Peter Piper, with his peck of pickled peppers, has nothing on Pittsburgh-Peter’s pal. You know, “Peter-you-did-a-bang-up-job-I’m-putting-you-in-charge-of-Pittsburgh-I-know-it’s-perfect-that’s-why-I-picked-Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh’s-perfect-Peter-may-I-call-you-Pete?” Inhale.
The man with the lightning delivery on the Federal Express commercial is John Moschitta Jr., the fastest talker in the world, or so he says—and he says it so fast he’s hard to argue with. Moschitta has been clocked at 530 words per minute, roughly three times faster than average, faster even than a speeding slicer-dicer commercial.
Moschitta is scheduled to put his motor mouth to good use this week when he appears on the Oscars as star of the evening’s traditional low point, reciting Academy Award rules. He will dispose of the whole thing—the voting, the tabulating, the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse, all that boring stuff—in a dizzying 15 seconds. It usually takes two to five minutes. He’s been practicing his spiel for the past six weeks, starting off every morning with a warm-up exercise in the shower: “Mama’s a mean mama, daddy’s a dear daddy, baby’s a bad baby,” 20 times, fast.
Moschitta, 28, discovered his loose tongue when he was 12, growing up on Long Island. He wanted to set a world’s record as part of a local cerebral palsy benefit. “Most of the records,” he recalls, “were for things like riding roller coasters, sitting on top of flagpoles for weeks or eating cars. At that point the Guinness record for world’s fastest talker was 500 words a minute. I figured I could teach myself that.” And he did, driving his family—father John (sanitation chief for Hempstead, N.Y.), mother Carol and five sisters—nuts in the process. “I was a terror of a brother,” he admits.
His mouth hasn’t made Guinness yet—”I’m waiting for them to catch up with me,” Moschitta says—but it did eventually land him a career. After acting off Broadway, doing production for Qube cable TV in Ohio and a stint as Dom DeLuise’s secretary and cook, Moschitta got his break: a 1980 spot on That’s Incredible that caught the eye of Federal Express’ ad agency. Before you could say “higher tax bracket,” he was cast as Mr. Spleen, the executive in overdrive.
Moschitta’s dynamo delivery won him a 1982 Clio award (the Oscar of advertising), earnings of nearly $150,000 a year, spots on Madame’s Place, Matt Houston and the upcoming Zorro & Son (as Corporal Cassette, a human tape recorder), and enough potential business to keep the phone in his small Santa Monica home ringing every 10 minutes. No sweat. He can handle plenty of phone calls; in fact, he could’ve read you this story in 54 seconds.