Ep. 114 | Billy West
Veteran voice actor Billy West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy, Doug) joins Matt this Wednesday (6/27) evening on The Matthew Aaron Show starting at 6pm PT.
Billy will be discussing his career as well as the return of FUTURAMA on Comedy Central in which he voices Philip J. Fry along with about a million other characters.
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BILLY WEST launched his career in the early 1980s performing daily comedic routines on Boston's WBCN. He left the radio station to work on the short-lived revival of Beany and Cecil. He was also a writer and cast member on The Howard Stern Show during the early to mid 1990s, where he gained nationwide fame with his impersonations of Larry Fine and late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott. West is best known for his voice-work on Ren & Stimpy, Doug and Futurama. His favorite characters are Philip J. Fry (Futurama) and Stimpy (Ren and Stimpy), both of which he originated. West's most notable film work was in Space Jam (1996) providing the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. He has provided the same voices for other Looney Tunes films and video games. West has been very outspoken over his displeasure about the influx of movie star actors providing voice-over for films and major shows. West is also a guitarist and singer-songwriter with a band called Billy West and The Grief Counselors.
West has been in television since the late 1980s. His first role was for the 1988 revived version of Beany and Cecil. West's first two high-profile roles came almost simultaneously: Doug and Ren & Stimpy, which were two of the first original three Nicktoons (the other being Rugrats). Over his career West has been the voice talent for close to 120 different characters including some of the most iconic animated figures in television history. He has become one of few voice actors who can impersonate Mel Blanc in his prime, including characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and other characters from Warner Bros. cartoons. In 1998, Entertainment Weekly described West as "the new Mel Blanc" and noted his ability to mimic well-known voices, though he would rather develop original voices.
West's favorite characters are Philip J. Fry and Stimpy. West has been very outspoken over his displeasure about the influx of movie star actors providing voice-over for films and major shows. West has stated that he did not like the Disney version of Doug, and that he "couldn't watch" the show. West was the voice of the show's namesake, Geeker, throughout Project Geeker's 13 episode run. West was the voice of Zim in the original pilot for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. Richard Horvitz was chosen for the series role because West's voice was too recognizable, according to Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez during DVD commentary. West is also the voice of "Red" in numerous M&M commercials as well as the 3-D movie "I Lost my M in Vegas", currently playing at M&M's World in Las Vegas, NV. West also voices a number of characters in the series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. He does not play a regular character in that series, but appears in almost every episode of the show voicing various minor and one-off characters. West voiced the character Moobeard in Moobeard the Cow Pirate, a short animation featured on Random! Cartoons, and reprises his role as Elmer Fudd in Cartoon Network's series The Looney Tunes Show.
West provided the voice of Stimpy in Nickelodeon's The Ren & Stimpy Show from 1991 until 1996, and he provided the voice of Ren from 1993–1996 (after Ren's original voice and series creator John Kricfalusi was fired by Nickelodeon for delivering un-airable episodes). West performed other characters on the series as well, such as Mr. Horse (another role that West was issued after Kricfalusi's departure) and the "Announcer/Salesman" of such shorts as the "Log" ads (a voice West would years later use as the Narrator for The Weird Al Show).
According to West, he was originally supposed to do the voice of both Ren and Stimpy (and performed both characters on the tape that was used to sell the show to Nickelodeon), but then Kricfalusi decided to do the voice of Ren himself once the show was sold and he had West on board as part of the selling point. However, West provided Ren's maniacal laughter when John Kricfalusi was the voice of Ren.
Billy West's roles in Futurama include Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan, as well as various other incidental characters. As he and other Futurama cast and crew point out in DVD commentaries, West voiced so many characters throughout the series that conversations are often held entirely between characters he is voicing.
West went into the Futurama auditions and was asked to try out for, as he says, "just about every part"; eventually landing the professor, Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan. West later got the part of Fry, which originally had gone to Charlie Schlatter. While West is known for doing many different and unique voices, the voice he does for Philip J. Fry is often considered to be closer to his natural voice than any other character he has done (in an audio commentary, he states Fry is just himself at age 25). This similarity, West acknowledges, was done purposefully in order to make it harder to replace him in the part along with placing more of himself personally into the role (DVD commentary).
The part of Zapp Brannigan was created for Phil Hartman, but he died before the show started and West was issued the role. West has described his interpretation of Zapp Brannigan's voice as an imitation of Hartman, but described the actual vocalizations of the character as being based on "a couple of big dumb announcers I knew."
Futurama was renewed by Comedy Central as four direct-to-DVD films broken into 16 television episodes. West reprised his roles for these films, and has been signed on for a new 26-episode season of Futurama which began airing in June 2010
Perhaps West's most notable film work came in the 1996 movie Space Jam. Starring alongside Michael Jordan, West provided the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. West reprised the roles of Bugs and Fudd in subsequent Looney Tunes feature-length films and returned as Fudd in the theatrically released Looney Tunes: Back in Action. In 1998, West starred in the direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island as Shaggy Rogers, becoming the second person to portray the character (the first being Casey Kasem). He was one of the top contenders to replace Kasem after his retirement in 2009, but lost the role to Matthew Lillard. In 2000, he provided additional voices in Disney's Dinosaur. In 2004, West voiced the classic character Popeye in the 75th anniversary film Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, and made his live-action film debut in Mark Hamill's Comic Book: The Movie. He also appeared in a cameo in Garfield: The Movie. Other films featuring West's vocal talents include Joe's Apartment, Cats & Dogs, Olive, the Other Reindeer, TMNT, The Proud Family Movie, and three Tom and Jerry direct-to-video movies.