‘Motor mouth’ Fran Capo is a fast talker – the woman can churn out over 600 words a minute, or 11 words per second! At such high speeds, you might not always be able to understand what she’s saying. I just watched a video of her telling the story of The Three Little Pigs in 15 seconds flat, and I was totally lost.
But comprehensibility is obviously not what she’s aiming for when she’s trying to break a record. The ‘Fast Talker Extraordinaire’ holds the Guinness World Record for being the fastest female talker in the world – she actually broke this record twice. She was also featured in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not – Planet Eccentric Book and in the Book of Alternative Records.
A native of New York, Fran has always been a fast talker. “Ever since I was a kid, I started doing it,” she said. “I didn’t say, ‘One day I’m going to grow up and be a fast talker,’ you know.” She started her career as a stand-up comic and sort of stumbled into breaking records along the way.
Photo: video caption
Her first attempt at the Guinness Record happened in 1986 – she was working at a radio station at WBLS-FM in New York at the time, doing the weather and traffic in a parody format. A local newspaper wanted to do a story on her, so an interview was arranged. When the interviewer asked Fran what she was planning on doing next, she had no idea what to say. So she just blurted: “I’m thinking about breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the Fastest Talking Female.”
When the newspaper article came out the next day, she received a call from CNN asking to go on the Larry King Live Show and attempt to break the record. “They told me they would send a limo to pick me up at 8:00,” said Fran. “That was only three hours. They insisted because they wanted me to do it the same night! Talk about pressure.” Thankfully, she was able to find a replacement comic for her own show and made it to the sets of Larry King Live on time.
Photo: video caption
To break the record, Fran was asked to recite something either from Shakespeare or the Bible. “I started reciting the ninety-first Psalm, a prayer for protection that my mom had taught me. I began practicing, over and over again, timing myself with a stopwatch to see how fast I could do it. As my speed increased, a rush of emotions came over me. I was both nervous and excited at the same time.”
“I broke the record, becoming the World’s Fastest Talking Female by speaking 585 words in one minute in front of a national television audience,” Fran recalls. “My career took off.” In 1990, she broke the record again at the Guinness World of Records Museum in Las Vegas, by reading 603.32 words of a 17th century British text in 54.2 seconds.
Surprisingly, Fran’s gift does not run in her family – her only sister speaks three languages, but at average speed. Fran thinks that it has something to do with growing up in New York City, where she believes the fastest talkers live. “The hotter it is, the slower people talk,” she observed. But there’s something anatomically different about Fran’s brain as well.
“They actually have done studies on my brain, like three hour-studies with an EEG. And what they found out is that the section of my brain which controls speech works different than a lot of other people. So my brain actually sees it different. Once I have it in my brain, literally, it’s almost like just taking it from my brain and getting it out.”
“I already know what I’m going to say, I already know what I’m going to write, I already know what I’m going to do. And because I feel like God gave us this life, at the end I want to say, ‘I used up every single bit you gave me.’ So I think fast, I move fast, not to say that I still don’t take time to stop and smell the roses.”
True to her philosophy, Fran does use up every single moment of her life. She does a host of other things apart from talking fast. “I’m a stand-up comedian, I bungee cord jump, I scuba dive, I’m a motivational speaker, I’ve written 11 books – I do a lot of things.” She has performed all over the world, and she holds records for other things as well, like being the only author to do book signings at both the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the site of the sunken Titanic.
“People often ask me how I did that or how I’ve managed to do many of the things I’ve done, like lecturing for the first time, or going on stage or bungee jumping,” said Fran. “I tell them I live my life by this simple philosophy: I always say yes first, then ask myself, ‘Now, what do I have to do to accomplish that?’”
“If I get the slightest bit nervous I think, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if I don’t succeed? The answer is simply, I don’t succeed! And what’s the best thing that can happen? I succeed. What more can life ask of you? Be yourself, and have a good time!”