I spent an hour Friday afternoon playing around with Shatoetry, an outrageous new iPhone app that lets fan construct sentences and phrases using the distinctive dramatic voice of Mr. William Shatner. Using the odd assortment of words contained within the app I made Captain James T. Kirk say some truly outrageous things, but none so outrageous as those that came from the man himself when we chatted later that afternoon.
William Shatner told me to play with myself.
"Well, I've got an app here, and it's unique," began Shatner, launching straight into the pitch for Blindlight Apps' Shatoetry, "I don't know when I've been able to say that. It's completely different than anything you've ever seen, and I'm quite proud of it."
As he spoke I fiddled with the application. It features a selection of words, each spoken by the actor with three escalating levels of drama, from barely above a whisper to exultation. The user arranges selected words on the screen, adds the appropriate (or completely random) pauses, and hits the "Shat That!" button to hear the finished phrases spoken.
I pressed the button, letting Shatner know I'd been fiddling about with it prior to our call. "Let me hear it," he said. "Let me see how you dramatized it." I brought my iPhone to the mic and pressed the button again.
Shatner laughed. "That's neat! That's exactly right. You chose some words to be dramatic and it sells itself."
What sells the app is William Shatner. From Star Trek to $#*! My Dad Says, his spoken-word albums to his Priceline commercials, the actor has turned his talent for hammy acting into a franchise. He is the dramatic pause and the wry grin.
I asked him if he considers his voice his most distinctive, attractive feature. "Oh no, it's my nose. My nose is my most attractive feature." Then why not a nose app? "Because I was gifted with such a beautiful nose it doesn't need any work. The rest of my body does but my nose—my nose!"
To Shatner his voice is just a voice, crediting the app's manipulation via the iPhone with making it sound commanding. I was struck by the image of Captain Kirk holding an iPhone up to his mouth, nonchalantly ordering red-shirted crew members to their doom. Did the iPhone take him back to his Star Trek days?
"Oh no, that happened years ago, back when Motorola had those phones that flipped open? That's what I was doing in a crowded airport. I wasn't conscious of the snickers that provoked, until I looked up and people were pointing and laughing."
The Star Trek conversation reminded me of a serious omission in the Shatoetry app—specifically two of the most important "K" words in any trekker's lexicon—Kirk and Khan. Was Shatner afraid of the letter K?
"Well 'okay' is okay, but then that's preceded by the 'o'" he teased. "'K' followed by 'I', 'R' and 'K' lends itself to mischief." I couldn't agree more.
The jury isn't out on those two important 'K' words yet. Regular updates are in the cards, as long as the app gets the kind of reception Blindlight and Shatner hope it does.
Shatner was on a tight schedule, so after a brief discussion about an upcoming radio play based on his TekWar universe it's time to say goodbye to one of my heroes. Somehow I managed to make it through the interview without embarrassing myself completely. I told Bill (he let me call him Bill) that I was going to go fiddle with Shatoetry a bit more.
"Good Mike. Play with it, then play with yourself and have a good time."
Aye aye, Captain.