So, my boss sends me an email yesterday, suggesting I check out the Reddit thread called “Nothing funnier than hearing Neil Augustine sign off from his stories on WTOP.”
The poster writes: “Maybe it’s me, but every time he signs off from a story, I legit chuckle and try to imitate his voice, LOL.”
As I approach my 25th year at WTOP, I’ve come to expect — and usually enjoy — people offering to do their Neal Augenstein imitation for me. It almost always consists of me saying my name, and either WTOP News or WTOP Radio. In the biz, it’s called my lockout.
Sometimes the imitations come from elected officials, usually from much-appreciated consistent listeners. My kids are usually incredulous: “They know who you are?”
This Reddit thread suggests the poster is not the only person working on their impersonation:
“Dude, I thought I was the only one that did this, glad to see I’m not alone,” said one poster. “Yup. After his sign off, I imitate it. Every time. Every time,” said another.
“I will randomly just do it every once in a while. I don’t have to be listening to WTOP…”I’m Neil Auginstine,” admits one impersonator.
“I saw him in court once here in Alexandria, dude looks nothing like what his voice sounds like. He’s a lot younger than I would have thought by just hearing his voice on the radio for years.”
OK, so that’s good, right?
Apparently not everyone is a fan: “Sends chills down my spine honestly,” according to one poster. “YES, I don’t know why, but I cringe a little sometimes when I hear his reports,” says a person named Chocolate Milk.
While most on Reddit don’t use phonetic analysis marks in their posts, it’s fascinating to hear their takes on how I sound to them.
From dubble-ya tee ahhh peee, this is Neal Augensteeeeeeeeeen
Neil Auggeensteeeen, double U Tee oh pee nooz
In the years since I first started working for WTOP, the “typical newscaster voice” has continued to morph from the deep, resonant, perfectly-enunciated Ted Baxter voice (ask your parents, if you don’t know) to something more conversational.
When I started in radio, in the early 1980s, I was reminded often by bosses that I didn’t have “a voice for radio.”
You probably can’t tell from Twitter that I used to lisp. If you’ve heard me on @wtop, you’ve no doubt thought, ‘What’s up with that guy’s voice?’ If you’d be so kind, allow me to share the saga: “What Does Cole Slaw Have To Do With Being A Radio Reporter?” pic.twitter.com/VPbyX2ORYq
— Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP) November 5, 2020
And while I’ve come to embrace my sound is different from most on the radio — in fact, several competing DC-area radio shows include segments mocking me, with hosts providing free advertising for WTOP — it’s nice to know you’re listening.
When I first met him and he spoke I didn’t believe it was him. But the more he spoke, the more it became him and the voice I recognized.
And my favorite:
My wife and I sometimes have Neil Augenstein-offs to see who can Neil Augenstein the longest.
Now, that I’ve got to hear. Send me audio of your best Neal Augenstein imitation, using the WTOP App. In the drop-down menu, select Report to WTOP, then Send Voice Memo.
Seriously, thanks for listening so carefully.