Beaver," who in the early '90s plugged Fibar Snack Bars and insisted that he wasn't so much a fat beaver as a fluffy one.

Within the indusry, though, the Cleveland native is known as the guy who can do the impossible - improvise voices at a moment's notice for inanimate objects, animals or gleeful fleas.

Mackall said his childhood provided him with the best training. "All of my friends were funny and we all did voices and we were all nuts," he said. "People ask me now, 'How do you make a living in Hollywood?' I tell them I do it by doing the same stuff I got sent away from the dinner table for doing."

Though he said he had wanted to be an actor as a child, Mackall became a copywriter in Los Angeles in the late '80s, when he won a trip to the city after winning a stand-up comic contest in Washington D.C.

Mackall said he fell into the voice-over business eight years ago, when he was clowning at his boss's Christmas party and was overheard by an agent. From there he went on to do voice-over ad campaigns for Nissan, Energizer batteries, Jeep-Eagle, Del Taco, Best Western, Delta Airlines and others.

Mackall said he was very pleased to find the lucrative voice work, particularly because he had arrived in Los Angeles with only $60. He said that when he was down to $40, his wallet disappeared in the Santa Monica apartment he was staying in. "It was so bad that when I was looking at the want ads at the Santa Monica Library, I had to circle around looking for a meter with time on it," Mackall said.

In addition to his voice-over work, Mackall also writes and produces, and has also done comedy writing. Mackall said he hasn't given up on acting, though, and recently performed in a series of one-man shows to benefit the group Athletes and Entertainers for Kids. The show, "Wherever I Go, There We Are," consists of vignettes of episodes in Mackell's life as well as fictional performances.

Despite his success and the prevalence of his voice on advertisements and in such cartoons as "The Mighty Ducks," "All Dogs Go To Heaven" and "The Pink Panther," there is one drawback that some career voice-over artists experience. Namely, people don't believe you when you tell them what it is that you do.

One time, when Mackall and wife, Kris, were rafting in Hawaii, another couple who were with them eventually asked Mackall what he did for a living and decided Mackall was joking when he told them. Mackall said he tried to convince them by slipping into some character voices.

"The guy says, 'Hey, you know, that's pretty good, Maybe you should try auditioning somewhere with that.– Mackall recalled. "He just refused to believe me."


Wherever I Go, There We Are

August 14-20, 1998 | by Jim Crogan

WHEREVER I GO, THERE WE ARE Writer-performer Steve Mackall's weath of experience as a voiceover artist and comedy scribe manifests itself in his artfully layered, near flawlessly timed and often funny solo act. Though he occasionally slips into a voice that's reminiscent of Jim Carrey in The Mask, his contagious enthusiasm helps him connect with the audience. Clearly, Mackall loves the art of storytelling, and that devotion is enhanced by his likable persona and occasionally self-deprecating humor that brings to mind Will Rogers - the subject of one of his stories. Backed by a kitchy set filled with momentos, knickknacks and props (designed by Kris Mackall), Steve Mackall cohesively blends his stories of summer vacations, high school memories, fatherhood, yarns of the road and fantasy meanderings with a set of slides that includes a hysterical yearbook photo of himself as Twinky Boy, with electrically charged hair. The performance is complemented by carefully placed snippets of music and sound effects, designed by Zach Bliss.

Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St.; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (310) 394-9779


"Wherever I Go, There We Are"

July 30, 1998 | Review by Ken Neil

This one-man show relies on our propensity for listening to the telling of stories. Written and performed by Steve Mackall, Wherever I Go...There We Are is a collection of nostalgic anecdotes culled from the author's alleged life and/or the lives of the people he meets. These often fantastic bygone-era vignettes easily invite a suspension of disbelief and avoid dumbing-down the audience by pulling too hard at the heart strings. In fact, at the show's beginning Mackall notes that some of the stories are true, some are not to be believed, and some are both. This disclaimer piques and holds the attention, like that of a child who's savvy to the hyperbole of a yarn-spinning uncle and is always trying to catch the storyteller on the sly.

The play's action is set in an attic cluttered with totems of Americana specific to Mackall's stories. On the walls hang license plates and postcards; a coat rack stands draped with jackets, shirts, a Scottish kilt. Mackall uses these props sparingly, to accentuate the particulars of his stories, while a scrim in the center of the stage's rear wall depicts slides of familiar, representational objects, people, and events referring to the tales' contents. Further assisted by a sound and musical score (engineered by Zach Bliss) whose linear drive aids in the play's movement, Mackall recounts personal boyhood into the winter wonderland of a kindly boss' Hollywood past, as well as legend-has-it origins of unknown, profound icons.

Mackall is a strong performer, most notably when telling his nine stories, which are all very different but work well together as vehicles for the oral tradition. His pauses between and segues into successive stories are at times too heavy on the flourish, but his speaking ability commands the attention and carries the audience through captivating and well-detailed portraits of near-otherworldly scapes.

"Wherever I Go...There We Are," presented by the Santa Monica Playhouse in association with the Writers Bloc at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica, July 25-Aug. 23. (310) 394-9779, ext. 1


Parma Native has A Voice to Remember

Tuesday, July 10th 2001 | by Tom Feran

Steve Mackall's nephew was with a friend when one of Mackall's commercials for Northfield Park came on the radio.

"Per-r-fecta!" Mackall said in the familiar spot, in a piercing tone that's at once energetic, knowing, insinuating and almost tauntingly teasing. "That's my uncle," the nephew said. "The annoying guy," the friend replied.

Mackall laughs about it. He's probably been called worse, but he's definitely been called better. At 41, the Parma native belongs to the exclusive club of Hollywood performers who are seldom seen, much sought and often heard.

For three years, he was the guy on NBC saying, "Up next, a brand-new Seinfeld!" He's the voice ofthe WB's Sunday night comedy lineup, of the Fox Kids Network, and of products and companies from Comp USA to Fruit Loops. He's on cartoons such as "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and "The Mighty Ducks," and he's valued as an artist who can improvise voices for anything from animals to inanimate objects.

He has an Emmy for acting and a Clio for advertising. Those Northfield spots, created by Academy Communications of Cleveland, won five national awards.

Now his voice has led to his first feature film, as a screenwriter. Credit the lucky breaks that were, as they usually are, the residue of hard work and persistence.

Home from Los Angeles for a family gathering last week, he said his early training came from funny friends and life in a family of four kids. His father worked as a Cleveland homicide detective and bricklayer for J&L Steel.

Early on, Mackall thought about acting. After graduating from Padua Franciscan High School and Ohio Univerity, he was selling newpaper ad space in Washington D.C. , and trying to break into stand-up comedy when he got his first break winning an HBO comedy competition in 1986.

First prize was a trip to Los Angeles. Mackall wound up backstage at the first "Comic Relief' show. "It dawned on me that everything I want to do is here," he said. "John Candy and Dick Gregory said, 'Just come out.' I said I don't have a place to stay. 'Just come out.' I'm grateful to this day to them."

He returned to Washington, quit his job and drove back. "By the time I got to L.A.," he said, "I had 60 bucks and lived on a friend's couch. When I was down to 40 bucks, I went to Venice Beach to swim and lost my wallet. So I've got no money and no job."

He got a job, selling ads for LA WEEKLY, and worked the comedy circuit at night. After his act brought him a job writing copy for an ad agency, he started calling Chuck Blore, the radio voice legend who helped launch former Clevelanders such as Jack Riley and Ernie "Ghoulardi" Anderson. Blore hired him as a writer and eased him into voice-overs. The exposure and Mackall's writing led to a job on "Guys Next Door," an NBC Saturday-morning sitcom, bringing more voice work, other shows and the gig announcing NBC's "Must See" comedies. "I was the comic who introduced the comedians who have their own shows," he said. "But it allowed me to write what I wanted to write."

He created "The Blanket Show," a cartoon optioned by Fox that features Randy Travis, Forrest Whitaker and David Hyde Pierce, and "tries to do for preschoolers and bedtime what 'Sesame Street' did for learning." And he wrote and performed "Wherever 1 Go, There We Are," a one-man storytelling show that won him acclaim as "a hip Garrison Keillor meeting a gentile Billy Crystal." Still performed at benefits, especially for kids' causes, it became another break when it was seen twice by Will Aldis, the screenwriter married to Cleveland-bred actress Miriam Flynn. Aldis suggested they collaborate.

Their first movie, a mob comedy called "Avenging Angelo," just finished shooting in Toronto and Sicily. To be released sometime next year, it stars Sylvester Stallohe, Madeleine Stowe and Andy Garcia, and features Anthony Quinn in his final role.

Not bad. More films and shows are ahead, helped by the voice work that doesn't keep Mackall long away from his wife, Kris, and their 5-year-old son, Taylor. How annoying is that? "Once I hated my voice on tape," he said. "Now I get a kick out of it."


Coastal Community Newspapers, July 1998 By David Beebe

"Some are true. Some are not to be believed. Some are both," So says the program that you receive as you are guided to your seat at the small and intimte Santa Monica Playhouse. What the opening line is referring to is Steve Mackall's one man performance of 'Wherever I Go, There We Are', a self written performance and hybrid act of stand up comedy and nine emotional sound designed stories that are performed on the stage of an old attic, each with its own set of rear projected slides and choreographed music that will have your feet dancing.

You will become fully involved with each story, making you feel like you are right there witnessing each one. You will travel back to 1978 and find yourself in a parking lot outside a tavern, and witness first hand a dramatic heartbreaking story about Steve and his friends, then right when your emotions start taking over, Steve will throw you into unstoppable laughter when he tells you about his experience at the DMV. Expect this emotional roller coaster ride throughout the whole show. Each story will touch you in some way, each one will make you think, but remember, some are true, some are not, and some are both.

Mackall, an award winning comedian/actor/writer/producer and voice over artist, recently performed two sold out benefit preview performances, each with its own pair of standing ovations. He already holds a Clio, Emmy, and International Broadcasting Award to his name, and with such talent, he will no doubt add several more.

The entire show, complete with one intermission, is animated, comical, passionate, heartwarming and heartbreaking. The entire experience is one that should not be missed. The whole idea of combining story acts with comedy routines, music and slides may sound silly, but it works.

'Wherever I Go, There We Are' is currently running through August 23rd at the Santa Monica Playhouse. The Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.00 for all seats, with discounts available for students, teachers, seniors and groups of 16 or more. Reservations are required. Pre show, intermission, and post show refreshments are offered at the Box Office Cafe, the newest addition to the Playhouse Theatre. The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street in Santa Monica. Call (310) 3949779, extension 1 for reservations and information.


"Wherever I Go, There We Are" ...Nine times the fun.

Theater Review by Joseph Sirota

Here's a warmly personal, creative one-man, multi-media show centering on a visit to a unique attic that they should never clean up. Steve Mackall, television voice-over artist, steps out from behind the scenes to engross us with nine short stories presented with a combination of slides, music, sounds, and Steve's intriguing, highly punctuated narration. This presentation of the versatile, unconventional Santa Monica Playhouse, is an unusual blend of stand-up comedy, off-the wall zanyness and truly touching personal memories.

Mackall's stories, span a wide and wondrous arc. From the fatal flight of deeply-admired Will Rogers and Wiley Post, and a poem it inspired in Mackall, to a surreal Twilight-Zone-esque tale of skipping work as a teenage gardener along with an aging Hollywood actor who misses his heydays and wife enough to "skate" all the way home to them, Mackall treats each tale with loving care. This is especially true in his stories of youthful life-shaping experiences, ... his own, his friends, and even of people he just once read about. Mackall confides in us, "Some are true. Some are not to be believed." The evening is fascinating and captivating. It's not surprising Mackall is a master story-teller, voice-wise, given his voice-over success, but he proves, that he's even more gifted "in-the-flesh" (no,...not nude, just in-person).

With Mackall writing, performing, and wife, Kris directing, and Bob Dussault producing, this is a small, close-knit, family-like effort. But the SM Playhouse's Co-Artistic Directors, Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, and their Playhouse team deserve credit for their ongoing risk-taking, making possible a wide range of live theater for audiences of all tastes and ages, for as long as I can remember. The current "Wherever I Go...", a short, limited engagement offering, is one worth the effort to not let slip by.

—Wherever I Go, There We Are @ Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica Fri/Sat @ 8PM & Sun @ 6:30PM thru Augsust 23rd. For Info: (310) 394-9779 Ext. 1