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Smoky Voice

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Nurse Mary: A man should smoke. It acts as an expectorant and gives his voice a deep, gravely, masculine tone.
Edmund Blackadder: God, I love nurses — they're so disgustingly clinical!

Truth in Television: smoking is bad, among other things, for your voice. People who smoke a lot will have a significant Vocal Evolution as time goes by. They will sound deeper, lower, and raspier, giving a gravelly voice effect. Many will have trouble with their voice as time goes by, especially clearing their throat or swallow several times when they talk.

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A smoky voice can be used for evil characters to appear more threatening (Evil Sounds Raspy, Contralto of Danger), but also to appear suave and sexy. Some actors and musicians have a trademark smoky voice that makes them sound more husky, manly, and/or cool. To some, it's not even a side effect: they deliberately use it as an excuse not to give up their habit. What is isn't, however, is the baritone voice of a black bear promoting fire safety.

A subtrope of Smoking Is Cool, Aroused by Their Voice, Guttural Growler. Please note that we're not listing here people who only have a deep, sexy voice or who just happen to smoke a lot. It really has to be audible when they talk.


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Examples

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  • One of the CDC's anti-smoking PSAs feature a smoker named Terri who's The Unintelligible due to the damage smoking has done to her vocal cords.
  • There was an ad on a French radio station for The Punisher where the announcer's voice slowly deepened as he specifically mentioned that movie ads required the voice of a three-packs-a-day man.

Anime and Manga

  • In the French dub in One Piece, Smoker the chain smoker speaks with a very rough and raspy voice. He isn't as raspy in other dubs, however.
  • Gintama's Hijikata, who is rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth, has quite a rough and husky voice, provided by Kazuya Nakai whose voice is pretty recognisable due to this quality.

Comic Books

  • Kid Paddle: One strip has the boys mess with a talking doll until it has an extremely deep voice, with Horace noting that it sounds exactly like his uncle, a chain-smoking trucker.
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Film - Animated

  • William Sykes from Oliver & Company. Mob boss. Smokes a cigar. Sounds menacing, just like he is.

Film - Live Action

  • The Blues Brothers features a very raspy fellow at Elwood's SRO flop house. Elwood delivers the raspy fellow a pack of smokes.
  • BeetleJuice has Juno, a ghost-world public servant who is always smoking and has a very raspy voice.
  • After The Heavenly Kid dies, the woman behind him on the train starts coughing and asks in the raspiest voice imaginable "Got a light?"

Live-Action TV

  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, a nurse who has just slept with Edmund says how she feels that men should smoke for this reason.
  • Parodied in How I Met Your Mother when Lily gets a smoker's cough and is dubbed over by Harvey Fierstein (whose voice is, ironically, not the result of smoking, but of a childhood accident).
  • Harvey Fierstein also parodied this trope on Cheers when he guest starred as Mark, a former boyfriend of Rebecca's.
    Mark: Oh, you'll never guess. I finally quit smoking.
    Rebecca: I can tell. Your voice sounds so much better.
  • The Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet:
    • In season 2 they ran a series of skits showing popular bands from decades past and what (allegedly) became of them. The show host asked a member of one of these bands, who had stayed silent and smoked up until then, why she disappeared out of the public eye, and she answers honestly that she has no idea. Her voice is badly ruined by smoking when she answers.
    • In another skit, Israeli poet and lyricist Yonatan Gefen referred in one of his poems to Yuval haMevulbal, the alter ego used by a popular Israeli child entertainer who speaks with a very husky voice, as 'the man with the ashtray voice'.

Music

  • Louis Armstrong: Smoked a lot of tobacco and marihuana, giving him his trademark gravelly voice. He is the Trope Maker, because before him, all singers had a high voice.
  • Captain Beefheart: Also a smoker whose gravelly Guttural Growler voice was part of his persona. Tom Waits was inspired to sound the way he sounds today after listening a lot to Beefheart.
  • Tom Waits: He may have been the Trope Codifier. His smoky voice is part of his lonely bar pianist persona and used to great effect in his songs.
  • Leonard Cohen: His voice sounds significantly lower and more husky on his later albums as a result of his smoking habit.
  • Marianne Faithfull: Years of smoking also gave her a gravelly voice. In the words of James Hetfield, he invited her for a guest spot in a Metallica song because Faithfull had "that weathered, smelling-the-cigarettes-on-the-CD".
  • Mark Lanegan's smoky voice is one of his trademarks.
  • Belgian singer Tom Barman (DEUS) also clearly tries to mimick Leonard Cohen's and Tom Waits' smoky voices on his later albums.
  • Serge Gainsbourg: Characterised by his forty-Gauloises-a-day low husky rasp. The archetypical sexy French voice came at a price: he died of smoking-related cancer.
  • Singer Robert Palmer who did a cover version of "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" didn't have a smoking habit, as such. But before performances, he would smoke one cigar and have a glass of whiskey specifically because of the effect they would have on roughening his voice.
  • Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 hasn't gotten raspy (...yet), but his singing voice has grown noticeably deeper over the years due to his smoking habit.

Video Games

  • In the English localization of the Metal Gear franchise, the central characters Solid Snake and Naked Snake/Big Boss speak with a very gruff, gravelly voice. Originally, this was explained by Solid Snake being a chain smoker. Later on, a Revision showed that he is a clone of Big Boss, who has the exact same voice actor. Of course, this could mean that chain smoking is also a genetic trait.

Visual Novels

  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has Dee Vasquez that manages this despite the game lacking voice acting. Her Voice Grunting is the lower-pitched blips normally reserved for male characters.
  • Eleonore von Wittenburg from Dies Irae is a chain smoker and fittingly has the deepest and most raspy voice out of the entire female cast (and some of the male cast).

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons:
    • Marge's family suffers from this due to all of them (except for Marge) being heavy smokers. Her sisters Patty and Selma have very low and raspy voices. Her mother's voice is so damaged that she can barely talk. A flashback in "Three Men and a Comic Book" shows Patty and Selma with soft girly voices until they decide to take up smoking, and in a matter of weeks their voices change to their distinctive ones from the show. Their late father (who is only seen in flashbacks) also had a raspy voice and smoked cigars. Marge also has a raspy voice but not nearly as bad as her mother or sisters. Since she never smoked herself, this could have been from second hand smoke while growing up.
    • In the episode "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment" Lisa has an Imagine Spot where she's an old woman who has been gambling all her life. She smokes and has a raspy voice.
  • Dr. Girlfriend from The Venture Bros. has an exaggeratedly deep and masculine voice due to being a chain smoker.

Real Life

  • Lauren Bacall was famous for her husky voice as a result of chain smoking. She would eventually quit smoking, but her voice remained the same. In fact, the vocal phenomenon has even been named Bogart-Bacall Syndrome after her and Humphrey Bogart.
  • Actress Brenda Vaccaro is well-known for her husky voice caused by smoking.
  • A frequent joke/observation levelled at actress Ann Kirkbride, who has portrayed the character of Deirdre Barlow in Coronation Street for over forty years. She began in the long-running soap opera as a teenager. Her voice in her early appearances is markedly different to her current low, husky, rasp. Imitators and comedians have made much of this. She admits this is due to a smoking habit she no longer has. In 2015 she was to leave the show "indefinitely" and died in January of that month.
  • Diving commentator Silina Braga is well-known in Brazil for both precise calls (fruit of being a former judge) and an impressively raspy voice, which has been compared to everything including Donald Duck, Mumm-Ra and Gollum (one video with her even warranted the comment in English "More worried they hire a full-time smoker as announcer.").
  • This was how Don Messick was able to voice characters like Muttley and Scooby-Doo. He quit smoking about three years before his death, so he retired from voicing Scooby because of this.

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