Billy West – Voice of Philip J Fry, Zoidberg, Bugs Bunny, and more!

The voice of many characters we all love joins Jeff for a one on one chat about everything form Autism to the inspiration for the voices he creates.

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https://billywestpodcast.com/

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Billy West – Interview

 

[00:00:00] Jeff: hello, listeners, a split the country today on the show with a very special guest, mr. Billy West. How are you doing mr. West

Billy West: hum. Okay. And what about you? I’m laying low and playing by the rules.

Jeff: I’m doing okay. I’m getting a little tired of COVID right.

Billy West: I know. I know. It’s it seems like it’s been a year of sitting inside the house.

Jeff: Well, they just have a sort of like unending feel to it. Like, I can’t remember the world prior to COVID I’m really looking forward to

Billy West: this one. well hopefully it won’t be much longer, but I think, I think there’s some variables that nobody can control. And that’s why the disease continues.

Jeff: I, I mean, I do agree.

I will say, like walking around the grocery stores and people not wearing the mask, is that, is that helping things?

Billy West: No, it’s not, but what are you going to do? It’s like, I never dreamt that when I was a kid, I never. That would have been a horrible nightmare [00:01:00] to like wake up in a world where there were people that were ready to kill you over a piece of cookie or a mask, or, you know what I mean?

Or toilet or, what do you call it? Paper towel.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, it definitely, it changes kind of how you see your society that you live in. I want have always, if you had asked me maybe 10 years ago, in case of a pandemic or any major issue, where do you think people would do the small things necessarily to keep others safe? Obviously we would

Billy West: do that.

Jeff: And now going through this, I think to myself fairly not,

Billy West: well everybody used to be on the same page years ago. You know what I mean? There wasn’t like a 200 agendas, 200 different ways of life that have nothing to do with anybody else’s life. so it’s all over the place. Yeah.

Jeff: I mean, I totally agree.

And I do hope [00:02:00] that over the next few months, we can get back on track and try to figure out what you railed us to begin with. A lot of us would have our own opinions on that and figure it out and get back to the point where we are all facing.

Billy West: Yeah, it would be wonderful.

Jeff: That we all didn’t have to wake up from our wonderful so, well, one thing I found kind of interesting when I was doing some research about you and I hope you don’t mind us discussing it.

 

When I’m not doing my podcast or all the pockets, I don’t put them apart. I’m a teacher, a high school teacher at a period school.

And a lot of my students have issues such as ADHD and autism, which I read that you, something that you dealt with growing up as well. And I thought it’d be something very interesting to hear your thoughts on because once again, my students deal with the same issues.

Billy West: let’s see. There’s no way to know [00:03:00] when you actually have autism of some degree, and ADHD to varying degrees.

You have no idea that you might be a step towards. a change in evolution, you know, that, that people, people that have these things, it’s like a foreshadowing of the future, that the gifts that people will be able to develop, you know, all the, artistic people that I’ve ever dealt with, have tremendous gifts locked up inside and.

There’s something about the condition they have that allows them to act so access to these locked storage rooms that are locked to regular people. you just don’t, we don’t have the keys to them, but there are store houses of gifts and amazing talents and things like that that they have access to.

And, you know, they’re really trying to figure it [00:04:00] out, trying to make a study of it. ADHD, I think is also one of those, genetic disorders where you have imbalanced chemistry. you know, it it’s, I went through it and it’s, it’s like makes life hellish for you. But, but if you’re going to look in terms of winning and losing, I mean, I gained an awful lot of gifts.

I mean, I was given all these. abilities and stuff. That’s not normal. I always thought the talent was a form of mental illness and, because it’s abberant to the human condition, you know what I mean? And, you know, I think those kinds of things are good things that happen and more people might become more sensitive and more artistic over time.

Jeff: For those people who don’t have to deal with things such as autism know, would you try to describe the experience to them or is that possible?

Billy West: It’s, it’s impossible because [00:05:00] you I’m used to having to process everything upside down backwards. Ever since I was a kid, that’s how I process everything. Upside down backwards, but I would find a way to do what the, what the, but the target was like tying my shoes.

I could not tie them, but I made up my own version of them and they worked just fine, strange, but. You know, I mean, I couldn’t see it for what it was. I couldn’t see when someone was showing me, no, this goes here and this goes there, impossible for me to read. And so afterwards I would, you know, sort of deconstruct the situation and put it together my own way.

Same thing with a neck tie, couldn’t tie a neck tie now, stupid. It goes like this. All you got to do is put it under here and pull it over here, you know? And it’s like, it was like a foreign language to me, but processing everything upside down backwards, I figured out a way to tie a tie that [00:06:00] looked halfway normal.

Jeff: What is the key to working? I instruct in those who do deal with autism as someone who’s a teacher working with those two,

Billy West: you have to try to mimic the language that seems to be coming from them. And, and then they will open up more to you and you’ll be able to slowly figure out what it is that they mean when they talk about something or, or, you know, what makes them laugh?

What makes them sad? It’s it’s like a whole other set of circumstances and you got to try to identify with it. No one had any tolerance for kids like that. When I was growing up, especially my dad. I mean, God, you know, it was just a, what’s wrong with you. What’s wrong with you. And I, you know, I’d get hit a lot smacked over the head for this, that, and the other thing.

And, being able to survive that, I don’t know, I don’t know what to make of it. except that [00:07:00] I was given something that saves my ass in life, because I, I couldn’t understand anything in school. I couldn’t understand that athlete in school. counting the days, like on a piece of paper or a calendar, what year I would be able to leave that hell.

Yeah. You know, and I didn’t care if I knew anything or not. It was just, I couldn’t learn anything, period. End of sentence. No matter what anybody tried to do to teach me. and, yeah, you know, and I wound up in a future where thank God I do what I do. It has nothing to do with anything that I ever learned in school.

Nothing, you know? it’s like, I can work. I can work like, you know, abundantly because of the nature of the job. I do, you know, you have set ups at home now and everything. You don’t have to travel. You don’t have to go to a studio, to far cry from, you know what, I did my whole life with this, [00:08:00] but, but I mean, nothing in school could make me ready for the year 20, 20, nothing.

None of it. Yeah, they teach people math and I couldn’t understand math. And then, wow. I wake up in a future where there’s this genius device. Well, why would anybody need to learn math for anything, your answer right there in the Palm of your hand? I did have a love of language though. And I, and I liked plays.

I liked reading stuff that I could understand, but it would have to do with art. It would have to be about something that was interesting. To me, for my brain to process it.

Jeff: Yeah. I, I, I do think there’s a lot of students and probably a lot of parents who find autism to be like a sentence of failure for the life.

They don’t understand what they can accomplish to will those types of individuals who do feel that ortho defeated by [00:09:00] the difficulties that they have. What would you say is the key to your success?

Billy West: well, I had one, at least one nurturing parents, my mom, who tried to understand where I was going, you know what I was thinking, what I was doing and how I went about it.

At least she kept an eye on things and, she was always helpful to me, you know? I mean, cause I, you know, I can just imagine a kid, what their parents feel like when a little kid comes to them one day and says, mom, what? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me. there’s no easy answers there. You know, normally they would just go, Oh, there’s nothing wrong with you.

You know, it’s gonna work itself out. And it did it. I didn’t rather, you know, cause they came up in a turbulent house. My dad was hyper violent. And a drunk and a crazy and a mental case. And, you know, I mean, I had to cut through scar tissue for years to even [00:10:00] approach being normal. you know, it was just bad luck, but the thing is, is look at the gift somehow in there that was enclosed in that miserable package.

You know, and I found it, I found it because that’s all I could do. You know, when I was a little kid running around rocket ships and, you know, screaming soldiers and, you know, noises and voices and singing everything, you know, Poor Adam.

Jeff: I do seem to move, that definitely frustration or aggravation, someone who is Ellen’s difficulty is definitely not gonna make the situation ever better.

It just seems to make things always that much worse and

Billy West: long lasting. Well it’s, I don’t know. It’s like, you know, teenagers are always like, you know, To get to a point and they’re just fed up and they don’t want to be told anything and they don’t want it. And then they even [00:11:00] resent someone trying to understand the, you know, it’s like, you know, I can’t stand to be misunderstood.

I can’t, you know, it it’s one of those things. And, and I think it’s prevalent in a few things like, hypertension hybrid. Attention deficit disorder.

Jeff: Is there a range if someone, this teenager is feeling like that, as you said, because I hadn’t really thought of that yet. You know, being angry at being misunderstood.

What should you just keep trying as an adult or a teacher, or do you want to give them space in there like that?

Billy West: I try to think it, I try to think of it in terms of evolution that this might be. The next step, the complicated, painful step in our evolution, changing once again, as it always has, and always will, has it been an, and you

Jeff: said the fact that you do what you do as a voice actor.

Yes. and also probably did [00:12:00] it in a minute. That has been a definite benefit for you, in dealing with some of the issues that you have. has it, how has it been a complication for you?

Billy West: In, in what regard? I’m sorry.

Jeff: yeah, my guess is not have not ever been a celebrity obviously, is that being, it’s a very socially, you know, necessary type job that you do have to constantly be interacting, constantly being approach having, them is usually seen as a relatively anti, not saying.

And it makes interaction difficult.

Billy West: Well, it’s something that, that always kept me alive was I was always trying to entertain others or make other people laugh. I used to think that’s the reason I existed. You know, people would be angry and fighting and then I would just show up and do something stupid.

you know, and they would go, what was that? You know? And, [00:13:00] I stayed with that. That’s how I thought in my own little way that I could bring people together. But I think ultimately, you know, the most noble thing you can do is be like somebody who saves other people’s lives. or a doctor or someone like that first responders, but I think the second, most noble thing is being able to make people laugh.

I think it’s very noble that if someone can do that

Jeff: and I mean, we’re not getting to any cool shit on that is there is I think being able to make someone laugh, entertain them can also be the thing that kind of saves them a little bit too, because I think people need that. I mean, especially at a time of Cobra and people are locked down, so something about just I’m entertaining and giving up something to laugh about it and be happy is one of the most important things you can do for someone in many instances,

Billy West: It’s it’s a complicated thing.

I know that there are so many things, you know, of, of, esoteric value and interests, but [00:14:00] kept my life happy. You know, when I needed to surround myself with something that was happy, you know, whether it was, performers that I idolized or. You know, watch them work, look at their works, listen to them.

you know, inspiration and passion. That was always there. I always had those two things.

Jeff: Now in your early career, you spent as performer commuting from a community routines on a radio station in Boston. Is that, is that, was that a normal evolution from trying to make people rise, to moving you to your standard routine?

Billy West: Yes. Stand up. I, I just, I didn’t do well because if I prepared material, it wasn’t pure and it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t from the heart and I, people couldn’t relate to it because, it was written and it was over-prepared and, you know, I was better off just being spontaneous. And just let whatever happened happened, but you’re risking your life from room to [00:15:00] room with that.

You can, you know, you can either a soar like an Eagle one night and then go to hell on a tour fireball. So that’s that’s, I don’t want to live, I didn’t want to live like that. So luckily I got into radio and it was the perfect match for me because that’s where I was most needed. as a Sonic. Anthony.

Jeff: So how did you go from radio then to doing over performances?

Billy West: well, they go, they went hand in hand because they used to create characters for these morning shows that I worked on in Boston. And, and I moved to New York and I worked with Howard stern for a few years and I was doing voices for his show and everything.

But in the meantime, I had been auditioning for a. Commercial voice-overs and animation. And, I started to make some headway. People were beginning to. To take a good look and, and go, let’s get them back here. I want to see what else he can do [00:16:00] that kind of stuff.

Jeff: Now later in your voice, what you ended up doing some voices that were pixie done by the most famous voiceover performer of all time, though.

Billy West: Yes.

Jeff: A especially kind of crusher in attempting to do voice work, for such legendary characters.

Billy West: Well, yeah, it was frightening. It was absolutely, you know, frightening to try and approximate what Mel Blanc did. I, I could do the voice. I, I knew what he did, so I, I could do things that people expected because that’s what they were, you know, the character had outlined and specified for audiences.

You can, you knew who you were dealing with immediately, but. I had to like, listen on a different way level and, you know, if you had to be fine tuned and I was just like, you know, and you have to please everybody it’s like some people like the [00:17:00] bugs bunny from the forties, some like the one from the eighties.

so you had to like try to go with it instinctively, like what beats from what eras and yeah, it was really tough. Really tough, but I was honored to do it. I’m glad that they trusted me to interpret the character and that’s how I feel about all the characters, but I do prefer to create them, out of the blue,

Jeff: when you’re doing a famous character like bugs bunny and him with fraud.

Do you, I mean, are you able to try to make it your own or try to make your version of it, or is it really that much money from this era, that era, or could you be a Billy West Virgin of bugs bunny?

Billy West: Well, I always try to put in something. Of my own, but it was, it had to be a very slight contribution because that wasn’t the assignment.

The [00:18:00] assignment was to approximate. Mel Blanc is as faithfully as possible. You know, so, I mean, that’s, that’s how I did it. And there were other artists that do bugs by and have for the movies and commercials and stuff. And, we all, I dunno, it seemed like we all had our one, two punch, even though we were mimicking a character.

But, the reason they vary just slightly stylistically is because, of who it was coming from. You know, little subtle differences

Jeff: because you have done voice work for so many famous characters. Now, many of the characters will go into an interview. Do you ever stop and wonder how you will feel later on when a different voice actor does?

So the characters that you previously performed and how do you think you feel

Billy West: about that? let’s see.

I guess I’d be honored, you know, I mean, if I wasn’t able to do it or they just, you know, I’d probably be angry [00:19:00] if they didn’t call me,

but, but I mean, that’s how I started, you know, there were people that were just not able to do certain things and not able to, you know, so they would recast stuff. And I came in on that kind of level. You know, replacing original people. I think mostly it was because they had either passed away or they just refuse to do it, but there are people that were just too old to do it or infirmed.

you know, and, and it’s like, time goes on. It’s like, you know, I’ll be reckoning with that kind of stuff. I don’t know when, but, I don’t know, there’s people that are doing gigs that I’ve done. And I give them my blessing. I wish them nothing, but the best,

Jeff: no blank had already passed right prior to performing, bugs bunny and number four, correct?

Billy West: Yes.

Jeff: So, I mean, he was definitely a great [00:20:00] legend, but you yourself have started or not started, but I mean, you have accomplished quite deliberate career on your own as the voice of performer,

Billy West: which I’m glad for. Yeah.

Jeff: And I, and I don’t know if you remember the character or not, but you actually performed worst.

My favorite cartoons of all time growing up, project geekier. I don’t know if you remember the show to me, it was a huge deal.

Billy West: I do remember it. And, and I remember I worked with Charlie Adler and I worked with big Brad Garrett, you know, and Jimmy Cummings. Yep. There were legends. All those guys.

I was brand new. I mean, I had just set foot in town and I was starting to get gigs and I’m sitting next to these heavyweights and I couldn’t believe, you know, and I was learning. I was listening and learning and, I thought it was a pretty clever show

Jeff: and advice to Brad Garrett and Jim Cummings. And Charlie, I’ll give you about voice [00:21:00] performing when you, started the pro of the show.

Billy West: I don’t think I was ever soliciting for advice. You know, I mean, I, I was pretty cocky. you know, but Brad, Garrett, you know, I do a bunch of stuff and he would look at me and he would just say, Where does it come from? Billy? Where does it come from? You know, I mean, it was like, I was the Billy verse, I guess, you know,

Jeff: I think when the coolest thing about to show and the weather that it works, we’ll see, it is your performance.

Deeker himself. I mean, if Pika does not work as a character who worked for him, the show definitely falls apart.

Billy West: Right. And

Jeff: a fabulous job at developing this. Very kind of weird almost. I’d almost use the word I talked about. His was like, it’s almost like a rabbit the way he broke up and down and tenure of his voice.

How did you arrive at that performance?

Billy West: I was willing to try anything. I never [00:22:00] wanted to be cliche. You know, I had to always find something that would make that character bigger than the two dimensions that it occupied. Giving it a third dimension is by giving it, you know, maybe picking up on a flaw and exaggerating it, or, you know, I just, I was always making off the nose choices.

My acting choices were weird.

I want to be like anyone else really. Once I got to that point,

Jeff: how was when you got the road to begin with, how was it described to you? The character

Billy West: of beaker that he was almost like robotic and that he contained. You know, zillions of bits of information and, and he could access it or run it through his mind, but he would also.

You know, audio, audio wise, spell out the equations and he would sing them or he would, you know, there were all these different possibilities for a [00:23:00] way to perform them.

Jeff: Kiko definitely seemed almost like a super intelligent almost child. What I’m saying. He did seem also he very innocent in some ways.

Billy West: Yeah, he was, I don’t know. I, I, yeah. As I got older, I was still able to do these like adolescent type voices. And your little kids and, you know, just lucky.

Jeff: Oh, it was a show that I thought was just incredible. And I think you did a wonderful job on it. unfortunately, Oh, you’re welcome. Unfortunately, we ran, 13

Billy West: episodes, right?

Jeff: it felt like one of those shows, so it sort of like made truly Firefly show that was ended so prematurely before even hit his full potential. And I wonder how you

Billy West: felt about it. There was a guy in charge of animation, a great artist, and his name is outdo Paden, and he did the artworks, He also, did the artwork for stuff like men and black and [00:24:00] Ghostbusters.

you know, the Ghostbusters cartoons that were later on, you know, and he was just a driving force. He was like, he was not gonna be ignored. He was, he had a style that was very unique and, You know, it worked like a charm every time. And sometimes you have teams of people like that, and that’s what makes something give attention.

But. You know, who knows why networks or our executives make the decisions they make, there’s no rhyme or reason. So,

Jeff: yeah. And I know about time, period. I guess CBS had shut down his entire intimate animated schedule, unfortunately. So it feels like one of those times where it’s sort of like a lot of great Trent live shows at the time, he just, I guess, was off.

Billy West: Yeah. Isn’t it funny how, you know, they can’t make television. So, what do they do? They, they fill it all in with anime,

well, or predicted the show biz would collapse basically no [00:25:00] movie theaters to show any stuff in and, you know, Who would have ever guessed or imagined that, but, but animation survive.

Jeff: Well, I mean, once again, I guess, being situated that we’re in, I guess, as a voice actor, can you do the performance from home or do something?

Billy West: No, we were, we were forced to stay in the house and, you know, put together with spit and glue, some kind of recording rig that was, you know, suitable. For the standards of broadcast television,

Jeff: it is it’s it’s. It is amazing. And I guess it almost coincides with oddly enough, it just coincides with the emergence of streaming as being a major force in entertainment.

And right after that started getting its push COVID. I don’t seem to have given the theater to experience the final kit

Billy West: on some level. People want control over [00:26:00] stuff. And that’s the one thing that ever had. I never had control over anything. I watched except for my own personal, pick what show that I was going to watch.

But you were relegated to watch it at a certain time. And there was like a helplessness about what you wanted to fill your head with. You know, I mean, I didn’t like westerns. I liked detective shows. I like, Oh, I don’t know, just silly situation comedies, you know? Cause that was like, they were situation comedies that run out of ideas, you know, like in the, late sixties.

They just run out of ideas. They were working recycled scripts and just renaming and changing the characters and stuff. but then little, did you imagine that before television, was going to become a wasteland, all the creative shows [00:27:00] that were ever made started popping up on cable, you know, television made this huge, you know, resurgence, because they decided, look.

You know, we’ve tried everything else. Why don’t we, why don’t we do good stuff? Why don’t we do really good stuff? And, that’s how I remember it. You know, like, most of that walking or being bad. What was the show?

Jeff: Yeah, I mean, the interesting too though, is. Well, honestly, there was less options back in the day of going through channels.

I do think that offered a common experience that we lack now bumping into people. Who’ve watched a number of the same shows that you have is limited. Now that the best, you know, a hundred, some channels, 10 streaming networks and all that. I, I do feel that we brought something in a company.

Billy West: Well, all I know is, my earliest experiences with television.

television was brand new. When I was a kid, it was only like [00:28:00] four years old television. And, the earliest shows the writers that, that these comedies had. They didn’t learn to write from, you know, watching TV. They didn’t learn to write from, you know, From going to movies, they all had literary backgrounds for real.

That’s why this stuff was so good. And then eventually it just got watered down to, how did you learn to write? Oh, I just would watch YouTube.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, that would explain a lot of the trash on TV right now. It is funny too, when you have that many channels and that many options that the associates watching half the time.

Billy West: Yeah. But I think it’s, it’s human nature to just become cliche after a while because nobody wants that kind of pressure of, you know, hitting the bulls-eye every time.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, I would say the one nice thing about. Monitoring TV and streaming is that you do [00:29:00] have so many options to watch the older programs that you enjoyed when you were younger or that you missed completely

Billy West: when you were going, you

Jeff: have a second shot at enjoying them

Billy West: again.

Well, this is a really interesting time. The past, I would say 20 years where generations that came along later were discovering stuff that made people go crazy. You know, 30 years before they were born and some of it was television and, and music, you know, I mean, I’ve, I’ve listened to young people, listen to the beach boys stuff on YouTube and watch it and go, man, we got so jipped.

Why was everything so good? Why was everything just so perfect. You know, and it’s like the answer to that is found in a movie called, what was it called? Midnight in Paris, you know, where, where the Woody Allen [00:30:00] character, is trying to figure out why everything was so unbelievably great before he was born.

You know, and then he realizes it because he meets all these people that he idolized and looked up to. Some of them were generations apart. It was a total fantasy, but they’d be playing cards. You know, he’d be playing cards with Ernest Hemingway and then he would meet another guy Louis now. and, but each one of those guys was him wondering why every.

Thing was so perfect and unbelievable before they were born before they came along.

Jeff: Yeah.

Billy West: I thought that that was one of the greatest movies ever, because it explains something that, that everybody wonders about is like, why is everything garbage now? You know? Yeah.

Jeff: I guess there’s a universal truth about perspective, I

Billy West: guess. Yes. Well, it’s an endless cycle. [00:31:00]

Jeff: everything does seem simpler in the past, but I guess at that moment, if I would have felt totally different interests are similar

Billy West: to them. I don’t know. It’s just, it’s just the human condition that there are some firebrands, you know, like I know there’s like young women and young guys out there that have listened to stuff.

Grew up on stuff and study that and wanted to be like the stuff that I had done or my peers, you know, my friends. I know that there’s people that want to be faithful to something that became a standard instead of ignoring it. You know, one of the perpetuity, you keep it going.

Jeff: I think that’s one of the reasons that I do always disappointed that, something right project that I did love.

Isn’t available really anywhere anymore, which, which is such a shame. I was watching some of the episodes in preparation for the June, went into a second field for them, and I think three episodes [00:32:00] available on Amazon. And that’s it. I mean, even YouTube does not have a decent copy of it. One episode, I thought that was tragic.

Billy West: No, it just depends on. You know, who’s out there and who has passion. Those are the people that dig up stuff and put it up as soon as they can or people who may have videotaped it, you know, in its time. But I’m just, I’m just glad that I did it. I’m glad that I had the opportunity. I’m grateful. and I still am to this day for, for any kind of opportunities to work and, and, and my goal is to just.

I’m thinking about people’s enjoyment of it and hope it makes them happy because, you know, I did not have a happy childhood, but I’ve met so many generations of people that were little kids, and then they became middle-aged and old people, that grew up or came through the periods that I had covered with my [00:33:00] work.

And, they all were like, you know, I. I couldn’t believe how good I had it because I was watching the shows you are on. And, that makes me happy. It means that I achieved what my goal was.

Jeff: Once again, yesterday, one of these shows that the fan base of is still absolutely massive. maybe the most famous people around, but it seems like the same as well as his fry on future album.

Billy West: Well, he was, he was basically me. When I was 25, I was all whining and complaining and nasally. And I’m just like, Oh man, I was in bands. Ah, man, I broke a string now, what am I supposed to do? And I said it exactly like that.  and so I decided to use that. And I, and it was kind of a smart decision. I said, I want to try to do one voice that, that nobody could copy.

And, and that’s usually your own voice. [00:34:00] Very hard to grab a hold of an impression of somebody’s real voice and not a put on voice.

Jeff: Now I may be wrong. My eyes may have played some tricks on me, but is it possible that the voice of Frye changed a little bit from the first couple of episodes?

 Billy West: yeah. W what happens is everybody starts at a certain level of everything.

And then as time goes on, The characters find themselves they become what they were ultimately supposed to be. You know, that’s why the first episode of the Simpsons, Thomas sounds like, I don’t know, 180 degrees away from what he sounds like now. Yeah. It’s a work in progress. Those, those shows are just works in progress and things morph and they change.

But. It’s it’s what they were ultimately supposed to be.

Jeff: So when you were those, your thought process in raising the voice of it,

Billy West: what do you mean, like in creating a [00:35:00] voice

Jeff: or, well, when you, when you feel fine, you decided to split episodes, then what was your thought into going into that direction?

Billy West: well, I thought of them in terms of a guy that’s like most guys. You know, he thinks he’s cool, but he’s not really, but it’s good that he has the self-confidence that can be shattered in a moment because he’s he’s, he has mood swings. But the thing is, is, I thought in thought, in terms of him being in love or looking for love and that I wanted him to be a project for a girl.

Yeah. You know, that’s why it was always like, Oh, fry, you know? Cause he was a project is like, you know, do you have to wear that? Or what about your hair? You know, once you get that cut, you know, I dunno, I think women like a project they’re frustrated with it, but they’re fascinated by what they can do with it.

Jeff: I hope [00:36:00] so, because that would explain why my wife was the project. But, and if you don’t mind, my wife is actually, my wife’s name is Joey lane. She would love to ask you a question if you don’t mind.  Joey, go, go ahead, mr. West. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Absolutely. Enjoy your work.

If you drama my questions on feed drama. It’s my absolute favorite comfort show. so my, so you play many of the cast members, including four characters, the professor Frei, dr. Zoe beg and Zapp Brannigan, who do you see most enjoyed voice acting. Who do you like? Who could you imagine yourself being, if you were that character?

Billy West: Well, it’s always more fun to play the asshole or a villainous person. It’s, it’s always more fun. So I got a kick out of being, you know, pig headed, [00:37:00] you know, guy trying to be macho and you know, and he’s a coward and he’s acting brave. I love all these, these, juxtaposed, traits packed into one character.

You know where he would be like, you know, you know, he would give orders to go fight these, these enemy. Starships. And he said, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be hiding in a bathroom or something. So I’ll be in my chambers.

Jeff: So, I mean, cause you know, how many couches do you play in future Armando often playing against each other or with another?

How do you, I mean, is it hard to do so many voices of different characters and ones in dialogue with one another?

Billy West: no, not for me. It never was. I, I kind of liked it, that I could go through six pages printed pages and there’d be three, four characters talking to each other and I wouldn’t break it up.

I would just continue the conversation. I was just lucky like that. But you had to have, you know, [00:38:00] really distinctive changes. You couldn’t let one voice bleed into the next one, you know, and not have it be considered.

Jeff: I mean, is that, did you ever find when you’re switching from voice to voice, like, do you ever see yourself in the Pryor brace when you’re trying to do the other character

Billy West: for a moments?

Yes, it happened once. So the table read. I went to go read something and I read it in the wrong voice. And it was like, you could hear a pin drop. Everybody was like, Oh my God. You know, like there was something really wrong with me.

Jeff: I mean, honestly, I don’t think I could ever remember how to do.

Billy West: I don’t know.

I, I, I try to come up with something I think, long and hard. When I’m doing anything, I will think long and hard about the character before I go to record anything with it. I want to make sure that it’s, that it’s there for the ages, you know, like an evergreen, and [00:39:00] these are the kind of characters and Futurama that you could actually know, even though some of them are grotesques they’re characters that you could actually know in your real life.

And, people like that, they, they, they couldn’t believe the character fry that he really was that, you know, innocent and, and, and making mistakes and not speaking the right way. And he couldn’t say things that he meant, you know, that’s what makes a character interesting.

Jeff: Cut myself off just for a moment.

My wife wasn’t, I, I just jumped over. I was Julia will say, thank you. Now. I just wanna say thank you. for instance, the question, Joey. Well, thank you again for answering my question and it was really nice.

Billy West: Good night. Thank you. I hope you do too. Yeah, w

Jeff: we actually had them and I think to meet you in Boston were very nice enough to sign up.

She wrote quite a bit. The professor was my absolute favorite. So, so going back to some, some of the characters, when you are performing the [00:40:00] different voices, do they only record one voice at a time or do they, or do you go, through the same recording?

Billy West: No. I used to do that on Ren and Stimpy. I would record the script in one character and I go back and do another character.

And then if there were incidentals or additional characters, I go back and do those and they would, you know, splice it together.

Jeff: One thing it’s amazing how successful through drama. Is and looking back on it, how it’s stuff about it became, but it has a very unique history of being on air. the show was canceled in 2003 movies in 2009.

You’re on television again in 2010. Where were you? What were they when they were shut down in 2003? Were there any indications that it was ever going to come back or was everyone pretty convinced that it was dead?

Billy West: I never really knew, you know, no one was saying anything. It was just, I, I just thought that’s life, you know, everything has its time [00:41:00] and all fads must die, you know, and I was very, pragmatic about the whole thing, you know, always looking forward, but.

but I did know one thing about Futurama. It was just too good to not be on television. Yeah. And that’s what I, that’s what I held out. You know, my hope for is that it was just so good. How could someone let it lay?

Jeff: Were you at all surprised when the demand came so strong that they brought it back?

Billy West: I was not surprised by that because I knew that I could feel the heat of the fan base.

I mean, I read. I had the posts and letters, you know, that I read. And then people were like, so passionate about it. So in love with it. And I said, well, I sure hope, I sure hope it’ll come back. I still have a little separation anxiety.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, you must miss the show [00:42:00] a lot that is now that it’s not on there anymore.

It felt you could feel that there was a strong connection between the actors and the characters. And as you say, we be about simulation, but he must feel hard to not have that character.

Billy West: yeah, but you know, in my life it’s like one set of characters comes and another, goes. you know, I’m always kind of busy with the immediacy of the business.

but anytime I want, I can just, you know, put my head back and imagine them all out there, you know, exploring these planets and. Doing their missions and running into absurd situations. You know, it was real to me.

Jeff: I can’t say, I think with that one, the best experience on the show had to be, or maybe it’s just in my mind, the episode where you guys crossed over, but the Simpsons, because once again, that’s two pretty much classic.

Legendary shows

Billy West: can be combined. Yes, that was, that was a brilliant move. I [00:43:00] mean, I thought it was great that they would do that. I had never been on the Simpsons. I, I, it had been made, I’d been made fun. I was on the Simpsons when I was, when I was doing Ren and Stimpy, the Simpsons had an episode where they were the cartoon awards or something, and they were going to give it to Ren and Stimpy, but the clip wasn’t available, which was a joke aimed at.

the inconsistency of delivery of episodes of Ren and Stimpy, you know, they made six of them and they just showed them over and over and over every week. And, and so that’s what the joke was a shot at. I actually never knew that. Yeah. And then one time they did show a fake clip of Ren and Stimpy. I don’t know who did my voice.

I think it was probably Hank Azaria, but they did. The both voices of Ren and Stimpy that I did, it was probably also, Dan caste and Aletta I imagined I was, I was flattered. I was thrilled

[00:44:00] Jeff: when there was a moment like that. Did you guys do like, excited about, about that show like that as the audience didn’t know what was happening?

Billy West: Yeah. I mean, you know, most of the time I get the jokes, some of them are so clever that I don’t get it the first time around, but I do it anyway. And, sometimes there’s these really happy accidents. Like I didn’t get a joke in an episode where David Cohen was directing and, somebody said to fry, Hey fry.

I heard beer makes you stupid. And he says, No one doesn’t and then I said that doesn’t make any sense, you know? Cause I just totally missed it. I spaced out and I go, David, no, I’m doesn’t he goes, yes, please read it. And I said, okay, but I’ll be back for the $700.

 and next thing you know, I saw it on TV and I was like,

Jeff: Oh.

Billy West: Beautiful because I didn’t know what I was saying and Frye said it, [00:45:00] so that’s, that was the most honest acting I had ever done.

Jeff: That’s awesome.

Billy West: So when you’re,

Jeff: when you shot that episode, did you perform it with the cast, some Simpsons or is it, shot separately?

Billy West: we were with, let’s see. We were with the actress that did a Marge Simpson.

and we were also with, the actor that does Homer Simpson, Dan cast and Aletta. And, I think that was about it from the cast. You know, and the other people came in and did their stuff later, but you know, we’re in their work and with at least two of them, what

Jeff: is it about Futurama? Do you think that makes the show so timeless?

Billy West: The writing, the writing and the charm characters? you know, it was like, it became a perfect situation, but writing was. Snappy like ahead of it’s ahead of beat. It was like two beats ahead of everybody else’s kind of style. [00:46:00] And, you know, I loved it. I just loved it. I embraced it. And that’s why it felt so comfortable.

I, everybody felt the same way and I hold all the actors that I’ve worked with in high esteem. I mean, genuine love of them and their performances. I

Jeff: mean, yeah. I mean, you, you do, I mean, you have Katie Seagal on Futurama. You had John DiMaggio on bat. Are you guys, where are you guys tight? As it seems like on the show that the character as tight or, I mean, do you guys kind of, I mean, do you guys, do you guys use, so stay tight with each other?

Billy West: No. Well, yeah, we’re tight with each other, but we were family and, and, And we became that and we’re still like that, except everybody’s got to live their own life, but you know, whenever there’s a chance to hang out, Oh God, I’ll jump on it. You know, like when we do these inventions and stuff, you know, what are you doing for lunch?

What are you doing for dinner? You know? All right. We’ll call [00:47:00] Mo then we’ll call one time and we’ll get the trust big deal.

Jeff: Yeah.

Billy West: Fill the Meyer.

Jeff: It may just be me, cause I’ll say I don’t live in the performer community. I just still like the community of voice actors seem very tight and it seems like there’s a lot of mixing of QB shows that you guys have been in with each other, not just on teacher, warm in the Simpsons, but like throughout, animated work.

Billy West: well they’re tight because they do a craft. And all of them are super, super relatives at that craft. Like there’s nobody better the group that you usually hate see in here. there’s nothing better than that. And. You know, I think hiring celebrities just for stunt casting is a step down in performance quality, you know, that’s the way it is, you know?

Jeff: Well, so it is a pretty tight group then. I mean, on our show, we had, [00:48:00] we had Jim coming and talking to you as well. They always said there was our shows. We were doing our research to everyone has based on the six, three that Kevin bacon voice actors, everyone had been like.

 Billy West: I don’t know. I, I have a genuine love for all those people, including guy.

You just mentioned Rob Paulson. I’ve I’ve always thought the world of him. I held him in really high esteem as I do. Mostly all my colleagues. It’s respect. It’s the respect for the craft too.

Jeff: Do you guys, I mean, is there, when, when you just, when you build into a newer voice accurate, what kind of advice do you give them about the craft itself?

Billy West: usually they’ll just show up and they’ll be kind of quiet and, you know, and they got hired to work with us and everything. And then at the end, somebody will always say just like I used to say, when I started out. Oh, man. Do you know what it’s like for me to sit in this room with you and to be [00:49:00] performing with you?

I mean, I remember when I was like that New York city, all these giants that I walk into a room and I’m like the newbie and, and they were people that rocked and moved my world and to be with them, And I say the same thing they told me, Hey, we’re saving a seat for you. You know,

Jeff: that’s really cool.

That’s extremely, I’m sure that’s a relief for them to hear that from someone from a Sunday vitalize,

Billy West: but, but it’s like, it’s meant with the truest of intentions, you know, it’s like, we’ll be here, we’ll support you, you know, but you gotta, you gotta learn to shoot balls eyes and. You know, three point shots all the time.

Jeff: That’s cool. So, so now you’re doing voice work for a show called goblins animated. Is that,

Billy West: is that correct? Yes.

Jeff: Can you tell, can you tell our listeners about that show a bit?

Billy West: Well, it, it was a project for quite a while. I mean, I don’t [00:50:00] think they, I don’t know if they had the funds to keep it moving forward consistently, but yeah, I did voices on it.

I thought it was interesting. I’ve seen like the pencil tests of it, but that’s about it.

Jeff: Okay. Oh, it hasn’t even aired yet.

Billy West: I don’t think so.

Jeff: It’s kind of like, I did some research on, on, you know, looking up for that show and I did find, I found the cast is incredible. You have Tara strong on it.

Billy West: Jim coming

Jeff: through Lamar.

I mean, it’s is a hell of a cast that’s attached to

Billy West: that. those are. Those are the usual suspects, you know, they’re just so good that people want to work with them. And you’ll always hear those names for just about anything that comes out,

Jeff: but at the same time, you’re part of that list as well. I mean, it’s, it’s pretty much an all-star group.

Billy West: Yeah. Well, because they never run out of gas. you know, when a celebrity comes [00:51:00] in. They have the luxury of pretty much doing who and who and exactly what they are, you know, for a voice. And, and that’s like, I resent that. I wish I had that luxury, but I don’t, I’m not a celebrity. If I was, if I was a big celebrity, I could just come in and talk like this for every character.

Jeff: Yeah. Is there anyone who has constructed that fence that you think or think does a good dentist? I don’t have that between being the celebrity and also the great voice actor.

Billy West: I always thought of Eddie Murphy and I always thought of Mike Meyers. Yeah. Because they weren’t, they were voices that weren’t them.

They change physically to sound like something else. And I always admired that. you know, Some people can not separate from the tone of their voice, no matter what little character they’re doing. it ain’t easy, you know? I [00:52:00] mean, it’s easy for some people. Hmm, those are the freaks like me.

Jeff: Is it at all? You think maybe ego when the celebrities, they want people to know that it’s them. They don’t want to hide themselves. I’m a voice actor. Once again, you guys do phenomenal races. But it means that you as an individual is not as recognized from what I’m saying. People hear your voice in order to make different voices from the celebrity doing their own.

So, you know, it’s it like an ego part, right?

Billy West: I think, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I know voice people that can piss circles around. Celebrities. And I don’t mean just voiceovers, acting wise, stage acting. I know people. but that isn’t all they’re able to do. They, they have hundreds of voices in, in, in stock, you know, to be able to use or to create or dream up.

that’s what I care about. You know, now [00:53:00] it’s funny. It’s like they all want to do voiceover. They used to look down their nose at us. You know, celebrity types like cartoons, and you know, it was always like that in a way, because then there were theater actors that would never want to do anything on television. Oh, television. I want to act in a box, a piece of furniture in somebody’s living room, you know, but now they have, now they’re forced into doing it. It’s either that, or, You know, make pizzas a Costco,

Jeff: but a lot of the best television right now is coming, does come from animation.

I mean, and it does help to have something like, like Netflix as well, that won’t say, and it’s not only allowing, animation on their show, but it’s allowing for a greater range of

Billy West: yes. Yeah. It’s I dunno. I dunno. I, I just always viewed it. Very pragmatically. It’s like, you know, having celebrities doing voiceovers is like [00:54:00] sending a bunch of highly skilled plumbers to go win the world series for you.

I mean, they’re really great at what they do. But they don’t belong in certain arenas.

Jeff: I mean, when, when you’re as a voice actor, how much of it is pure is a skill. How much of it is, is it, do you practice attempting different voices? Whether or not those voices are ones that are actually a show, but just see if you can hit a certain range or anything

Billy West: like that?

Well, yeah, I mean, If, you know, I used to do it a lot more, just like treading out noises and voices. That was when I was younger. I pretty much know where to find something. If I need to find it, like if a new character pops up in life, that you’re going to have to be working with. And, you know, it’s, I know how to do it now.

I mean, I don’t have to search for stuff really. You know, I know what something needs as least as [00:55:00] far as my sensibilities go.

Jeff: So your long career and, you do have a tendency to play the good guy. Is that, does that sound right? And is there a reason that you’re gravitate towards maybe the, well, at least the more innocent type characters, like fry and beaker and a few others?

Billy West: Well, if that’s the way it’s perceived, I’m happy with that. you know, I mean, I. I’ve always been like a good guy, except when I was, you know, younger and I was wild and I was playing in bands and stuff, and I wasn’t such a great guy, but, you know, I mean, I, I just enjoy any kind of character that evokes a feeling in somebody.

That’s what’s important to me,

Jeff: I think brought a lot of joy to, a lot of viewers and I I’ve loved, you know, shows I’ve loved. I said, practice Chico’s big drama, big franchise franchise. was that a great show that you, that, that you [00:56:00] did? and I just want to thank you very much for spending your time with me.

I think you’re extremely generous with your time.

Billy West: Thank you very much. It was, it was a pleasure. Really talk about the craft. Well,

Jeff: like I said, anytime you want to come from, I guess I should ask, is there a show you’re looking to that you’re coming out soon. That you’re a part of that you might want to, give a shout out to.

Billy West: I could, but I can’t devolve.

Jeff: Oh, okay. You have a secret trip. You get to tell us one day.

Billy West: I think it’s a secret. Yeah.

Jeff: Absolutely. No worries. When you’re trying to promote that, you hope you come back and talk with me about it.

Billy West: Sure. Thanks.

Jeff: Thank you so much.

 

Author: Spoiler Country

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