Johnny Heller graduated from Loyola in 1979 with a degree in political science, though his passion has always been performing. He was involved in theatre as an undergrad, organized a comedy troupe, and wrote a comedy column for the Phoenix. After a brief stint as a journalist, Johnny returned to the performing arts, where he’s had a long and successful career.
Today, Johnny lives in New York City and spends most of his time narrating audio books and doing commercial voiceover work (he was the voice of the book Marley and Me and won a 2009 Audie award for the recording of You Staying Young by Drs. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, frequent guests on Oprah). Publishers Weekly named him a 2008 Listen Up winner and he was named a Best Voice of 2008 by Audiofile Magazine. He’s also done some stand-up comedy, written three plays and numerous short stories, and has a children’s book in the works.
What’s the most enduring lesson you learned at Loyola?
That there are no real limits on us other then those that are self-imposed. Also, that it’s important not to schedule anything first-thing in the morning as it cuts heavily into time best spent dealing with a hangover.
What is your favorite memory of Loyola?
I enjoyed a great deal of it–intramural sports, frats…I guess my favorite was Father Loftus’ existentialism classes. The guy was hilarious and quirky. I still impersonate him in my audio work sometimes.
If you could go back to school, what Loyola course would you take? Why?
Computer programming and Web design. They weren’t big at that time, and I remain clueless.
What’s the most interesting part of your job?
Meeting and sharing with interesting creative people. And, there’s a certain excitement in wondering where the next job will come from.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Father Jerry Hogan told me I could never make it as an actor. I set out to prove him wrong immediately. Anti-advice I guess.
What do you say to students or new grads who want to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Pursue your dreams but be realistic about your place in the business. And realize that it is a business.
What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it to others?
Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow. I would recommend it. Jack Reacher is awesome–a Jack Bauer for the workingman.
And, what’s the children’s book about?
Dealing with tough choices, bullies, and moving to a new place. But don’t look for it on bookshelves at Barnes & Noble anytime soon. I still have to finish it.
What (or who) inspires you?
My father, Groucho Marx, anyone who can bat near .300 without steroids, and people who believe and follow their dreams.
If you could travel to any time and place in history, where would you opt to go?
I would like to see the Marx Brothers do Vaudeville. I would also like to visit Edison. I would not like to see the Visogoths or the Hittites.
If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?
It would be a comedy. But I bet I wouldn’t get the part.
Describe your perfect day.
Get up at the bright hour of 10:30 a.m. or so. Have some coffee and grape juice and some fruit. Read the paper. Go to the gym or for a long walk. Play some softball. Work the rest of the day and finish with some dinner and wine with my lovely girlfriend.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I am one of those horrible people who leaps out of bed greeting the new day–fully awake and chipper.
Which one best describes you in college: athlete, intellectual, artist, young professional, activist, or social butterfly?
Is that still true today?
Now I’m an intellectual social butterfly.