MASHPEE – John Taylor’s voice is his instrument.
“He can do the cutest bunny voice you’ve ever heard in your life to the most evil, dripping vampire you’ve ever heard in your life that makes your hair stand up,” said his friend and fellow voice actor, DB Cooper of Maine. “You can hear his teeth when he’s evil.”
Taylor, 48, of Mashpee, is the co-host of the Wicked Cool Morning Show on Cool 102, and a part-time penguin, vampire, bunny, or you name it. “The guy is monumental,” said Cooper. “He’s got more control over his instrument than most people I know,” she said.
Seemingly, he controls it with his hands. When he is performing in what he calls his stand-up coffin, a soundproof home-studio booth that is slightly smaller than a phone booth, he is a spastic symphony with seemingly random weird hand gestures and body twists that somehow transform his entire being into the voice he is portraying.
“This kind of work is very physical,” said Cooper. “The good guys are very physical. I know guys who have actually fainted while shouting in a battle for a video game.” Cooper, who teaches a voice class called, “How To Take Bullets, Howl In Agony, And Die,” said, “It’s a physical job if you do it right. Every gesture you make has an impact on how people hear it.”
His shoulders rise. His hands spaz out, or they focus inward in some sort of meditational séance calling upon the soul of an old ghost. Each voice has very different gestures.
“I flop around a lot,” said Taylor. “That’s why I’m not on TV. I look stupid.”
No. Not stupid. No one could ever accuse the immensely quick-witted Taylor of that. But possessed… Yes, that’s how he looks. You want a bunny? You’re getting a bunny -100 percent bunny. “Bunny” just looks different when it’s dressed as John Taylor.
A young Dick Cavett
It began early, at 6-years old, when he was given a Craig tape recorder for Christmas at his home in Woburn and began interviewing everybody. “This is a lifelong mania,” said Taylor. “Other kids were playing Cowboys & Indians, and I was pretending to be Dick Cavett.”
Always curious, at 7, in 1972, he was reading Newsweek to discover what’s going on and recalled thinking, “ Ah, Haldeman, what a jerk.”
In school, he says, his best subject was “backtalk. I was good at that in-the-moment improv where you could sass your teacher and the class cracks up. I was a class clown.” Trying to decide if getting in trouble was worth it, Taylor said, “It was a calculation of whether the joke was worth it. Every time it was.”
As his wit and knowledge developed, so did his passion for being in front of a microphone – even a fake one. “We had our own radio station – WTTC – the Taylor Taping Company, with my brother Ted,” said Taylor. “My grandmother had these awesome swivel talk show chairs. So there was a show, the John Taylor Review.”
His older brother had to work the fade-up track lights to be in unison when Taylor and his cousin “swiveled in unison to meet the non-existent audience.” Taylor remembers being a “stern task master” and getting angry if his brother didn’t get the lights just right. They would often do several tries of just the opening.
By the time he was 13, he had made demo tapes and brought them to radio stations across the Boston area. He landed on a public affairs show for teens.
Along the way, he realized he could get work with his voice doing more than just radio and he landed a gig in high school doing German-English translation tapes that were recorded live with two 60-year-old German women who smoked incessantly and were “the right age to have served in the Gestapo.”
“After high school, I didn’t have much of a direction,” said but when his father asked in late summer if he was interested in college, Taylor said he was thinking of Emerson College. “My father was something of a software consultant. He was very bright, he went to MIT, but I have no clue what he even did.”
His father got him into Emerson College with “a cashier’s check,” and “I went into acting,” said Taylor. “I had nothing to do with radio in college.”
Radio at Emerson College had a hierarchy that he described as “very stylish, music enthusiasts, basically frustrated rock stars.” Taylor, the radio guy, didn’t feel welcome on the radio. So he acted. And then he got sidetracked by improv comedy, performing in a troupe called, “This is Pathetic.”
“That was my island of misfit toys,” he said. “I wasn’t hip and cool enough to be on the radio station but I could make people laugh.” He felt, “I’m home.”
He recalled goofy sketches such as the tea police. “It was a cop show, but they stopped for tea a lot.” He was in the Emerson class with David Cross of Arrested Development, Laura Kightlinger formerly of Saturday Night Live, and the comic Anthony Clark from the TV series, “Yes Dear.”
Suddenly, he didn’t need to compete with frustrated rock stars. As a cast member of “This is Pathetic, “we were kind of rock stars. There were 250 people auditioning to be on the show.”
He took a comedy class with Dennis Leary. “We started out with 20 in the class but people with asthma dropped out,” said Taylor, who was able to stay in. “I was raised on second hand smoke,” he said.
But then, after two years at Emerson, “My Dad’s fortunes shifted in his company and I didn’t go to college anymore.”
“My grandmother said, ‘Why don’t you do that radio thing?’ ”
A Career Is Born
After he left Emerson, his grandmother gave him some money to go to a studio in Boston and make a professionally produced fake radio show. “We made 100 copies of it and we drove to every town we saw a stick in the air and we pulled over. The first stop was the radio station I work at now,” said Taylor.
For five weeks, across Massachusetts, into Maine and New Hampshire, Taylor and his grandmother searched for work. “She was awesome. She was my biggest fan,” he said.
Sometimes he would go in and come out and she would ask if he talked to the manager, and he might answer that the manager was in a meeting. “She’d say, ‘Well, I’m enjoying my book,” so he would go back in and wait to talk the manager. In this, he learned persistence.
“I believed it would happen and my grandmother helped me believe,” said Taylor.
He landed a job in Rochester, New Hampshire but realized that although he had on-air skills, he actually had no technical skills. “The first day, I didn’t know how to run the equipment. Thankfully, a little hurricane named Gloria came in and knocked out all the power for a week,” said Taylor. While the station was off the air, he learned enough technical skills to get by when it went back on the air.
His next job was a morning show in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire when the station manager “saw I had enough B.S. to be mildly entertaining.
He took another job in in the 1980s in Worcester, where he became friends with the night deejay, Joe Rossetti. Taylor and Rossetti are now partners on Cape Cod, co-hosts of the Wicked Cool Morning Show.
As his career progressed, “I never expected anything. I always thought I would be found out the whole time, but you always bluff your way forward.”
Florida, Then Hollywood
In 1997, he moved to West Palm Beach, Florida with no job. “I moved for love,” he said.
Then he got a job in radio because, “I don’t know how to do anything else. I don’t want to say the company I worked for but I’ll give you the initials, CBS.” The “big bloodshot eye” had a “different reality than a small broadcast group,” he said. “People on the staff had boats and second homes.”
He moved to Fort Lauderdale. In radio, he’d always done commercials, so he built a home studio Fort Lauderdale. He also taught radio at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting at the Florida campus.
He lived in Florida until 2005 when a friend living in Los Angeles suggested Taylor move there. Less than a month later, he moved west.
“I loved L.A. I still do I think it’s awesome. Yeah, there’s a lot of people. There’s also a lot of talent.” In L.A., “there’s always this feeling that something unfrigging-believable is about to happen, because it usually is.”
“I got to meet some of my heroes, people you don’t even know who they are. Just to get see some of these people first as a fan, then a mentor. and then a friend.”
He took classes. ““You don’t just learn from the teachers. You learn from the other people in the class. I’ve spent a lot of money on coaching,” said Taylor. “There is a certain amount of technique in voice acting.”
As Cooper said, “Sure, everyone’s been talking since they’re 2 years old. Well, everyone’s been walking since they were 1, why don’t they go out and do ballet. It looks so easy, but it’s the same thing. “
Talent and technique are crucial, but Taylor added, “You have to get an agent. You have to get a pipeline to certain jobs that are cordoned off.”
Taylor, affable, witty and talented, found his way to many of those jobs. He has introduced the Beach Boys, announced at the Playboy Mansion, and he did he did voices for Mark Fiore, political cartoonist working in flash technology to create 2-1/2 minute cartoons, with some characters and narration done by Taylor.
“I’ve done over 200 of them for him,” said Taylor. “In 2010 he submitted 15 of them, 13 that I worked on, for the Pulitzer Prize, and he won.” Taylor played a newsreel announcer and a cute dog on these cartoons which he described as “very lefty.”
Although he was getting fun,exciting work, Taylor said, “I didn’t live a Hollywood life. I lived at Beachwood and Franklin, right below the Hollywood sign in the Hills.”
“I had a problem with a rare and elusive condition called, diabetes. I got unneccessarily sick, said Taylor. I tried to buy individual health care but you can’t buy it if you have diabetes. I thought I’m going to have to get a job to get health care.”
He discovered his current job through an advertisement. A Cape Cod radio station was looking for a morning co-host. The existing host was Joe Rossetti, his friend from Worcester. “The cool thing was, it’s Joe,” said Taylor.
Rossetti helped Taylor audition, creating a bi-coastal tape that sounded like they were in the same studio. The audition gave the station manager a chance to know they would work well together, said Taylor. “Joe is so talented. We’re like two brothers. This is the right fit for me.”
And Rossetti said they energize each other. “There are days you’re just not into it but you have to be. We kind of pick each other up,” he said.
Taylor’s energy is infectious, said Rossetti. “The day he came on board the whole premise of the radio station was reborn. I’ve been doing this a long time and I believe that no matter what station you are on, the morning show sets the stage. It basically drives the shop.”
Taylor’s typical radio morning of friendly improv topicality and classic rock, is anchored on both sides of the day by his other career as a voice actor and voice-over artist. “I turn my microphone on at home at 3:30 A.M. And I shut it off at 7:30 or 8 P.M.,” he said.
“I’ve always felt happy where I was,” said Taylor. He added that he particularly likes likes “the quality of life on the Cape. I’m looking out the window and I see an osprey. In Hollywood, I looked out the window and I saw an alley, well, and the sign.”
“When you get on the Cape, it’s a different vibe,” said Taylor. “All the trouble is on the other side of the canal.”
His health is excellent. “I have good doctors. I’m taking insulin.”
Man, Bunny, Ghost and More
“He’s got so much energy,” said his radio partner, Rossetti.
“He’s a real jaw-on-the-floor kind of character,” said Cooper, who has directed Taylor in many video game productions.
“He influences the entire production by making it stronger. If you are lucky enough to have a role in the same production as John Taylor, you become better than you are,” said Cooper. “There’s something amazing that happens. The whole is bigger than the parts and he’s the catalyst. He’s that guy all the time. He’s that guy that makes your production better by just being in it.”
One production he’s been in for three years is the Chica Show on the Sprout television network. Taylor is the voice of a loveable bunny named Bunji. Mario Lopez plays a loveable rag doll named Stitches. Taylor, who does his part from his Mashpee studio, has never met Lopez.
Every day he is working on one part or another, taping commercials, doing a tagline for a radio station or TV station, and, always, he is auditioning.
“Yeah, it’s brutally competitive,” said Cooper. “There are 200 to 300 people vying for one job. On the other hand, there’s only one John Taylor.”
— Brian Tarcy