How to make a convincing telephone voice

Does anyone know how I can make a good telephone operator’s voice for a monologue I’m doing?
I have the script. I have the 1940s black Bakelite phone. But what I don’t have is the knowledge needed to convert the operator’s voice (that I will record) so that it sounds badly distorted when played back in conjunction with my live voice.
To give an example of the script:
Me: Hello? Is that the operator? Can you hear me?
Operator: Yes. This is the operator. How may I help you?
Etc., etc.
I want to be able to record the operator’s lines using Audacity, then raise the pitch to simulate a woman’s voice (which I can do easily in the Effects mode) but then make it almost unintelligible somehow, so that I have to ‘translate’’ the garbled rubbish that is coming out of my earpiece - the so-called ‘receiver’, as it was known.
Any help would be gratefully received.

The main thing that you need is an actor that can pull off a suitable accent. After that, try the “Telephone” preset in the Filter Curve EQ effect and (optional) a little bit of Distortion effect (try the “Leveller” preset).

This Audacity plugin does a fairly good analogue-telephone, with hiss & crackle …

If you want perfect emulation you’ll need a convolution-reverb plugin which will apply an Impulse Response derived from a telephone earpiece.

make it almost unintelligible somehow

It’s at that exact point I would want to see the script setup. Telephone operator’s voices were aggressively not distorted. They went to a lot of trouble to make the voices clear and intelligible, including making the voices female. That wasn’t an accident.

Why is this voice distorted? That has to be a plot point and that plot point may demand a specific filter or effect.

Long Distance Operator? Trans-Atlantic?


The main thing that you need is an actor that can pull off a suitable accent.

What he said. In the first three words you can tell Georgia, Texas, New York, or New England.

Chicago and west coast are harder. No or flat accent.

When they pick up it’s: “OP ray terrrrrrr.” "Good morning operator. I’d like Oliver two, five oh four five. “Hoe please.” They didn’t go to all numbers until much later, followed much, much later by area codes.

See the Glenn Miller song “Pennsylvania Six Five Thousand.”

If it’s a Trans-Atlantic operator, that’s pretty obvious. You need to get the right country. You should talk to the international people for the script and greetings. I’ve never placed an operator-assisted international call.


Thank you kozikovski, Trevor and Steve for your interesting comments and help.
The best thing I can do is to show you the monologue that inspired mine. It’s by the English playwright Alan Bennett…only about 4mins long. Bennett doesn’t have a speaking operator, but mine does, which is why I came in here in the first place.
Here’s a link to Bennett performing his monologue:
Thank you again to you all for being so helpful.

He’s doing comedic abbreviation to keep the performance rhythm going. There isn’t time enough for the operator to say all the things he’s responding to. If you put the operator in, you’re going to have to write them in as a performance partner, not a confused staffer. See: cross between Lilly Tomlin and Alan Bennett. I’m guessing that’s why the connection has to be ratty?

I think that’s going to be deadly if the performance gets longer and the audience can’t understand half of it. I think I’d skip the distortion, leave it an operator’s voice and write in two comedians.

“Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”

Also see Shelley Berman “Hold On” act.

There isn’t time for the responses there, either. It would just drag if he waited.