Hello again. Today, I’m interviewing Randy West, announcer extraordinaire. Here’s his headshot (so you can see his face while you’re reading).
You may not recognize his face, but you certainly know his voice. Maybe you’ve heard him on this show, or this show, or this show, and certainly on this show. In any case, he’s been on a number of game shows. Anyway, I’m friends with him, so I managed to get an interview with him.
GP: First off, I haven’t read your book, but according to your website, you’ve developed some kind of friendship with Johnny Olson, the original announcer of The Price is Right and Match Game. How much impact did Johnny O have on your career?
RW: Johnny Olson was the single most important influence in my career. From watching him perform his fantastic warm-ups when I was a teenager, to his mentoring me with advice, old scripts and encouragement in my college years, to helping me develop my own stage personna, Johnny was wonderfully generous with his time, knowledge and guidance.
GP: Also, you’ve been on quite a few game shows yourself and made quite a lot of money. Now, what really interests me is the fact that you were on both Hit Man and Press Your Luck, both featuring your predecessor Rod Roddy as announcer. Did you ever think you’d end up replacing him on Price?
RW: Rod and I had a number of mutual friends in radio, even back when I appeared as a contestant on shows he announced. Those contacts led to a friendship with Rod as I was first entering the game show business, but I never suspected I would fill-in for him on any show… much less his and Johnny O’s signature show. There must be some amazing psychic symmetry to the world, because the sequence of events is beyond any possible coincidence.
GP: Speaking of Price, have you seen the new one with Drew Carey? Do you like it? How different do you think it is from when you were there?
RW: Drew’s “Price” started as much the same show as Barker’s, but with a new host’s presentation and style. As the recent seasons have unfolded and the traditional Goodson visions maintained by Roger Dobkowitz and Kathy Greco are being replaced, the show is different on-air as well as in-studio. I have friends who work at the show who help me to understand the challenge Mike Richards is facing in trying to keep the show relevant and timely in the new millenium.
GP: Would Johnny O approve of Drew? Of the “new direction” the show is headed in?
RW: Johnny Olson was the total pro, and adaptable to any style or situation. He always gave his best performance regardless of his opinions of the shows he worked. Sadly, I think he likely would have been deprived of his opportunity to continue at Price were he alive today, simply because of his age – even if he was still 62, as he was for the 1972 debut – and because of his connection to the Barker era of the show.
GP: There’s an increasing trend of people you wouldn’t expect as announcers becoming announcers; Jonathan Mangum (Let’s Make a Deal) and Joey Fatone (Family Feud) for example. Why do you think this trend’s occuring?
RW: The traditional professional criteria for announcers have been relaxed to accommodate the perception that a “name” performer will bring added attention or viewership to a show. In other cases it’s to accommodate performers with a pre-existing relationship with a host. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except when the performer’s skills are not up to traditional standards. A lesser-quality voice without the reading ability, phrasing, controlled energy and polished delivery takes away from the show in subtle, even subconcious ways that can take a toll on the listeners’ ears over time. People change channels for all sorts of reasons they may not be aware of when a show becomes a little boring or annoying. The greater the amount of announcer copy on a program, the more important the nuances of an announcer’s style become.
GP: You’ve probably read the press release about the trio of guest announcers on Price (JD Roberto, Jeff Davis, and Brad Sherwood). Is it harder for someone with your kind of experience to get a job these days?
RW: There’s certainly more competition these days!
GP: Well, the news is in. Kathy Greco’s leaving Price at the end of 2010. It seems that all connections to the pre-Fremantle era (Bob, Roger, Rich, and Kathy) are being forced out. A number of fans (including myself) think Fremantle’s to blame. What’s your stance on all this?
RW: I’m sorry to see a show that has meant so much to so many people go through changes, but TV is a business that is measured by ratings and revenue moreso than emotion. I’m just thrilled to have been part of the TV show, and to have performed to the over 2 million exuberant fans who have seen me in the Price Is Right Live! stage show. Meeting and talking with so many folks who love the program has been an enriching experience.
GP: Finally, what advice do you have for someone who wants to enter your field of work?
RW: There is a ton of information and advice about the biz in the “Interviews” pages of my website – www.tvrandywest.com
GP: Thank you very much, Randy. Good luck with any future projects you may have.
RW: Thanks for asking, Greg!
And there you have it. Randy’s written a book about his mentor and friend, Johnny Olson. I’m going to buy it as soon as I can, and I suggest you buy it as well. Just click on the cover to buy it. Anyway, many thanks go to Randy. If’ you’d like to learn more about him, Carrie Grosvenor from about.com did an interview with him. Here’s the link.
Coming soon, I’m going to be starting a new series of interviews entitled “What Went Wrong?” I’ll be talking with people who worked on the worst game shows in television history, and I’ll ask them what went wrong. You’ll get to hear from the likes of Pat Bullard and Rossi Morreale. It ought to be fun, so join us then.