Bored with your outgoing message? Friends stopped calling you? Liven things up with any of the following.

1. To be delivered with tremendous Shakespearean gusto. The last four words must be bellowed at the top of the voice:
"Once more unto the answerphone, dear friends, once more, and leave it filled with your excelling message. When I am in, there nothing more becomes you than modest stillness and humility, but when the blast of a recording sounds in your ears, imitate the action of the foghorn, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit Ė onward you noble caller! Now you wait, like a greyhound in the slips, straining upon the start. The gameís afoot! And upon this beep, cry god for [Name], ENGLAND AND SAINT GEORGE!"

2. To be delivered in the manner of Rowley Birkin QC, a character from The Fast Show - an old man who sits by the fire and recounts astounding autobiographical tales, in a rather incoherent way:
"I was arundala aye ee wehcuzzin in unarul zna Malaya, when unfshunin welundle min aghgina wz completely covered in hair. Anyway I said to in ah ahringalily cos ee fingaliring irr a lessenthrotee thee Hargreaves, you see? Next thing, whizzundilee nonagromits an BANG! Anez rul in tumigroolee, groolee ĎAH!í And he came running out hazingstockin an crepret arkers shouting Ď[Name]! [Name]! Run for your life!í Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Iím afraid I was very very drunk."

3. To be read with a slight growly/ill voice:

"Hello, Iím sorry but I canít get to the phone right now, Iím afraid Iím laid up in bed with a rather severe waitress and just canít get away. Please leave a message."

4. To be read in a very calm corporate voice:
"Hello, [Name] here, and thank you for calling the Royal Artillery Forward Observer Helpline. For range-finding and geostationary positioning, press one. If you are about to be over-run by the enemy, press two. For counter-battery fire, press three. To report the annihilation of your unit, press four, or you can hold to leave a message." [add some muzak for a few seconds before the beep]

5. To be delivered in the voice of Merlin from the film Excalibur:
"There was a time, when the world was young, when bird and beast and flower were one with Man, and Death was but a dream. Now, there are answerphones. It is the way of things, alas."

6. To be read with upbeat advert voice-over intonation:
[Opening spectacular music/fanfare] "Welcome caller, and congratulations for reaching this the final round of our competition. Answers to previous rounds were: ĎTwenty-fiveí, ĎThe Palace of Westminsterí, and ĎNo.í Iím afraid that three other callers have got all these correct as well, so now you have to answer a tie-breaker. Complete the following sentence: Ď[Name] should under no circumstances shave off his beard because... í"
(If you have no beard, then change the last sentence to Ďshould urgently grow a beard because... í)

7. This one requires two voices. The first is a Star Wars Imperial officer, the voice for which is traditionally an exaggerated English accent. The second is Darth Vader, whose voice is easy to imitate by speaking into an empty Pringles tube.
OFFICER: You are to be interrogated by Lord Vader.
           [Heavy breathing noises]
VADER: So, I have you now. Do not act so surprised caller, you are part of the rebel alliance, and a traitor. Several transmissions have been monitored on this line. I want to know what has been done with the stolen plans. You will tell me now what message you have for [Name].

8. To be read as realistically as possible, in your own normal voice:
"Hello?... Hello?... Hello is there- oh no! wait! No donít hang up. No I am in. No, Iím sorry, I mean Iím not in, er... How can I say that Iím not in? Thatís ridiculous. No, er, look, Iíve got one of those answer-machine thingies, and so what youíre listening to now, no, I mean, what you will be listening to this now, no, er, is a recording. There isnít really a tense in English to cope with this is there? Obviously I am in now, but in what to me will be the future, and is now as you listen to this be the present, I am or will not be in. Blimey, and I thought talking to other peoplesí answer-machines was difficult."

9. To be read in the gravel-laden voice of that man who does the voice-overs for about two thirds of all Hollywood film trailers:
"It was just an ordinary Ďphone call, on an ordinary day, and he [or she, or Name] was just an ordinary guy. But then, one man was plunged into his ultimate nightmare in: The Answerphone!"

10. To be read in the voices of Father Ted and his junior Priest Dougal:
DOUGAL: Hello? Hello? Iím telling you Ted, there nobody there.
TED: For the last time, Dougal, youíre recording the outgoing message.
DOUGAL: So you keep saying, Ted, but thereís nobody listening.
TED: Look just say that [Name]... oh will you just say that thereís nobody in?!
DOUGAL: Go on, Go away widíja Ted. Theyíll know Iím here as soon as they here my voice.
TED: Iím sorry Dougal.
DOUGAL: Oh right.

11. To be read in a quiet discreet voice:
"Hello, er, Iím afraid that [Name] canít speak to you right now. He is in, but heís hiding. I think itís best for you to leave a message for now, and perhaps heíll get back to you when heís in a better state of mind for that sort of thing."

12. Good military voices:
SERGEANT: ĎShun! LeftRightLeftRightLeftRightLeftRightLeftRight! Halt! Salute the officer! Hat off!
CAPTAIN: All right, stand easy. Captain [Name] here. Now then, letís hear what youíve got to say for yourself.

13. Good-news advertising man voice:
Welcome to the final round of the Leave-A-Message-For-[Name] Competition, 2001! In a moment, you are going to leave your entry, which could win you a holiday in Bermuda with the Spice Girls! Remember, the judges will only consider entries that rhyme."

14. Get someone else, preferably of the opposite sex, to record this one for you. They should speak, without any hesitation, in their normal voice, and sound totally unlike you.
Hello, this is [Name]. Yes, I know this might not sound like my usual voice, but I'm afraid I've got a bit of a cold. Now, you are going to leave a message, and remember: it won't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing."

15. In your normal voice. This one has two false endings. Two is irritating enough. Three would really be pushing it.
"Hello, this is [Name]. I can't of anything fancy this time, so just leave a message after the tone [make a tone noise somehow e.g. by whistling a note, then pause for a few seconds]... as soon as you hear the tone, leave a message. Obviously, that wasn't it. [Make another, more convincing, tone noise, and pause again, slightly longer this time]... Anything you feel I ought to know, you just go right ahead and tell me."


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