Teacher Luke: In this episode I was invited to the apartment of my friend Robert for a cup of very specially brewed tea and some conversation, which you can actually listen to here, right now, with your ears (and some kind of headphones/speaker system).
Robert is 110% American, and was born in Minnesota, which is in the heart of the American mid-west. This makes him a kind of red-neck cowboy in my opinion. He is also a direct descendent of William Wallace (yes, Braveheart) and now lives in Paris where he works as a voice-over artist, comedian and clown. He also looks a bit like Heath Ledger, the Joker from the Batman movie The Dark Knight.
Click here to visit Robert’s website http://www.frenchfriedtv.com
In our conversation, which you can listen to whenever you want, I interview Robert using the usual questions: What made you move to Europe? Did you experience culture shock when you moved to France? What are the differences between France and the USA? Have you been to London? How did you manage to learn French to a good standard? But we talk about all kinds of ridiculous stuff along the way!
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Transcript: Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another episode of Luke’s English Podcast. In this one I´m joined by a friend of mine who is at the moment in the kitchen making a cup of tea, well, making two cups of tea. We’ve been discussing the techniques of doing it. We’ve decided to go, maybe for the first time for me, we’ve decided to go for the cocktail, and that means we’re gonna mix two different brands, and different flavours, types of tea in the same pot, ok? I’ve never done this before, and I drink a lot of tea, but Robert is American, as you’ve just heard and he’s a maverick, he doesn’t play by the rules. He’s like the character Maverick in Top Gun. You never know what he’s gonna do next. You think: “ok, let’s just have a cup of tea with Robert”, and Robert’s all kind of like “let’s mix the tea bags!” And then, you know, next thing you know you’re on some wild adventure into the land of cocktailed tea. We’ll be letting you know the standard of this new tea recipe which Robert has come up with. The two teas which we’re mixing, and it’s gonna be a very complicated mix, because I just bought from the supermarket a box of Twinning’s green tea with mint and spices. Now that´s got at least three spices. I don´t know the name of them because they’re written in French, but I think it´s cinnamon and several other things. So that’s already, quite a complicated mix: Green tea, mint and three types of spices. That’s pretty much five things. And that´s just one of the types of tea.
And ok, and Robert has got already in the flat a box from “Monoprix”, which is a local supermarket, so we’re mixing brands as well as different types of tea. And this is black tea, so we’re mixing green tea and black together? You can’t do that. Can you? (Background Robert’s voice: Madness, is pure madness!!). It is, isn’t it? It´s got to be crazy. I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before: mixed green tea and black tea. It´s a revolution. But we’ll tell you how it is while we’re drinking it. And so this black tea has got a caramel flavour to it (Background Robert´s voice: it is the longest introduction I’ve ever had in my live). This is not the longest introduction. Maybe the longest introduction you’ve ever had, but sometimes, episodes of Luke’s English Podcast are, sort of, seventy five per cent introduction and twenty five per cent actual content. Ok? Often the way it works. So, I’m still in the process of introducing Robert here. He kindly invited me over to his place where he’s making tea and we’re going to record a ground breaking podcast for you to listen to. It’s pure madness, apparently. You’re gonna hear from Robert properly in due course, when I finally get round to actually talking to him. But let me just give you a little bit of background, a little bit of information about Robert. His name is Robert Hoehn, and you got to pronounce the name correctly. Otherwise you’ll be in a world of pain…or champagne!…maybe, I don´t know, maybe if you are a lady and you pronounce the name wrong, then that’s just quite a nice introduction to the world of Robert Hoehn. So anyway, his name is Robert Hoehn, he’s been living here in Paris for a number of years. “How many years now?” Robert: “eleven”. Eleven years is he’s been living here. He is originally from the United States of America. He’s from Minnessota I believe. We´ll be talking about that properly in a few moments. He is also the guy behind the amazing online video channel “French fried TV” which you can find if you visit my web site, you just can find a link to it there. Otherwise just go on to google and type in “French fried TV” and you’ll see all his videos there. They’re very entertaining, and he’s also the guy behind the French Fried comedy night, which is a comedy show, a stand up comedy show, in English, in Paris at the moment, which takes place every Tuesday evening at a Place called the Café Paname, near Republique metro station. So, I think it´s pretty much my introduction. He’s a full time American but now living in Paris. Hundred and ten per cent American. Ok, so Robert, I’m gonna now talk to you and ask you various questions. Robert is currently creeping across his apartment in order to check his mobile phone cause he just receive, quite possibly, a very important message. So I’m just padding now. I’m just padding, just sort of…continuing to talk. The intro is still going on even though Robert is otherwise engaged. Ok, you’re back now. Ok, right, let´s go. Let’s go and speak to Robert Hoehn, “shall we”? Let’s move over to the counter area here in the kitchen, and we’re going to…we’re going to talk to Robert and ask him a few questions. I don’t know why I’m speaking like this. Suddenly I’m the presenter of a children’s TV show from the nineteen eighties. Anyway, I’m here with Robert. He’s an actual American. It´s quite exciting!
LUKE: So, Robert, how are you?
R: Yeah! Pretty good.
L: What you’ve been doing today?
R: Wow, I’ve…I did a quite a bit of work on the internet: speaking with people like my agent…
L: You have an agent!
R: I have a voice over because I do voice over jobs speaking in English.
L: That’s brilliant!
R: The American English, not the Queen’s, and…
L: Wait wait a minute, you’ve got to tell us about the voice over work. What kind of voice overs
do you do?
R: I do stuff everything you can imagine, that has to do with commercials, I did pure power for Loreal, expert…
L: How did it go?
R: Yesterday…It´s the best job in the world, you go in you say, a couple of lines of text. They say: “Can you say that with a little bit more of energy, or slower?” and you do it, and then they give you later on, a couple months later they give you a cheque for that, so it´s a pretty good work.
L: Can you tell us exactly what do you said, and repeat it for us?
R: I don’t know, it’s technically …yes! As long as you promise not to tell anyone! It´s something
along the lines of a: “are you sick of black heads, oily spots, zits, bad skin? Well, we have the cure!” And then it goes on to name the product which I’m not going to mention so you don’t get sued.
L: But actually there’s a good vocab in that. Are you tired of black heads? What’s a black head?
R: Black heads it’s a kind of…in French it´s a “bouton”, like on your forehead, like you know it’s a…
L: Like a spot on your face. Specifically, those little spots which have black heads…they’re very ugly. It´s disgusting. Black heads, spots of course are just like red spots on your face. No your face, Robert, your skin is beatifully clean.
R: Thank you!
L: And zits as well, a zit is another word for spot. So you’re learning vocab about the face and when the face goes wrong.
R: “Pizza face” (Sarah Donnelly ) calls it
L: (Sarah Donnely ) our friend refers to it, rather unsympathetically, as “Pizza face” syndrome?
R: No, just “pizza face”. Oh, they kid has “total Pizza Face”
L: haha ok, “total Pizza face” as well.
R: to be completely, grammatically incorrect.
L: But I think Sarah has licence to do that cause she mentioned that she’s still has…like…the skin of a teenager, doesn’t she?, so she’s able to, you know, criticize the skin of others, specially when they have the face of a Pizza. Right, so, ok that’s brilliant! Voice over work sounds amazing and I would love to do that myself.
R: Of course you would!
L: What a surprise! Can you help me? Can you put me in touch with…
R: Absolutely not! haha I’m the only guy in Paris right now so…no! Well you know, once I have too much money, Luke, then totally I’m gonna tell you how can you do it, but no…actually that’s not true at all because you and I have totally different voices so I’d love to help you. It’s pretty easy actually if you me want to tell you my formula for doing that…
R: I can break it down. You do ten character voices of cartoon characters, your favourite cartoon voices, you write down two minutes of text for then, or thirty seconds of text for each character, then you do ten different kinds of commercials like publicity, like hard sell, soft sell, medical research sell, a crazy…we’ve got too many bubbles over here!, come, buy bubbles now from 9.99, you know? And we did things like that. Then you record them all and then you pay a sound engineer, a hundred euros, and he mixes them together and he adds like “ding ding” some bells and whistles, and I did that in 2004 and I’ve never auditioned for a job since that.
R: Yeah yeah…And you can make some really good money. Cause sometimes those little jobs I did yesterday for example they become big jobs.
L: Well, obviously, I don’t want to steal any of your work and I’ll probably just stick to British accents if that’s err…
R: Your American accents are very good! Especially Christopher Walken and then your Batman, is pretty good!
L: Batman is not that hard…just make your voice very low…”I’m Batman”…like that. It’s fun! Anyone can do that, really!
R: Yeah, I’m more of the Joker.
L: Yeah, can you do the Joker?
R: No! I just lick my lips.
L: That’s what a performance was, really, wasn’t it? It was Heath Ledger just licking his lips. Robert, am I the first person to say you look a little a bit like Heath Ledger?
R: Ehh, no, ladies ( ) all the time. They confuse me with him…until he died. That was the last day I actually spoke with the girl.
L: Well, ladies and gentleman, if you can imagine I’m here with Heath Ledger just the joker himself. He looks exactly like him, it’s amazing! Except all the makeup. But Heath Ledger on a day off. That’s what I’ve got in front of me right now. And…I think it’s time to ask you a few questions, Robert…
R: I’d like to ask you a question, first.
L: Yes, go ahead!
R: Who do you think you are?
L: I think I’m Luke, from Luke’s English Podcast.
R: Ok good enough, good answer!
L: It’s that…acceptable?
R: I believe it’s correct. I don’t know if it’s acceptable!
L: Ok… That question: “who do you think you are” has got several meanings to it, hasn’t it? Which one were you aiming for, when you asked…
R: I think it was open interpretation, so you did the best you could with the material you had I think
L: Yes, I hope so. I think I’m Luke Thompson from Luke’s English Podcast, and when it comes to the actual…the more existential question: “who am I really” well I think I can be anyone, I want to be as long as it complies with the law.
R: Have you ever read Nietzsche?
L: No, I didn’t but I know some of the things he said. Nietzsche was a philosopher, wasn’t it?
R: He was a philosopher, and apparently people, young people sometimes they go on a…they have periods where they chose not to speak, at all, like the…they choose to be silent. But I don’t know why, and I was hoping maybe…cause you seem pretty educated, and…so I was curious if you know why people who read Nietzsche decide that they don’t want to speak.
L: You mean these sort of nihilists, for example who become sort of existential or philosophers who…that actually make a context decision to stop talking.
R: Correct. And then there was “Driving Miss Daisy” …no…”Little miss Sunshine”
L: The movie, yes, that’s a character in it who stops talking.
R: Yeah, and then I met someone yesterday who told me they did the same thing because they saw Nietzsche, and I didn’t know if she was lying, or confusing herself with the character in Little Miss Sunshine, or if she actually had done the exact same thing as that guy.
L: I haven’t read a lot of Nietzsche so I don’t know exactly what he said but maybe it’s something to do with, you know, just “why bother” I think maybe that might be the philosophy. I don’t know!
R: Ok. Thank you for answering the question!
L: That’s fine. If you want to ask any questions at any point feel free, ok? Maybe we can ask bounce question of each other…or maybe not, maybe I can just interview you.
R: Ok, I appreciate your being open to my questions as well, and…I’ve… asked my question now…it’s your turn.
L: Ok, it’s my turn. So the question I’m sure you’ve been asked this loads of times. Why do you moved to Paris?
R: I originally came to Paris in 2002 to continue my theatre studies and went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts for a little while and I also went to Boston university to study acting and when I got to Paris the idea was that I would study Comedie del’Arte which is the origins of theatre…and…well, in the occidental world, anyway.
L: Occidental world, that’s the west, isn’t it?
R: Yeah…It’s all the occidenties, occidentaux.
L: You’re speaking French to me now.
R: Right! I thought I could fake it and sound latin
L: Western world! The occidental world
R: Right right, I mean that there was Greek theatre, and the Romans before that they did their drama…
L: Yes, Greek theatre is the origin of comedy, isn’t it?
R: Yeah?? I don’t remember any really laughing, and any Greek theatre study class that I took. I remember like Antigone. That was a pretty funny one.
L: What happens in Antigone?
R: Well…It’s…Oedipus is, you know? Her Dad’s Oedipus, you know.
L: Oedipus from the great myth about the guy who falls in love with his mother and wants to kill his father.
R: Well, he did kill his father and the he made love with his mum and he was felt so bad about the whole thing that he poked out his eyes . That is hilarious!! LOL
So the Greeks didn’t make comedy! LOL And then after that…anyway…so I came to Paris to study Comedy Del’Arte which I believe started in Italy and it’s six principal characters, you know what it is? So, you’ve got the young female, the young hero, the old guy, who can be the general, who can also be the old wise man, then you’ve got the father character, you’ve always got a clown character, so these six or seven characters could do every piece of theatre. Sometimes they are young troupes and they would go around. Anyway, that transformed into Marcel Marceau…
L: He was a mime artist, wasn’t he?
R: Pretty much yeah but his origins are from Comedy Del’Arte which uses a lot of masks, pantomimes to tell stories, and I wanted to go deeper into that, and there is a school here called the Jaques Le Coque school.
L: Yes, is a…famous clown.
R: Correct, like Marcel Marceau. So, I got here and then I found out that the school cost six thousand euros a year, that he was dead, Jack, Jack was dead, or he is dead, all of his students have left there in other schools become kind of the sausage factory for pumping out clowns, I was working as a dishwasher without papers at the time, illegally, under the table, in black, as they say… and I was making forty nine francs an hour, but this is back in the day when they had francs.
L: Forty nine francs is about five pounds an hour, isn’t it?
R: Seven euros.
L: Yes, about five pounds. It’s not very much.
R: It’s not very much, but I was happy just to survive, and that’s how I got started, and so I didn’t go to school on my limited budget and I just…cause I’m already a kind of a clown! You know…whatever man!
L: Ok, so you started as an actor, and so you started really as an actor, you came to France in order to train as a sort of theatre performer.
R: A deeper actor.