A lot of people like to collect stamps, assemble little wooden ships inside of glass bottles, or put comic books into air tight sleeves that people can never open to read them again. But when it comes to my own hobbies, I like something that is both sometimes challenging and often pointless, which is why I love to watch TV commercials and try to figure out whose voice is telling me to buy that stuff. For at least two years, my friend Amanda and I, as well as plenty of people who have been equally possessed by this silly challenge, have been trying to identify all of the celebrity voices that we hear in every commercial that crosses our eyeballs and ears on TV. We’ve called it the #CelebrityVoiceoverProject.
It’s gotten to the point, with all of the TV that I turn my back to during the afternoon, that my brain is almost trained to instantly recognize famous voices, so that I can raise a fist in the air in triumph while my dog stares at me like I’m an A-hole. Of course, it’s no secret that celebrities love to shill for all sorts of companies, regardless of whether or not they believe in the project, because a paycheck is a paycheck, and those yachts ain’t gonna fill themselves with champagne and models. But a lot of A- and B-listers still try to keep a low profile on their supplementary income by just lending their voices to American TV commercials, because maybe they think that our simple, blue collar brains won’t be able to tell that a certain star of The Godfather once showed up in a Jeep commercial.
Obviously, we know that Neil Patrick Harris is the overly-charming actor trying to talk us into drinking Heineken, while Matthew McConaughey tells us how he has driven a Lincoln long before he was paid to. Even Channing Tatum famously got his start in show business by appearing in a hilariously Hoobastank-packed Mountain Dew commercial. Some of us might see the Smirnoff ads with Alison Brie and Adam Scott and quietly wish we were hanging out with them like a trio of best friends. Also, Mila Kunis makes me want to drink only Jim Beam forever and ever, even though I’m a Michter’s man. Amazing how much a celebrity can influence a simpleton in a key demographic like me.
As for those celebrity voices that creep inside our brains and try to jam our minds with subliminal desires to purchase everything from cars to yogurt, I’ve been compiling this list of celebrity spokespeople for some time now, and with a little help from Twitter friends, iSpot and AdWhoIs.com, I think we may have assembled a truly comprehensive record of the last few years of celebrity voiceovers. In conclusion, I need a real hobby.
Acura – James Spader
It’s kind of like Raymond Reddington is telling me to buy a car, and that scares me because I could be struck by random missiles at any point if I don’t get an Acura.
American Airlines – Jon Hamm
This is Jon Hamm’s first appearance on this list, and even when he’s not being absurdly handsome and charming, he has the kind of voice that makes me forget that flying is awful and planes are filled with terrible, miserable and selfish people.
American Express – Claire Danes
I know this is supposed to be about celebrity voiceovers, but when it comes to Claire Danes, her best commercial will always be the “Boyfriend Trousers” GAP ad with Patrick Wilson. Keep that one in mind for when Wilson finally becomes a breakout star next year.
Applebee’s – Jason Sudeikis
In addition to Sudeikis, who is so freaking charming that just his voice actually makes me think about eating at Applebee’s, that’s obviously also the boss from Workaholics. It’s a big, old celebrity universe and we’re just eating two meals for $20 in it.
Arby’s – Ving Rhames
Two thoughts: 1) No, Mr. Rhames, I am not intimidated by Arby’s meat. 2) Shouldn’t the only Arby’s spokesperson from now til the end of time be Patrick Warburton? How he ended up as a talking can of oil on Napa is beyond me.
Army – Gary Sinise
The only choices for the voice of Army’s commercials were Lt. Dan or Steven Seagal, and the latter chose to promote Russia instead.
Autotrader – Christian Slater
How does the star of Gleaming the Cube end up voicing Autotrader ads and not one of these commercials has someone hanging from the back of a Corvette on a skateboard? At least show someone buying the Pizza Hut truck.
Bank of America – Will Arnett
Once Kiefer Sutherland decided to get back in front of the camera to push tequila – one of the most appropriate celebrity endorsements I could ever imagine – Bank of America replaced Jack Bauer with Gob Bluth.
Benjamin Moore – Brad Pitt
Upon first listen, Brad Pitt for a paint company sounds a bit odd, but the actor teamed up with the company as part of his Make It Right organization to help repaint the homes of the Lower Ninth Ward in Louisiana. In conclusion, Brad Pitt is still pretty awesome.
Best Buy – Kevin Connolly
If you’re going to listen to someone about buying electronics from Best Buy, you could do worse than E from Entourage. Although, we’re very lucky this didn’t lead to Nike launching a Turtle campaign.
BMW – Chris Pine
I wonder how much Captain Kirk gets for that brief line. Probably enough to buy his own BMW or three.
Buick – Kevin Bacon
It would have been great if Buick had somehow turned this into a crossover campaign with The Following, so that Ryan Hardy could always show up to where the murderers are waiting to ambush him 30 minutes before backup in his brand new Buick.
Cadillac – Aaron Paul
Over the last few years (or ad campaigns), the luxury automobile manufacturer has gone from Larry Fishburne to Aaron Paul to Neal McDonough, who also used to do Buick ads and is now in front of the camera for Cadillac. I just wish that they had kept Paul so he could do their ads like he did the Xbox commercial and shout, “HEY YO, buy a Caddy, bitch.”
Centrum Silver – Martin Sheen
Listen, old people, if President Jed Bartlet tells you to take your vitamins to protect your eyes, take vitamins to protect your damn eyes.
Chase Freedom – Julianna Margulies
Her voice is one billion times more enjoyable than watching the guy who played Gaylord Felcher on 30 Rock sing awful renditions of “Footloose” while dancing through stores.
Chevrolet – John Cusack
This is probably the most obvious voiceover ad there is because Cusack’s familiar voice is attached to every commercial that Chevy produces, from the Malibu to the trucks.
Coke Zero – H. Jon Benjamin
Sterling Archer’s voice should be used for everything. It would probably save the entire economy.
Coldwell Banker – Tom Selleck
Magnum PI’s voice is like Valium. Seleck should be hired to calm people down after traumatic experiences and natural disasters. The government should bring him in to deliver horrible news. He could tell us that the economy has completely crashed and the dollar is worthless and I’d be like, “Aw, Tom Selleck seems wonderful.”
Delta – Donald Sutherland
Sutherland’s another beloved actor whose voice could tame wild animals. However, the biggest thing I take away from this recent commercial is that I’ve always wanted to know how bags are moved around once they go beyond those black flaps. Clearly, I am fascinated by the most pointless things.
Dodge Ram – Sam Elliot
As much as I enjoy Elliot’s voice, he should always be in front of the camera, using his mustache to convince me to buy everything. I hate pickles, but if he did a commercial for Vlasic Pickles, I’d probably own 10 jars.
Duracell – Jeff Bridges
The Dude a-buys Duracell batteries, am I right? That’s a quality joke.
eSurance – John Krasinski
Jim from The Office got in front of the camera once for eSurance in a post-Super Bowl ad, but his quirky, boy-next-door charm doesn’t make me want to buy insurance as much as his voice does. Note to eSurance, though: Jenna Fischer would have been way better.
Fage Yogurt – Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe as the devil pitching for Mercedes was awesome. Willem Dafoe’s voice pushing yogurt is creepy. Fruity and full of vitamins, but creepy.
Follow Your NOLA – John Goodman
John Goodman, who also provides the voice for Wyndham Rewards, is originally from St. Louis, as he is a classy and intelligent Cardinals fan like I am, but Cajun Guy told me that New Orleans apparently stole him. Damn their good food.
Ford Service – Jason Alexander
George Costanza couldn’t stand listening to his own voice, so I’m not sure why Ford Service chose it to tell us when to buy new tires.
Ford Trucks and Vans – Dennis Leary
DENIS LEARY IS A MAN, OKAY, SO YOU WANNA DRIVE A MAN’S TRUCK THEN YOU BETTER DRIVE A FORD TRUCK (or van, in case you’re in the transit industry and can’t use a truck) OTHERWISE YOU’RE NOT A MAN LIKE DENIS LEARY.
GE Locomotive – William Daniels
A tip of the conductor’s hat to GE for reminding everyone that before he was boring, nosey Mr. Feeny, William Daniels was KITT on Knight Rider.
GMC – Will Arnett
Again, it’s so hard to take any company seriously when it’s the voice of Gob Bluth and Devon Banks trying to talk us into it. It’s like having Jaleel White sell insurance or cancer medicine.
Go RVing – Tom Selleck
I’m not saying that I’d ever buy an RV, but every time that Selleck tells me how awesome it is to own an RV, I start looking at listings and consider becoming a traveling blogger.
Gold Peak Tea – Ron Howard
I love Opie as much as the next guy, and he proved with Arrested Development that he’s a hell of a narrator, but I will always prefer the Gold Peak commercial that has the bulldog in the kiddy pool.
Google Play – Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. could tell me that a cartoon safe fell on my dog and crushed her into a pancake and I’d be like, “Thanks Iron Man!” As far as an alternative, Rashida Jones isn’t too shabby either.
Hennessy V.S. – Nas
If there’s one thing that I know about Nas, it’s that he’s the voice of Hennessy’s “What’s Your Wild rabbit” campaign. Also, he’s a really good rapper. That’s about all I know about Nas.
Hillshire Farms – Kevin Bacon
I guess if Kevin Bacon hadn’t had such great success as an actor after the 80s, he could have always capitalized on having such a great and beloved last name in meat commercials.
Home Depot – Ed Harris
As far as I know, Harris has loaned his voice to two companies for their commercials. Home Depot is one. The other one, which we’ll get to shortly, might be the most bizarre of all.
Hormel – Mary Steenburgen
As usual, everything goes back to Seinfeld or 30 Rock for me, so it’s hard to take Diana Jessup seriously, when she just got done threatening the UN Ambassador from Transylvania. But damn it if Steenburgen doesn’t have an amazingly motherly voice.
Hyundai – Jeff Bridges
What I’d really love to see is all of these celebrity car pitchmen in a room trying to actually sell me on their cars. I have a feeling I’d leave and head straight to a Hyundai dealership, if I knew where one was.
iPad Air – Bryan Cranston
All that yapping from Walter White and not a single mention of how it can store my meth recipes for easy sharing with other dealers.
iPhone 6 – Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake
You’re probably well aware that Apple’s latest (arguably really annoying) commercial features Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, who are otherwise the world’s most delightful celebrity BFF. Still, it’s a nice upgrade from the iPhone 5’s celebrity voice, Jeff Daniels.
Jaguar – Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Pumpkin Patch has been both behind and in front of the camera for Jaguar’s ads in the past, but all I care about is the way that he says, “Jag-ye-war.” And to follow Benny up with the latest “Good to Be Bad” campaign is really impressive.
Jeep Grand Cherokee – George Clooney
You can hear Clooney trying to hide his voice in there a little, but it’s him. We all know it’s the former Most Eligible Bachelor in the Universe pushing that Grand Cherokee on us. Amazingly, as much as I love Clooney, I still like Al Pacino’s Any Given Sunday commercial for Jeep way more. If I didn’t love my old Wrangler, these ads could convince me to upgrade to the SUV. But then, I wouldn’t be able to Jeep wave.
La Quinta – Fred Willard
I don’t know about you guys, but I am super pumped to go stay at an average hotel now.
LensCrafters – Kevin Spacey
Spacey has also provided the voice for some old Kayak Travel ads while serving as the face of E*Trade. Basically, this guy either really believes in a variety of products, or he might be available for your company’s next ad.
LG Appliances – Leslie Mann
This is one of the most recent commercials that made me say, “Wait, is that? Yeah, that’s Leslie Mann’s voice, right? But that’s not Leslie Mann! Why are they playing games with me? Am I losing my mind?!?!”
Liberty Mutual – Paul Giamatti
Pig Vomit took over the voicing gig after Liev Schreiber, which sounds like a downgrade, but Giamatti has a surprisingly reassuring voice. However, I’d still be pretty livid if some A-hole crushed my tiny little car like that.
LifeLock – Rob Riggle
“Hey guys, we need someone with a really loud voice to drive home the point that everyone should be terrified of having everything stolen at any moment. What’s that? Rob Riggle is available? Yeah, he’s loud enough to scare people.”
Lincoln – Eric Balfour
Before Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey would turn Lincoln commercials into some bizarre jam session of mind poetry, actor Eric Balfour was the voice trying to sell us on “big ideas.” Remember Eric Balfour? People tried to make him into a star and it never worked out? Not ringing a bell? That’s a shame.
Lowe’s – Gene Hackman
On one hand, I think Ed Harris is pretty awesome. On the other hand, it’s f*cking Gene Hackman for Lowe’s. I have to go with Hackman and Lowe’s, mainly because the DIY Crashers hosts always hang out there and I would love my backyard done, please.
Maker’s Mark – Jimmy Fallon
Before he was slinging the iPhone 6, as if it needs celebrity-voiced ads, Fallon was telling us what else we already know – Maker’s Mark is yummy to my tummy.
Manwich – Nick Offerman
I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten a Manwich in my life, but Ron Swanson pitching this delightfully-named food item has strongly made me consider trying (just so I could go back to not eating them anymore).
Mercedes – Jon Hamm
Damn you, Jon Hamm, and your smooth voice and good looks and great taste in baseball teams.
Miller Lite – Thomas Haden Church
Just hearing Church’s voice makes me miss Wings. That was a pretty great TV show. I should write something about it soon.
National Association of Realtors – Ed Harris
Like I said, Harris picked one campaign that sort of baffled me, but I guess he believes in stimulating job growth by building and selling more homes. Or he believes in stimulating his own economy with paychecks.
National Car Rental – Patrick Stewart
More Patrick Stewart voiceovers, please. Combine them with Sir Ian McKellen, too. Do this forever, companies.
Nationwide – Julia Roberts
I thought that combining Julia Roberts’ voice with the giant creepy babies was pretty bad – I have an inexplicable issue with Roberts – but the new commercial with Peyton Manning humming and singing the jingle over and over is way worse.
Navy – Keith David
What’s that, Army? You got Sinise? Well the Navy has Frank from They Live. Advantage: Navy.
Nissan – Robert Downey Jr.
Damn it, Iron Man’s using adorable polar bears to guilt me into buying a Nissan Leaf now. Clooney, you got anything for me? Can Jeep beat this? I’ll hang up and wait.
Olive Garden – Julie Bowen
Claire Pritchett is just so peppy and happy when she describes the all-you-can-eat pasta that it totally makes me forget about how depressing it was to read all of those people complaining that their lives were ruined because they couldn’t get endless pasta cards.
Oscar Meyer – Chris Parnell
For some reason, Chris Parnell still doesn’t have his own TV series, but at least he remains in our lives through a variety of commercial gigs. It could be worse… he could join Happy Madison.
Pennzoil – Bryan Cranston
Here’s the extent of my knowledge of car oil – the guy at my local shop changes it for me and promises that my Jeep will run fine. Somehow Cranston makes oil sound way more exciting, though.
Planters – Bill Hader
This isn’t technically a voiceover, but Bill Hader is wonderful and he’s the voice of Planters, so it’s good enough for me.
PUR Water Filters – Zach Braff
If I was going to describe a natural resource that perfectly describes Zach Braff, it would probably be purified tap water. Braff was also the Cottonelle puppy, before he’d go on to ask for money on Kickstarter to make his dream movies.
Pure Michigan – Tim Allen
Unlike Goodman in New Orleans, Tim Allen was born and raised as a real macho manly man in Michigan, so he wants us to go there so we can learn how to be grunting alpha males, too.
Quickbooks – Chris Parnell
Once we’re done eating our deli meat sandwiches, Parnell wants us to get our taxes and finances in order. He’s basically like our dad’s voice.
Southwest Airlines – Rashida Jones
I don’t want to be what the cool kids call a hater, but when it comes to flying, there are few things that make me pull my hair out more than Southwest’s “inventive” seating arrangements, as the last time I flew that airline, I paid for the first group upgrade and then watched as an entirely family cut the line and the crew didn’t give a baby’s fart who paid what. That said, Rashida Jones makes me think Southwest is wonderful.
TD Ameritrade – Matt Damon
Matt Damon reportedly earns $3 million just to record voiceovers for TD Ameritrade. Come back next week for my list of things I’d do for in 20 seconds for $3 million. Spoiler: It’s disgusting.
TurboTax – John C. Reilly
Prior to Reilly, Mark-Paul Gosselaar provided the voice for TurboTax, but Zack Morris doesn’t make me want to file my taxes. He makes me want to withhold my earnings and be a rebel. Dr. Steve Brule makes me want to be responsible.
Tylenol – Susan Sarandon
Talk about another cool, calming, motherly voice making me feel better about my sick child. I don’t even have a child, but Sarandon’s voice still makes me think everything is okay.
United Airlines – Matt Damon
This ad was a minute long. How much did Damon get for that? $9 million? His own island? A private 747? Probably all of the above.
Verizon – Ty Burrell
Ty Burrell makes everything sound goofy and fun. He could report Ebola news and I’d giggle while zipping up my new bubble suit.
Visa – Morgan Freeman
I wish I could steal the $3 million that Damon made from the TD Ameritrade commercial, so I could pay Freeman to do a commercial about me sitting on the couch, watching his Visa commercials on TV. It would be so meta.
Walgreen’s – John Corbett
Once Applebee’s decided to pep its ads up with Sudeikis, that meant that its former voice guy had to look elsewhere for work. Corbett found a new home in Walgreens, which is about as exciting as anything Corbett has ever done.
Yoplait – Lisa Kudrow
Hey, it’s Phoebe from Friends! She was the zany, quirky one who grew up on the streets and mugged people to get by. Better eat her yogurt or she’ll stab us!
Zyrtec – Ed O’Neill
While O’Neill has a great, identifiable voice that is good for any product, even allergy medicine that routinely saves me from losing my mind, I’m still kind of bummed that he’s never done a shoe commercial. That would probably be the greatest commercial of all-time.