Exclusive interview! E*Trade baby talks about voicing, writing his 2010 Super Bowl ads (VIDEO)
The E*Trade talking baby was at it again with a new series of ads that debuted during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Did you know that the baby is now being voiced by stand-up comedian Pete Holmes? I did, and I talked to him earlier today about his nationwide TV ad campaign (fun fact: Holmes also appeared in a Super Bowl ad last year that he and his Front Page Film mates -- Matt McCarthy and Oren Brimer -- produced themselves for the Doritos contest). This is bigger.
Let's roll the first new E*Trade baby ad, called "Girlfriend."
"It was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience," Holmes told me. "I got to do the voice, of course, but I got to write the jokes, too. I had a hand in everything. That is to say, they let me have a hand in everything -- I even got a writing credit, which is great."
"It wasn't that much unlike stand-up. I would literally say something and look up from the mic, through the glass and see if anyone was laughing. If they weren't, I'd try something else. Lots of improv. Worked with lots of improvisers, not all of whom ended up in the final versions, but it was a who's-who of improv folk."
So they did the baby parts later to match whatever you ended up writing? "Yeah, totally, that's the last thing they do." I told him that I'd seen the "Girlfriend" video in a sneak peek on TV the other morning on Today, and that Kathie Lee Gifford first said she didn't care for the talking baby, but after watching the clip, said it was funny. Holmes added: "I would often look at the baby while I was recording, so I could sync up to his eye movements, and the howl was a face he made so I kind of built it around that. It was weird. I'm glad KLG came around. I'd like to point out that Glennis (McMurray) came up with the punchline to the wolf-howl spot. That's all her."
Ha! So how do you feel about being part of your second straight Super Bowl? "You know, I had this obscene fantasy of being in the Doritos spot and the E*Trade spot and just being like 'I own this game!" But Doritos didn't happen, which is fine. We're done with contests. Crunch was our last one. So it is pretty surreal to be in two Super Bowls in a row. Doritos was a big thrill because it was just something we shot for fun. But E*Trade is even bigger because there are multiple spots and people were aware of the campaign before I started doing the voice. It's fun to do. Something my parents are aware of just watching something they would have been watching any way.
I remember the first time one aired, and I said, wait, that's Pete Holmes' voice! "Oh really? That's a first. Seeing Matt getting recognized all over the place for Verizon made me glad I'm hidden in a baby."
Do you have any knowledge of how much Front Page Films has helped you and Matt in the ad game? "With E*Trade, not at all. They're all fans now, because in the downtime I'd always show them what we were up to. I was going to tell you some of the people who came in to be other babies with me, even though they didn't end up in the actual spots, their voices are in the blooper reel on YouTube and before movies (I think)."
Please do! "(Chris) Gethard came in a bunch and was great. Matt McCarthy and I had a ball (although we had the same problem we had with Sears which is on VO our voices sound too similar). Zach Woods. Glennis, of course. It was fun!" Related: See the outtakes from my earlier post on Pete Holmes getting the E*Trade gig.
Here is the other new E*Trade baby commercial, in which Pete's baby gets an upgrade on a flight to first class on his way back from a bachelor party? Roll it!