Jimmy Slonina’s Fun With Lip Syncing

I met Jimmy Slonina in 2003 when we worked together in The Taming of the Shrew at Chicago Shakespeare. He currently performs as a lead clown for Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA. Jim is an absolutely first rate physical artist and one of the funniest people I’ve known.

Several months back, I ran across his fantastic little series of Fun With Lip Syncing videos. My favorite: Tom Jones’ I Who Have Nothing:

I asked Jim what the inspiration was for these, and for some technical details on how he made them:

All the songs I chose are ones that I really love, and that I thought would be emotionally charged and fun to be watched. The idea originally came with the Golddigger song. When it first came out, a friend of mine in Vegas wanted me and him to do a video of it. He wanted to sing the Jamie Fox/Ray Charles part and we could both dance all silly or something. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to lipsync the Kanye part. The story in the song is hilarious and I felt I could do a fair job syncing it. We kinda let the idea slip and never got around to it, but how it eventually turned out is very close to how I thought about it originally.

About three years later, I got bored one night when my wife was out of town and I watched this and got inspired.

I had since acquired Final Cut Studio and had taken film classes, and I was getting itchy because I hadn’t done anything film-wise in a while. It just popped into my head how I could do BOTH parts and splice them together AND have this fast-forward look while the song played in real-time. So I slowed the song down 75% and realized it also made the lipsyncing WAY easier. Then when I sped everything back up to normal in Final Cut, it didn’t have that ‘sped up’ look, so I thought I’d just put it up like this. My wife has a portable black screen and 2 clamp lamps that we have with us on the road, so I used that as my backdrop and light setup.

It was a hit on Facebook, and people were asking for more. So a week later, I did Hong Kong Phooey. When I first heard that song in like ’97, I couldn’t listen to it enough, I thought it was hilarious. It was my introduction to Ska, so I knew the song really well for more than 10 years. I also employed the slow-down method here too.

Then my wife found this and loved it. I was talking about it to folks at work and Cirque happened to announce that day that they were organizing a private cabaret in the big top for the cast and crew, and asked who would like to participate.

I had a discussion with another performer who didn’t want to participate in the cabaret because it was too big of a playing space for only 100 people. But I thought, you have to USE the grandness of the big top rather than think of it as a limitation. And then it hit me all at once, Total Eclipse, the whole big top, even the fabrics, the whole thing came to me within a span of 30 minutes. I bought the song on iTunes on my iPhone right then and planned it all out. I went to Joann Fabrics, memorized the song, and in a few weeks performed it with one tech rehearsal a few days before.

There were four cameras set up: One on an ez jib, one on a tripod with a fluid head (though ‘fluid’ was the last thing on the stoned camera op’s mind), one stationary tripod up in the set tower behind me, and my wife shooting handheld on a homemade fig rig. There are two parts where I mess up the words, and I thank god I had all that coverage to edit over.

The last one is probably my favorite Tom Jones song. And I just like the idea of this big band playing and him singing with such intense emotion, and then to shove my face way into close up to project that emotion into my head. And yes, I even slowed this song down as well.

That’s all probably more info than you bargained for, but I got kind of excited when I started typing, so I just gave you the full, stream of consciousness version.

I just love these. He’s such a beautiful, patient performer, and he’s entirely at home in this space between respect and spoof.

Just for fun, here’s the real Tom Jones version: