In the Autumn of 1990 I started 7th grade.
I transitioned from the public elementary school in my neighborhood, and went to a private, effin evangy kid middle school instead of the public one.
I will credit the evangelical community I was raised in with sufficiently frightening me to the point about public education where I begged my parents to send me to the other school– plus I had a friend that had made the leap the year before and really liked the school.
And so… to the local christian school I went.
I had really hoped that since there was a higher propensity for everyone at the school to be a Fucking Evangelical™ that it should stand to reason that I would inevitably bump into someone who finally, finally listened to the show.
I’m in my 3rd year with the show recording regularly. And have never met anyone who has heard an episode. Hearing it in the car in Tennessee… that won’t happen for another 4 years. The kid at church that has the tapes but doesn’t believe I’m the kid in the red hat because of no credit? That’s another 3 years away.
Literally, no one in my life has heard of this show at my church or my friend’s churches.
Now I’m going to a school where literally you have to be a christian to get in. THE ODDS ARE IN MY FAVOR!! YES. HERE COME THE ACCOLADES.
Maybe someone can finally tell me when it’s on locally?
Alas, I would continue my unbroken streak of nobody having any idea what the show was.
Not one kid or adult had heard of it.
This was a source of awkwardness for me.
Middle school is the age where the kids really start to find what the next level of their skill sets will be. Typically this is found around sports and the inevitable Phys Ed period from hell when the 8th graders with 6 peach fuzz hairs on their lip sprout to 6 feet tall and whoop the shit out of all the late bloomers like me.
And while kids are finding their strengths in sports, or computers, or mechanics… I had Acting, but nothing to show for it.
There were no coaches prostrating themselves before my parents to guide my career thru Signing Day for a cut of the action. Schools had largely gutted the Arts by the time my generation came around. And this was in an affluent upper middle class Suburbantopia.
The one thing I did have to show for it was a new bicycle. I was so proud.
I remember one day in the studio waiting to tell the team that I had smartly purchased a new bicycle with my radio money.
Now why would I want to do that? Because we had done an episode about budgeting. The Barclays are struggling with money or something and they create a budget and the whole message was about being good stewards with money.
And so I wanted to tell the team that I was getting good with being responsible with money and I bought myself a sensible bicycle to get myself to school.
I handled it awkwardly like a 12 year old is prone to do and blurted it out at the end of a session once.
“I bought a bicycle with the money I earned.”
*click from the booth mic*
“Yeah?… well don’t go getting a big head about it.” Came the reply from the booth.
How could I ever get a big head about it?
I was never allowed to.
Never even had the opportunity.
Couldn’t even be allowed to enjoy the one fucking cool thing I got out of the peanuts I was being paid for 3 years of work.
By the way, a big selling point about this show is how we’re all one, big, happy family.
I’ll say this… sitting at the kids table in this “family”… wasn’t the greatest for building confidence.
Whatever. AT LEAST I STILL GET TO DO THE SHOW, RIGHT?
There is one very important thing to factor into the story that hasn’t been discussed yet.
coming… ahem… arriving.
At some point in the near future that will be beyond my control, this 3 year luxury of getting to hangout with the finest Voice Over Talent on Earth is probably going to end soon.
I’m going into middle school. And I’ve turned 13.
I was one of the younger kids when this never-ending series started and I watched as ALL of the boys older than me had been
ritually shot were being used significantly less once their voices changed.
It became a countdown joke amongst the adults.
“So-and-so’s voice changed… looks like his character will have a gardening accident…”
It terrified me.
PLEASE DON’T TAKE THIS FROM ME.
It’s the only thing that makes me happy.
And because there was no real evidence or reward of the work, the work itself became the only part of this that I could really enjoy. And it would only last for a day at best.
I’d wait all month… bored outta my mind, miserable in school, miserable at home, miserable at church… waiting… hoping they would call again.
And after year 2 was in full swing I think I took it for granted that this was a normal part of the regular rhythm of my life. Other kids had sports. I had radio theater.
But, looming in the back of my mind… was the notion that some day… I’d get that frog in my throat and it would end my time on the show.
It’s a fucked up pressure for a kid to have the more I think about it. It’s weird to have your Fucking Puberty™ have EXTRA reasons to fear it beyond all the other awful horrible no good reasons. So, I’m gonna have pimples, inconvenient boners, and basically hate life for 2 solid years? AND I’LL LOSE MY JOB BECAUSE OF IT?!? Fuck.
Being an Actor as a kid… has some extra burdens. And it sure woulda been nice to have some people to talk to who gave a damn. Because there never really has ever been anyone to talk to about any of this… at any point… ever.
As the years wore on I got in the habit of never talking about it.
I got one day a month to have the time of my life, and then back to the drudgery. No one to share it with. No real proof of any kind. I was bad about pics I don’t think there’s a single picture of me with Hal even though we worked together every month for 7 years. I had nothing really to show for it all. It’s a lonely weird thing.
Again… if you’ve been with me since the beginning.. isolation is the word that keeps coming up.
It was a very isolating and frustrating thing to experience.
And this is the backdrop for My Favorite Episode.
SO LET’S ROLL THRU THE HONORABLE MENTIONS.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 126- Wishful Thinking
This is the episode where Donna wishes Jimmy never existed and it comes true.
I want to state for the record I am strongly, morally opposed to episodes where Jimmy is not much in them. Every episode needs Moar Jimmy.
That is the only statement I will be making at this time.
Thank you for understanding.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 132- Thanksgiving at Home
This is a CLASSIC Barclay Jimmy/Donna shit show. This is some of the finest work we ever did together. Very, very funny script. Acting is a difficult art form, perhaps one of THE most difficult art forms to do really well. But the job is made much easier when you have brilliant material to work with. The production team has always had mad skills. And this episode will probably hold up for 10,000 years until humanity doesn’t know what Formica is anymore.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 138- The Adventure of the Adventure
“Best of” episode with clips.
But if it counts on everybody’s ticker I’ma count it, too.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 140- The Vow
No memory of this one.
BUT. Remember a post or two ago when I mentioned there were two times in my life where I was in a car and someone randomly turned on the radio and there I was?
This was the episode playing the second time that happened when I was 18.
The weird thing about this moment in my life… is that it happened the very next summer AFTER it had occurred in Bristol Tennessee.
This time, though, we were in Washington D.C. and it happened on the same day where we randomly saw the lady who ran the theater that had gotten me the gig all the way back in episode 002. She was walking along a bridge near the Lincoln Memorial and we saw her in our van and spent the next two hours trying to find her. At some point we got back into the van, turned on the radio… and this episode comes on. It was surreal AF.
For those that don’t know this episode, what makes this weirder is that part of the plot is about George going to… Washington D.C.
It’s been a straaaaaaaange life.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 141- Over the Airwaves
No memory of this episode other than one very, very, VERY
I believe this is the day/episode where my voice cracked.
Fucking Puberty™ fucking arrived in a, literally, show stopping way.
I do not recommend this happening in your life.
If you can avoid it, please do so.
0/10. No stars. Would not recommend.
This was another full day of recording. The morning session for episode 140 and the afternoon session with 141.
My memory of this day was always slightly scrambled because I remember there being other girls my age in the studio that day other than Donna. This matters, because I was a 13 year old boy hitting puberty and girls were suddenly becoming humans worthy of impressing after largely not considering them much (I only had brothers and most of the kids in my neighbor were boys). This is a phenomena particular to young dudes being flooded with testosterone. Good god it’s traumatizing to even think about this moment in my life.
Anyway, I was TRYING TO BE COOL IN FRONT OF THE LADIES, YO.
And it’s at this precise moment of God’s Perfect Comedic Timing and Hatred of Dave Griffin that he picked the one day there were new kids my age in studio.
And when I look over the cast of the morning episode I see there was the girl actor they had used for The Trouble With Girls where her character had a crush on me. I was probably trying to awkwardly impress this person as only a clueless Effin Evangy Kid™ can do.
But, I’m certain Katie was in the studio the moment it happened and she’s not listed in the credit for the morning show but she IS in the credit for the afternoon episode. So, perhaps my memory jumbled them together. Regardless, the Fucking Puberty™ Chemicals are flooding my veins and brains and then…
I haven’t mentioned one of my favorite sounds yet, but this makes for some good comedy so let’s throw it in here.
One of my favorite moments that I would look forward to, was being alone in the studio completely by myself.
I am a person that tremendously enjoys silence. Is that odd for an audio guy?
I adore silence. Can rarely find it in the world. If you’re ever in a car with me when I’m driving you’ll notice I rarely turn music or radio on. I love silence. The world is so noisy.
Maybe it harkens all the way back to spending the first seven days of my life in a hermetically sealed plastic box.
One of my favorite things to do was either get into the studio first before others, OR stay after everyone left for a couple minutes. Or when casts would change from scene to scene.
I loved experiencing the complete and total suffocating silence of an empty studio. Where I can hear my blood rushing in my ears. I love it. It’s like an audio hug. Silence giving you this complete physical embrace. It’s a weird thing to share, I’m sure, but somebody out there in the world understands me, I bet.
Anyway. I LOVE silence in a studio.
The studio was full that moment.
I recall there being several people in the room.
I had an audience.
I do not recommend this.
I remember there was at least one girl my age in the studio at that moment that I was trying to impress with how good I was at radio acting.
And then it happened.
God abandoned me this day.
Perhaps he made a deal with the devil like in Job and the devil decided this was the precise moment to destroy what was left of my already shattered ego in life at this point.
Let’s pretend that the line was, “Ah, it’s great to see everybody today.”
Ya know… one of those throw away lines that for no reason whatsoever should strain or stress a vocal chord.
I had known for some time that my voice was starting to crack and skip and deflect and inflect and start warbling in a way I could no longer fully control… I dunno what to even call what unholy bullshit boy vocal chords do.
And I had been trying to hide it from the crew BECAUSE I WAS TERRIFIED of losing the ONLY thing I loved on this stupid planet.
And it happened… it happened oh jesus fuck me please not right now not INTO THE FUCKING MICROPHONE WITH EVERYONE WATCHING AND LISTENING.
It went something like this:
“Ah, it’s great to see everyFUCKYOUDAVETHISISWHEREYOURTHROATDESTROYSYOURHAPPINESSbody today.”
At least that’s what it sounded like in my head.
Somewhere… Katie starts gently laughing.
Have you ever been in a room where some truly horrible thing has happened and everyone just freezes and stares and it gets so quiet you can hear fucking pin drop?
Remember how moments ago I described how rare it was to ever experience pure silence in the studio and how it was my favorite thing?
This was the only time in my recording career that the mic side of the studio was completely filled with cast and it was UTTERLY FUCKING SILENT LIKE SOMEONE HAD DIED.
I did not enjoy this silence that day.
In case you’re wondering.
And in my desperate 13 year old hormonal brain I think, “Wait I can do that again and not have it crack like I always do!”
“Uh lemme try that again.”
“Ah, it’s great see every–
The room. Remained. Silent.
Except for Katie laughing. Loudly.
And now this is really fucking funny to Katie. She can’t stop laughing.
And holyfucksticks my face must be red and like, I’m literally dying here.
If there’s a thing that makes sweet, sweet Katie an evilhelldemon it’s her perverse love of watching boys meet their puberty fates on mic. (love you Katie)
Like, this kills her.
And the more I drown in silence and voice cracks the more she can’t stop laughing.
this. is. my. actual. hell.
Whatever prayers I was internally praying with a ferocity not seen since Jesus was being tempted by the devil himself were going UNANSWERED AS KATIE KEEPS LAUGHING AND NO ONE WILL LOOK AT ME.
And then it happens.
I look thru the fucking sound proof window and I see all the crew the writer/director and engineer and production team and like everyone is just looking like they want to vomit. They keep shaking their heads “no” and putting their head in their hands.
Fuck me no I CAN DO IT AGAIN
Katie just keeps fucking laughing.
The girl(s) my age won’t look at me.
Is it hot in here? WHY AM I SWEATING SO MUCH?!? JESUSFUCKINGCHRIST WHY WON’T MY VOICE FUCKING WORK?!?
The more I try the worse it gets.
Finally, what seems like hours of deafening silence BUT FOR THE DELIGHT OF AUNT KATIE…
The director clicks on the talk button between the sound booth and the mic studio…
Director is at a loss for words.
More head shaking.
AND THE WAY THEY KEEP LOOKING AT ME.
AND WHY WON’T KATIE PLEASE STOP LAUGHING YOU’RE MAKING THIS WORSE!!!
I might have blacked out after that.
It’s odd to write about this now as an adult understanding what I know about the industry.
Their little Golden Goose was about to lay its final egg reeeeeeal soon.
Better cue up any dream projects you have reeeeeeal quick.
Cuz this kid is going bye bye just like all the others.
I wanted to throw up.
I left the studio that day in a daze.
I can’t remember if the writer that had moved to England wrote me first or if in my horror I wrote him but I very clearly recall the mailed exchange where he referred to the “Dearly Departed XXXX and XXX” specific boys whose voices had changed before mine.
This had massive repercussions.
When the boys aged… they were dropped.
I was called into Dad’s office. I’ve never been in the Exec Prod office before.
Made a special trip to Pomona just for this conversation.
And I’d like to, if AIO FOTF won’t sue me I’d like to type out the words from their 25th Anniversary Book around this event:
“Actor David Griffin’ Coming of Age
The Odyssey policy had been to drop child actors from the show when the actor’s voices began to change. Actor David Griffin, voice of Jimmy Barclay, remembers the situation the day in the studio he thought would be his last.
*a paragraph of Dave’s memories that are basically a more condensed version of the above story*
After this incident in the studio, we decided to address David’s voice change through the character of Jimmy Barclay….
… A secondary purpose to the show was to say goodbye to Jimmy and family since the Barclay kids were getting older. After the show aired, however, many fans wrote in urging us to keep the Barclays (and Jimmy specifically) on the show. As a result, we continued writing Barclay episodes for years to come.”
They never told me that.
The fans saved Jimmy.
Also wrap your mind around some of the information in that statement. They were gonna can the whole family because my voice changed. Wtf about Donna her voice didn’t change?!? They recast my parents multiple times. Does this prove my theory the Barclays were specifically put AROUND me.
They can’t recast Jimmy? Why not?
WHY. CAN’T. THEY. RECAST. JIMMY.
But… I’m skipping ahead.
Back to my Dad/Boss/ExecProd Office of Sad Conversations with Kidz™
This was a difficult conversation. Actually, I remember it was mostly a monologue. Because I was so depressed and anxious I wanted to cry and puke and go full fetal.
And in the course of this conversation it’s relayed to me that, yes, obviously my voice was changing and this would mean that my time on Odyssey was going to be changing as well.
And that it was their hope they could keep me on in some fashion yet to be determined. He mentioned they were thinking of bringing on a younger sibling (they did) or maybe a younger friend character (did that, too) as a way to keep me on the show (for another half decade).
But, I remember thinking at the time these were kind words, but I had seen the writing on the wall.
I was done.
No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™.
It was handled as gently and kindly as possible. I have no complaints other than it was a shitty conversation for both of us probably, with me not understanding the magnitude of the bind they were in. Agent woulda helped here, btw. Manager? Somebody? Anybody? Bueller?
It also would’ve been nice to have a fucking therapist to deal with all the trauma around this event for me. Like, this caused a severe problem in my life for awhile, personally. I was devastated.
And so… this. is. the. backdrop. of. my. favorite. episode. I ever. did.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 154- Coming of Age
Coming of Age?
You thought this post was about Coming of Age didn’t you?
No, that’s the next post.
My Favorite Episode is:
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 144- Someone to Watch Over Me
This is my favorite episode of all time.
It is THE quintessential Jimmy episode.
It was my favorite script I ever got to do.
And the more backstory I have on this episode the more meaning it has taken on for me as the decades have ticked by.
First, I thought I would never get to do the show ever again. And so when I was called in… my heart leapt at the opportunity.
I wanted to show them I could still do this!
And I was handed the greatest script of all time to prove it.
The basic plot is that the episode starts with Jimmy awaking in a WWII bomber being flown over enemy territory. The plane gets shot? And over the cockpit radio sounds the voice of my arch nemesis- General Grimmstaad. And he’s trying to shoot the plane down because I’m in it. So… I gotta parachute out. Also, there’s a nice fella named Nagle who’s helping educate me on what’s happening.
I parachute out the plane before it’s shot down and I land in eastern Europe during the Cold War and there’s Nagle again and now we’re spies trying to smuggle secret papers out of the Iron Curtain and we’re being pursued by General Grimkov. And the only way I can escape his murderous ass is Nagle tells me to jump off a cliff into the ocean below and we do… and then I’m picked up by pirates and somehow Nagle is aboard again and now I’m being chased by GrimmBeard and an epic battle occurs and Grimmbeard is about to capture Jimmy and Jimmy opens an escape hatch and in the darkness emerges on a space ship like Star Trek where there again is Nagle and he informs Jimmy that the evil Grim space alien is trying to blow up the starship and this is the most epic Imagination Station Adventure of all time. But… it’s not.
Jimmy is not in the Imagination Station.
HE’S IN A COMA AND THE GRIM REAPER IS TRYING KILL HIM AND NAGLE IS ACTUALLY HIS GUARDIAN ANGEL.
Nazis. Pirates. Space. Angels. THE GRIM FUCKING REAPER.
Oh also…. all the Grim characters are being played Hal Smith.
So, this was basically every awesome episode you could possibly ever put Jimmy into AND I GET TO WORK THE WHOLE TIME WITH HAL. EVERY SCENE THE TWO OF US SPARRING.
It really never got better than that.
I’ve mentioned the shortlist of the 3 episodes that most inspire me as an audio theater artist and in the number 1 spot is Someone to Watch Over Me.
This episode literally had everything in it. And the cast was tiny. It was me and Hal and the guy playing Nagle for most of it.
And to get to spar with Hal like that… he often played multiple roles. Most of the highly talented adults did. It was the reason actors worked on the show. This was the Industry secret where you went to do old timey radio that nobody makes anymore 30 years before podcasting. And here you can try out your skills.
I equate it to a jazz club. Where you’d never know who would come thru the door to jam that night. And when The Greats were there you just wanted to selfishly play/jam with them as long as you can. This work is a LOT like that.
To get to spend an afternoon selfishly Acting with Hal was a very special thing.
Something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I held my own in the studio that day working alongside one of the all time greats who I loved like a grandfather and got to have the most fun episode to jam on you could imagine.
I could write forever about this episode.
This episode taught me the full flexibility of the medium. I’d done time travel. I’d done horror. Now I was doing spy thrillers, and wars, and pirates, and star trek. It was a greatest hits episode of every awesome genre you could come up with in 22 minutes.
This episode inspires me to this day.
It was the most fun I ever had and it was a great salve to the wounds of my Fucking Puberty™.
A last thought.
I believe that this episode was the one that the writer who wrote it sent in to get hired for the job years earlier. I could be wrong. I believe it was an old pitch script for Twilight Zone and when AIO was looking for writers this was the one sent in and picked.
If that information is correct– and it may not be, apologies if I’m wrong– then it tells us possibly something very interesting…
That means this script was sitting on a shelf for at least 3 years.
And I wonder if it was a passion script for the writer.
And. David’s. voice. has. just. changed.
And this episode doesn’t really fit the theme of a kid’s show…
I have to wonder… if a writer, knowing that this was possibly the last chance you might ever get with this kid…
Did you give me one of your personal favorite scripts to do?
Every Writer has them… the dream projects that never came to fruition for <insert reason>. The wild ideas or sentimental favorites that have a deep personal resonance.
I have to think it wasn’t just some random script thrown together, because this was being recorded while that very same writer was probably writing Coming of Age during the weeks this episode was being recorded.
And if I’m correct in my assumptions here– this is total speculation on my part— does this not tell us what this kid meant to these guys?
Gave me your favorite script.
The one that got you the job.
And we turned it into one of the greatest pieces of modern audio theatrical art in the history of the medium.
Not bad for a 13 year old who’s recorded 27% of the series, eh?
If this was the only episode I ever got to do… I would die satisfied that I at least got to taste what the medium was fully capable of one time.
I got one great epic adventure as an actor.
I’d like to say thank you to the production team.
I know I’m doing a lot of poking and needling and I’m sure when they find this blog they’ll think me a brat.
But, I do want to acknowledge that there was/is tremendous talent crafting this project. Brilliant artists all of them. It was a helluva creative team.
There was a LOT of good here. A lot of great art was made and I’m certain continues to be.
It was an honor to get to have the kinds of experiences I got to have. It is such a rare thing for an actor to get to have this kind of fun.
And for whatever my struggles with individual people behind the scenes or the team or the parent company…
This episode was a gift to a kid actor who needed one more chance to fly.
Thank you, for trusting me with this piece.
From the bottom of my heart.
for every great memory this episode gave me
and every piece of art it inspired in me
and continues to inspire in me.
This one felt like a gift.
And if I’m wrong in my theory… thank you anyway.
It was still the most fun challenge I ever had in the art form.