Wichita watch: ‘Voice’ contestant, video voice-over visit

03/31/2012 3:18 PM

08/08/2014 10:09 AM

The Wichita excitement never ends.

Not only will hometown boy Chris Mann be back on television Monday night singing for his chance to continue on “The Voice,” but there’s also news this week that Wichita’s about to have a rather interesting visitor: Randall (just Randall), the voice behind the famous “Honey Badger Don’t Care” viral YouTube video, will be here later this month.

Can you stand it?

First, let’s catch up with our Mann.

The Southeast High School grad and veteran of Wichita theater is one of 24 contestants remaining on the hit NBC singing competition “The Voice.”

Mann, 29, is on singer Christina Aguilera’s team, and on Monday’s show, he’ll be one of 12 contestants singing for a chance to keep competing. (The next 12 will perform the following week.) During the live rounds, audience votes will determine which contestants stay and which contestants go.

The last time we saw Mann on the show was early March, when the “Battle Rounds” were underway. Mann outsang a rival competitor to advance to the live rounds.

Mann called me from Los Angeles this week, where he now is quarantined in a hotel with all the other contestants. They’ll stay there until they’re sent home or crowned the winner.

The past few weeks have been exciting, Mann said. He and another member of Aguilera’s team appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” last week, where he sang a snippet of Coldplay’s “Clocks.”

Now, it’s just waiting. And nerves.

Mann hinted that he’ll be singing a well-known song on Monday night, though he couldn’t reveal what it was. He’s trying to be confident about his chances while acknowledging that anything can happen.

“I’m always optimistic,” he said. “I don’t really have an attitude like, ‘I’m going to take home the prize.’ It’s more one day at a time.”

People can call and text their votes, and downloading the contestants’ songs also counts as a vote.

“This is where it counts,” Mann said. “I really want Wichita to watch and vote.”

“The Voice” airs at 7 p.m. Mondays, followed by the results show at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, on NBC, Channel 3.

The other phone call I took from Los Angeles this week came from Randall, the actor and animal enthusiast who narrated the famous honey badger video.

(He’s just Randall, by the way. His last name is horrendous, he insists, adding, “I’m the Cher of wildlife narration.”)

The 3 1/2-minute piece, released a year ago, features Randall’s ridiculous, PG-13-rated narration over a National Geographic video of a honey badger hunting snakes and mice, being stung by bees, attacked by snakes and bullied by birds while in never-ending pursuit of food. (You can see it by searching “honey badger” on Youtube.com.)

The narration includes the now-famous phrases “honey badger don’t care” and “honey badger takes what it wants.”

Randall has a tenuous tie to Wichita: His video has made the rare honey badger a household name, and the Wichita area has the only baby honey badger in the United States — 6-month-old Diablo, who resides at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard.

Randall has made the park a stop in his approaching book tour, mainly because he wants to meet Diablo. He’ll appear at Tanganyika at 6 p.m. April 12, where he’ll offer a presentation, take questions and sign copies of his silly book “Honey Badger Don’t Care.”

Randall’s life has completely changed thanks to the honey badger. The once-struggling actor now has an assistant, a published book and is in talks to voice an animated television show.

I was struck by two things talking to Randall on the phone: One is that he sounds in real life exactly how he sounds talking in the video, which is hilarious. Two is that he comes across as very sincere, particularly about his love of animals.

His father was a cameraman for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” and Randall said he grew up with a passion for wildlife. A friend showed him the honey badger video, and both agreed that the narration was beyond boring.

“I was appalled by how dull the narration was for such a great animal,” Randall said. “I told him, ‘This needs to be revamped. Let’s go.’ ”

They recorded Randall’s narration, which he describes as “brutally honest,” and within a month, the video exploded online. It’s now been viewed more than 41 million times.

“It’s a good combination of humor and education that people just needed,” he said. “People are sick of this mundane approach to wildlife, and it doesn’t have to be this way at all. I like to credit myself as being a pioneer in the world of wildlife narrators. I’m going to tell it to you like it is. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”

About Denise Neil

Denise has been an Eagle reporter since 1997. She writes about pop culture on Sundays, reviews restaurants on Fridays and blogs at Dining with Denise. Previously, she worked for the Chattanooga Times and graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.

Contact Denise at 316-268-6327 or by e-mailing dneil@wichitaeagle.com

Follow Denise on Twitter: @DeniseNeil

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