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The Voice Behind The 'Laurel' Or 'Yanny' Recording: Actor Jay Aubrey Jones

May 20, 2018
Originally published on May 20, 2018 10:50 pm

If you've spent any time on the Internet this past week, you've probably heard and then argued over a certain viral sound clip.

He's saying, "Laurel," some people swear. No, he's saying, "Yanny," others insist. But for Broadway and television actor Jay Aubrey Jones, he hears himself.

Jones did some voice work for Vocabulary.com, recording more than 36,000 words for the website in 2007, including saying the word, "Laurel." And apparently, that is the source audio for the "Laurel, Yanny" viral clip that's been driving the Internet crazy.

"When I first heard this recording, it was on Wednesday morning on television, and I was putting myself together, and I did not recognize my voice at all," Jones tells Weekend Edition Sunday's LuLu Garcia-Navarro.

After receiving several phone calls, texts and emails from a producer at Vocabulary.com and other friends, Jones says, "They explained that it was my voice that has been creating this brouhaha for want of a better word."

Jones says he actually hears the word, "Laurel," when he listens to the clip of his voice, but a friend of his "swore up and down that all she heard was 'Yanny.' "

"I think it has to do first of all with what has happened with people's computers or listening devices, also how people process sound, which is highly individual," he says.

Jones, whose three-decade Broadway career includes a run as an understudy in the musical Cats, also appeared on the television shows, The Michael J. Fox Show and Gotham. Now, he's gone viral.

"I'm not sure" I'll add this to my resume, Jones says. "How does one put it? Under the caption, Radio: The 'Laurel' Guy."

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

If you spent any time on the Internet this past week, you've probably heard, and then argued and argued, over this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY AUBREY JONES: Laurel. Laurel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some say he's saying laurel. Others say he's saying yanny. But for Broadway and TV actor Jay Aubrey Jones, he hears himself. Jones did some voice work for vocabulary.com recording more than 36,000 words for the website in 2007, including saying the word laurel. And reportedly, this is the source audio for the laurel-yanny viral clip that's been driving us all crazy. So we have you to blame, Jay Aubrey Jones.

JONES: Yes, indeed.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Welcome.

JONES: Thank you very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: First, I have to have you say it to me live.

JONES: Laurel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: My goodness. It sounds like you are literally in my computer box.

JONES: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So...

JONES: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Did you recognize yourself when this clip went viral? Did you say, oh, my goodness, that's me?

JONES: When I first heard this recording, it was a Wednesday morning on television. I was putting myself together, and I did not recognize my voice at all. And I just went about my business. Then later that day, I got phone calls and emails and texts from the producer of vocabulary.com and other friends saying, you've got to call. You've got to call. We need to talk to you before the day's out. It's time-sensitive. And I'm thinking, what in the world happened? And so I was able to get in touch with them. And they explained that it was my voice that has been creating this brouhaha.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brouhaha.

JONES: (Laughter) For want of a better word.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think it's more than brouhaha. It's divided families, friends...

JONES: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to ask you, though. What do you hear when you listen to that clip?

JONES: I actually hear the word laurel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. You do.

JONES: L-A-U-R-E-L. Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. All right. I don't know if there's something specifically about your voice that seems to have, like, subtle messaging that gives a completely different word, though.

JONES: So I think it has to do, first of all, with what has happened with people's computers or listening devices, also how people process sound, which is highly individual. I was just exchanging text messages with a friend of mine who swore up and down that all she heard was yanny.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's what I heard, I'm sorry to say.

JONES: Oh, well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) But we can still be friends.

JONES: Oh, indeed so.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've been working on Broadway for about three decades. You were actually an understudy for "Cats" at one point during its Broadway run.

JONES: That's right. I understudied the role of Old Deuteronomy. And in my eight years in the show, I went on 193 times.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's amazing. And you also have TV credits with Michael J. Fox...

JONES: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And the show "Gotham". And now you've gone viral. This...

JONES: Yes (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Caps off a career. Is this going to go on your resume?

JONES: I'm not sure. How does one put it? You know, under the caption radio - the laurel guy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

JONES: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, I think what you say is internet sensation.

JONES: There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We want to give you an opportunity to share some of your real talent with the public, not just this laurel-yanny stuff. So I'm going to ask you to sing us out.

JONES: All right.

(Singing) You've seen us both at work and games and learned about our proper names, our habits and our habitat. But how would you address a cat?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Clapping) That was Broadway and TV actor Jay Aubrey Jones, also the voice of laurel, internet sensation - trademarked. Thank you for coming on the show.

JONES: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.