the two women talking sketch

Two women talking…naturally

Now, when I say ‘two women talking’ I’m referring to the ubiquitous ‘two women talking’ sketch you hear in very bad radio commercials. This, dear Reader, bears no resemblance to any normal conversation that has ever been uttered spontaneously in the entire history of the universe by two human beings of sound mind.

The fingerprints of the client…

No, the ‘two women talking’ sketch usually has its unfortunate genesis in the dark smithy of the client’s mind – a client, it has to be said, who fancies himself as the Leonardo of the copywriting world, despite never having written anything more creative than a tax return.  This kind of client tends to have no literary background whatsoever and, conversely, has dedicated the past 30 years of his life to running a discount tile warehouse just outside Barnsley; the kind of client who, having made the momentous decision to advertise on radio, becomes convinced that by some strange osmosis has soaked up the secret, precious emissions of the copywriter’s art; the kind of client who accepts the sales exec’s gift of the radio station’s promotional mouse mat, honestly believing himself to have achieved the status of advertising guru.  The sort of client who, keen to advertise his gastropub’s Sunday Carvery comes up with an advertising concept he refers to as ‘The Lamb of God.’

The ‘two women talking’ sketch is a truly appalling device designed to convey a promotional message, the features, benefits and objections of the product being offered and ultimately the client’s extensive contact details.

How it usually goes

This sketch is usually set in:
a) a busy shopping mall where the two women collide after not having seen each other in years
b) a coffee shop over latte and cake (for some reason, the cake becomes crucial to the client in his quest for conveying realism)
c) over a garden fence
d) in the case of ads advocating a tummy tuck, the changing room of a ladies’ dress shop.  Or a gym.

The client, on imparting this nugget of creativity to the copywriter will passionately stress that he wants this conversation to soundnatural.

This is the structure of the conversation:

  • Brief exposition, where we learn the characters’ names, details of their relationship and their location
  • One of the women will express shock and awe at her companion’s recent miraculous physical transformation / astounding good fortune at having availed herself of the product in question
  • Crucial details about the client will be shared: name, phone number, address, postcode, Ordnance Survey grid reference, the MD’s blood group etc etc.  These details will be said ‘off the cuff’, perfectly memorised although there might be a conceit of rummaging in a handbag to read the details off a leaflet but this bit tends to get edited out cos the script’s too sodding long.  There’s usually an overview of any financial deal currently on offer, complete with legal disclaimer.  Again, delivered naturally.
  • The recipient of this information will be so overcome with an all-consuming obsession to likewise benefit from the company being discussed that she will simply run off, so great is her need to accost the client without delay.  Here, there’s almost always the sound of retreating footsteps.

For some reason completely lost on me, one of the women will be called Jean.  I’ve never quite worked out why, but it’s true, a higher than average number of two-women-talking scripts feature a character called Jean – despite the name Jean having gone out of fashion in 1949.  Alternatively, the client will hijack the two women talking sketch to cunningly slip in the names of close family members out of an unwise sense of ownership, or simply because his wife wants to hear her name on the radio.  You can tell these names belong to the client’s intimates because they’re so…unusual.  None of your Janes and Sarahs here.  No, it’s Dorothea, Savannah-Kelly and Destiny et al all the way.

An example…

So here’s how these kind of conversations run.
(Sound effects of a busy shopping centre / generic suburbia / café / gym changing room).

FVO1: Hi Jean! I’ve not seen you in ages!  What have you been up to?  You look great / wealthy / really svelte.

FVO 2: Thanks, Autumn.  I’m so happy!  I’ve just moved into a mock Tudor executive property in a mews-style development / lost 6 stone with an ethical weight loss company / had my tits reupholstered!

FVO1: I wish I could do that.  Currently, my life is so empty without that thing you just mentioned.  How do I go about undergoing the same kind of personal renaissance as you?

FVO2: You should call Ace Homes / The Fat Arse Club / The Surgical Swat Team.  They’ve got an offer on at the moment where you can get six months’ interest free credit and after that, payments are only £49 per month for 36 months at a typical APR of 19.9% – ask for written details!

FVO1: Who did you say I should call?  I’ve forgotten in order that you may tell me again.

FVO2: Ace Homes / The Fat Arse Club / The Surgical Swat Team!

FVO1: How do I contact them?

FVO2: I’m so glad you asked me that because I just happen to know all the details off by heart.  Just call 1233444476764590495804985-09845-0980 or call into their spacious premises on that new industrial estate just off the High Street, opposite Sainsbury’s but adjacent to B & Q – or you could always put the postcode – BS10 1BJ – into your sat nav…hey!  Where are you going??

FVO1: Ace Homes / The Fat Arse Club / The Surgical Swat Team, that’s where!

(sound effect of retreating, running footsteps)
Next time you hear a two women talking sketch, do contact me.  Maybe we could set up some sort of petition…

the girl in the office

150 years of the Tube

expect the unexpected

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Emma Clarke

Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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