How It Feels To Be The Voice Of Hulu

How twelve words seared their way into the brains of tens of millions of internet TV viewers. And what it’s like to say them.

If you watch TV on the internet, you can probably recite it from heart: The following program is brought to you with limited commercial interruption by…

You’ve heard it hundreds, if not thousands, of times: The following program is brought to you with limited commercial interruption by…

You’ve wondered if the man with the voice noticed, as you have, that the “commercial interruption” has become a little less “limited” over the years: The following program is brought to you with limited commercial interruption by…

The man with the voice — the Hulu Man — is Dave Fennoy. He’s in your head, and he knows it.

“My girlfriend and I were out to dinner one evening,” Fennoy told BuzzFeed in an interview, “and a waiter who wasn’t ours kept walking by the table. He finally came over and said, wow, man, you know you got a pretty good voice, man.’”

“Then he goes, you’re the Hulu guy, aren’t you? And I go, “yeah, and you’re watching way too much Hulu.”

Fennoy, who happily refers to himself as The Hulu Guy, had been voice acting for over 20 years when the Hulu job presented itself. “The gig came by chance,” says Fennoy. He was at a party a few years ago when a man overhead his voice and asked him about his line of work. Fennoy told him he was a voice actor, and the man hit him with a pitch. “Well you know there’s this new thing called Hulu, and they’re looking for a voice,” the man told him. “Why don’t you give me your email address and I’ll send you a script.”

“A week later,” Fennoy says, “I was the Hulu guy.”

Fennoy started voice acting as soon as he moved to Los Angeles, in 1990. His first mainstream work was in cartoons: he provided various voices on a short-lived animated New Kids on the Block series, on ProStars, and in the Darkwing Duck series. He soon added credits from video games, voicing characters in the Leisure Suit Larry and Monkey Island series, with continued work in cartoons — he provided voices on Rugrats, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, and Captain Planet.

Fennoy did plenty of promo work, too, either in the form of commercials or as the voice of CBS daytime — “for the soap operas,” he says. “I was voice for the Disney Channel for a number of years, before they went all-kid,” he says, “I was the voice of SoapNet when it first started. I’ve done promos for ABC, NBC – I was the voice of Later with Greg Kinnear when it was on.”

These three tracks of his career have since run in parallel: He voices Commander Kellogg in Archer, will narrate a nature documentary for Animal Planet, and voiced Jed Masterson in Fallout: New Vegas. His most recent, and widely noticed, video game work was in the lead role in the Walking Dead series, as Lee Everett.

Though he admits he’s not a gamer, video game work has become a increasingly important part of Fennoy’s career; he’s lent his voice to over 50 games in the last two decades, and suggests that the voiceover industry has changed irrevocably over the last decade — largely due to games.

“There was time,” he says cartoonishly, in the style of an old commercial pitchman, “when these people made a lot of money.” Fennoy was friends with the late Don LaFontaine, the voice of thousands of movie trailers, who he said “was making $30,000 to $40,000 a day.”

“You somewhat aspire to that kind of career,” says Fennoy, with a hint of melancholy.

In the context of the voiceover and TV industries, the Hulu gig represents a bit of a throwback. “When you think of any network on old-style TV, appointment television,” Fennoy says, “you think of those promo guys. If you’re watching the networks, they have very distinctive voices doing their promos.”

Hulu is the poster child for the end of appointment television, but Fennoy’s job is largely the same one held by the men whose voices introduced programming on national networks, 50 years ago.

The only difference, according to Fennoy: “Whereas most of them are telling you about particular shows, I’m merely telling you about advertisers.”

The Hulu bumper is delivered today as it was written in the first script Fennoy was handed; he says the distinctive intonations, however, were his. The bumper has become an important part of Hulu’s ad deck, too, where it’s listed to buyers as follows: “VO: up to 3 versions (includes dateline info only), 11 syllables after the intro.”

When Fennoy recorded the first version of the bumper, the site’s visits were measured in the thousands. Now, Hulu is pulling in more than 40 million viewers a month, nearly all of whom hear Fennoy’s voice at one point or another. This short drop, in other words, has come to define Hulu. And those twelve words, plus those 11 fluid syllables, may be — by brute force — the defining sounds of Fennoy’s career.

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