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Voiceover Actor Billy West

Billy West, the man behind the microphone for animated shows like Doug, Ren & Stimpy, Futurama, and more, talked to The Onion A.V. Club for their regular "Random Roles" Q&A feature.  West discusses the characters that defined his career, why J.K. Simmons is perfect as the yellow M&M, and the difficulty of only being the third-best Bugs Bunny voice in history.


Here are excerpts from the interview:

On The Ren & Stimpy Show:

[Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi] wanted me to quit the job when he got fired [in 1992]. But the problem there is that I wasn't his partner. I was a hired gun... But I did good work, you know? The show without me was totally unsuccessful. So if there's anybody listening out there with any doubts about what I can do for a show: Try me. The thing is, I wasn't about to stop doing a job. And he called me up, screaming at me, saying they can do the show without him, but they'll never be able to do it without me. So in other words, he was saying, "If you quit the show, you have the clout to get me back on." And I said, "You're fartin' way higher than your ass on that one, because everybody is disposable." Everybody is! I don't have that much of an ego where it's like "How dare you, you can't do something without me."

On Futurama:

AVC: In pretty much all the Futurama commentaries, you all talk about how hard it is to do Everyman voices, like Guard No. 2. Why are they so challenging? Because they're so disposable?

BW: It's very hard to take a character out of nothing, and put a hook on it, especially because it's only sonic. It's a sonic world, and everyone's attention is focused on that sound and that little cartoon image.

AVC: What's the worst note you've gotten to improve a voice like that?

BW: "Can you be funnier?" or "You've got three seconds: Make us cry."

On why he can't do a Christopher Walken voice impersonation:

If everyone else is doing something, I have little or no interest in it. If you're known as this guy who can do any kind of sound or voice or whatever, somebody will go, "Do you do Christopher Walken?" "No." "Well, why not?" "Because everybody else in the world does it." My carpenter does Christopher Walken. Give me one good Beatrice Arthur impression. [Bea Arthur voice.] "I'm gonna wrap my legs around your throat like a cheap turban, Blanche and Maude. Ma!" [Laughs.]

Read the full interview -- including sound clips and more of West's random roles -- here.

-- Daniel Lehman

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