Legendary Pat Fraley Tells All
Pat Fraley is well known for creating and performing the evil, bodiless Krang on the original animated TV series: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Pat has created voices for over 4,000 characters—placing him in the top 10 of all time to be cast in animated TV shows. His performances and projects across all entertainment mediums garnered him Emmy, Annie, Cleo, and Audie award wins and nominations.
As a teacher, Pat is the architect of voice over instruction. For nearly 50 years, he has guided more performers into meaningful voice over careers than anyone in the history of voice over instruction. He has taught audiobook narration for 20 years. During the past 10 years, Scott Brick, an award-winning audiobook performer, has taught alongside Pat.
I spent 90 minutes speaking with Pat, making this my longest interview ever, and it was a delight. We talked about his impressive and lengthy career, bonded over both of us being teachers, and much more. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did conducting it.
How did you get into voice over work?
I started performing when I was four-years-old. Somewhere along the line, they started paying me. When I was four, we used to play army in the neighborhood and I was always a Nazi. I died really well, so everyone wanted to shoot me. And after I got shot and they were around me, they would ask me how I died. I’d say, “Oh, I arched my back, foamed at the mouth, and yelled something that sounded German.” So, I’ve been teaching and performing my entire life.
When I got through my amateur standing and started studying acting in earnest at Cornell, I realized how few skills I had. What prepared me was the gifts that God gave me, specifically how to commit to anything you want. You want Frankenstein’s monster, you want a donkey, you want a mattress—I’m your guy. What I didn’t understand as a young man, was how important those gifts were. But I was fully aware that I had very few skills. It turns out that all a teacher can give to a student are skills. He can’t teach gifts, but a good teacher recognizes the gifts, points them out to the student, and teaches them the hard skills that they need.
One of your earliest voice over gigs was working on Scooby-Doo in 1979. What was that experience like?
When I did my first gig at Hanna-Barbera, I was 30-years-old. It was Scooby-Doo Goes Hollywood. It was so bad that Variety magazine headlined the review “Scooby-Doo Doo-Doo.” But when I went in to Hanna-Barbera, I was humbled by the talent around me. Mel Blanc, June Foray, Don Messick. I was in shock because I had grown up with those voices when I was young. After a month, I realized that they might be doing a different voice with a different dialect. I realized then that it was a matter of talent and management with a capital M that propelled their careers. I felt a little bit better about that because I was certainly a good manager of skills and talent by then, even if I had less ability than they had.
You went on to do voices for TV shows including G.I. Joe, Pac-Man, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Alvin & The Chipmunks, The Jetsons, and other top shows in the 1980s. What was it like working on so many major projects within such a short period of time?
It was overwhelming. It was a matter of a few of us in Los Angeles, maybe about 20, that could do three character voices differently in a 20-minute show. And the shows were 65-episode buys, meaning they were made for after school Monday through Friday. That happened after He-Man got such huge figures in 1983. I remember once auditioning for a role on ABC, NBC, and CBS, all within the same few days. It was the same voice, and I got all three. I thought my career was over, but fortunately they never watched each other’s shows.
Every person’s career is measured in three different eras: the salad days, the gravy days, and the back-in-the-days. What I’m talking to you about now are the gravy days, and only in performing because I teach more than I ever have before now. So, I’m not griping. But the gravy days were overwhelming and a busy time of life for me.
So, in the salad days did you find it was harder to get people to even take notice of you?
The salad days had to do with me emigrating to Australia to do Shakespeare. I learned how to do voice over in Australia, and I was making very little money, up until I got a regular role—the first one—in about 1983. Then it was gangbusters for about 20 years.
Then, the back-in-the-days probably started about 10 years ago. Fortunately, I had started teaching in earnest and I didn’t miss a beat. I’ve been blessed enough to have two careers: teaching and performing. When I was performing back in the gravy days, I had very little time to teach. And now I find that I have very little time to perform because I teach so much.
It’s interesting hearing you talk about teaching because I’m a professor at Temple University.
Oh, are you? I was in the Temple program. When I auditioned for graduate school in acting, I went to Yale, Temple, Cornell, Circle in the Square, and Goodman School of the Arts in Chicago. I got into all of the programs. I went to Cornell because they offered me a living wage and tuition, and they only took six students out of the entire country. I thought I was really good. It turns out that because of my audition and where I was going to school, which was in Walla Walla, Washington, they took me. Walla Walla, why? Because Bugs Bunny was from Walla Walla. I was preparing to go east to audition for these schools. I had a classical monologue of a scarred soldier. I knew I couldn’t perform in makeup, so I took some Scotch from the dorm room and wrapped it quickly around one side of my face and I looked pretty bad. So, I thought, “What the heck—I’ll do that!” I had no fear, and I could commit without a problem. Well, when they saw me with the Scotch tape on my face they thought, “If he’ll put Scotch tape on his face, he’ll do anything we tell him to do.” And I got in to all of those programs. A good teacher always reminds a student of the gifts that they have. Ultimately, isn’t it the gifts that really propel a talent?
You can teach skills to a banana. But you can’t teach gifts.
It’s like charisma or confidence that is innate within someone. Some people have it and others don’t. For those that don’t, they have to work harder to make up for it.
Yes, absolutely! You can’t take credit for your gifts. It’s just something you have as a result of your parents, the people around you, or God. You can’t teach that.
When you look at teaching and performing, do you have a preference for one over the other?
I have a passion for performing and teaching that has lasted my entire life. I harken back to when I was four-years-old. I’m relatively not proud of anything I’ve ever done. I’m proud of my students’ accomplishments. But I don’t include myself in that loop. I’ve enjoyed and do enjoy performing and teaching all the time.
The Smurfs were wildly popular, and you contributed voices to the TV show through the years. What are your memories of working on The Smurfs?
I was too high. My pitch was so high because they had to separate me from Hefty the Smurf, who was played by Frank Welker. I was his buddy. The director kept telling me to go higher and higher, and then they sped up the tracks by a small percentage. My voice was so high that I think I killed a dog on the boulevard. I only lasted for a few shows as Tuffy the Smurf.
You also provided the voice for Hillbilly Jim on Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, which was right around the time the WWE became a global phenomenon. What was that like?
That was a pure joy because of the people I got to work with. Specifically, I did a show and Brad Garrett, who is best known for his work as Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond, was part of it. It was his first show. He wanted to get off the road from being a stand-up comedian, and here he was opening for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and all these people. But he wanted to get off the road. He attributes me as a mentor to him when, in fact, I was just a fifth-grader sitting next to him saying, “Go ahead. Do that. That’s funny.” He had a very unfunny role, but his ad libs and how he buoyed the room was marvelous. I also worked with my mentor and Brad Garrett’s mentor, Ron Feinberg. We got to know him early. It was of great value to us to know that man because he guided our careers. There were other luminaries in that cast. Neil Ross, Charlie Adler, James Avery – it was packed! There were about 20 men and one woman: Jodi Carlisle. And, boy, did she have to put up with us.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was one of the most popular wrestlers in the 1980s and 1990s, and he was known for delivering slow-paced but deliberate interviews that pulled the listener in because they were radically different from what his contemporaries were doing, which was yelling into a microphone. Are you familiar with Jake, and what are your thoughts on his vocal approach?
I’m not familiar with Jake but I am familiar with the ability or skill of being quiet while other people are loud. Specifically, I’ll point out Barbara Harris, who is the most successful casting person in the history of film. She does a lot of ADR sessions for major motion pictures. I teach with her. When she wants to get the attention of students, she gets quieter and quieter. There’s an old adage—probably comes from vaudeville: you want them leaning in, not leaning out.
William Shatner has spoken about how he says “yes” to almost any worthwhile opportunity that comes his way and how doing so has contributed to his longevity and success. What are your thoughts on this notion?
Personally, I am the king of saying “no.” Cary Grant was one known to turn down many projects. In fact, there’s a great quote by Gregory Peck who said, “If I ever got a script and it didn’t have Cary Grant’s coffee stain ring on the cover, I’d be surprised.” What I think is that a career is made by what you do and what you don’t do. If one is interested in a career rather than going from job to job, they pick shots. Now, William Shatner I’m a fan of as well.
Scott Brick, who is the greatest audiobook narrator ever in the English language, loves William Shatner. Scott says that William Shatner is able to be played big and small, which is unusual.
That’s interesting. I think what Scott means is that Shatner can be big and bombastic one minute and then subtle the next, while keeping the audience fully engaged the entire time.
Yes, and I think it’s all propelled by him coming from Canada and immediately working on Broadway and knowing he had to be different than the other actors. When I was a young man watching television—a lot of black-and-white shows—William Shatner was my favorite actor. The reason why is because he was slightly different than every other actor.
George Carlin was, in my opinion, the greatest comedian of all time. Not only was he intelligent but the voices and physical comedy he delivered was brilliant. What are your thoughts on George and his work?
I think George Carlin was indeed among the top three comedic performers ever. Those being, perhaps, Richard Prior and Jonathan Winters as well, if he did stand-up; I don’t know. I got to work with him, and it was wonderful! Going back to George Carlin: I loved him when he’d just do silly voices. The Hippy Dippy Weatherman. Then he turned and offered what his thoughts were, and I was astounded at the way George Carlin could make people laugh and think alternatively.
Before George Carlin, I was a big fan of Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason. People that seemed to have a world of characters. I think at an early age I realized that I couldn’t control my life, but I could control my characters. Having a gaggle of characters was a dazzling effort for me.
Many people know you as Krang from the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show, which debuted in 1987. How did that opportunity come about?
Krang, which I did for nine years and for over 200 shows and, probably, was the most culturally popular show I did in my life, came about as I was called in to recast a character. Stu Rosin, who we lost this year, was the director. He had cast himself in four major roles and recorded the pilot on the weekend, which cost more in those days. The producer, Fred Wolf, balked at this, fired Stu, and called me in to audition. Here’s where we go back to my gift of committing. I didn’t have anything like Krang in my repertoire of characters, so I threw it all against the wall and went in and did this odd, strange voice character, really, and got the role. One of the things that Fred Wolf didn’t know about and neither did the director, who was Susan Blu, was that underneath this burbling, chortling, talking backwards, weird character, I needed to be funny. At the last minute, I decided to be a Jewish mother. If you scrape off all of the different layers of the character’s voice, you can hear that I’m just a Jewish mother, and I have that lilt. I never said anything about it, of course, because then they’d probably tell me not to do it.
What was the audition like, and how did you develop Krang’s voice?
Years before, when I was teaching at the university in Australia, I broke the character voice down to its elements, and I believe, although I’m not historical for much, I was the first to deconstruct the character voice. I broke it down to six elements: pitch, pitch characteristic, tempo, rhythm, placement, and mouthwork. I got there at D&D studios for the audition, and I had only two minutes to prepare. It was the first time I had seen the character. It was the first time I had seen the text or the title. By the way, Michael, I looked at the title, which was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I thought to myself, “Well, this will never go.” So, I sat in a chair and I decided to give a choice in each of the six elements, plus the Jewish mother. And I went in and threw it against the wall. Somehow I was able to commit to a character, even though I created it, technically.
People love the bickering couple dynamic that Krang had with Shredder. What was it like working with James Avery?
Most often, the entire cast was together. We had very few guests. It was a delight to work with James Avery. He was a very well known and very good Shakespearean actor. I had worked with him on Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, and I believe that his second show was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was a johnny one note. He was always angry, and he was always low. That’s what he brought to the party. Hearing that, I realized I could go up and down and be feminine and cry and do all sorts of stuff. And I never bumped into his performance. We were referred to as the odd couple of outer space. It just seemed to work so well for us.
How did you keep Krang fresh over the course of 10 seasons?
Well, one thing is that you’re getting paid, which is so helpful. The other thing is I sat next to Rob Paulsen, and we rarely had any scenes together. But we delighted in trading ad libs with each other. In other words, I’d see a line of his and give him an ad lib, and he would do the same for me. So, my job was to delight Rob and vice versa. That kept things very fresh because we wanted to use the ad libs. For example, I had a Krang line once that was “How would you like to be boiled in oil?” Rob handed me an ad lib that said “How would you like to be sauteed in oil with just a touch of cilantro?,” which is very Rob and very funny. If you talk about pride, I had a lot of pride that I got away with that ad lib.
What are your favorite memories of working on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Being with a cast member or an entire cast for nine years. When you think about it, it’s unique. We sat next to each other every week for nine years. That was shockingly interesting.
What was it like reprising the role of Krang in 2016 and 2017?
Well, it was easy peasy to do the role. After all, I had done it for so long. It was like getting into clothes you have in the closet. I was like Mr. Rogers. I put that sweater on and bam! What hit me as funny was that I had the opportunity, that day, to work with an actor named Seth Green. I’m a big fan of his. I come up and I go “Oh, Seth Green!” And he says, “Are you kidding me? Pat Fraley!” He’s a big nerd and knows all my shows. He’s a comic book guy, just like Scott Brick was. There’s nothing more flattering than reprising a role. It’s a unique voice, and I’ve heard it done by several people. It always fills me with glee that other people have done that voice or based their characterization on what I created years ago.
Technologically speaking, how did that recording experience differ from the original Ninja Turtles TV show?
There were three turtles in the booth with me. It was very quick. The director was the fastest I ever worked with. Basically, it was just a delight.
Have you ever turned down any opportunities to voice Krang or any other characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over the years?
Not that I’m aware of, because it was all very PG or G rated. I knew that Krang wouldn’t have any swearing or saying anything that’s inappropriate. I didn’t have to worry about reading through the script ahead of time to make sure I was OK with all of the content, which I do now. I’m a very PG rated guy. I don’t do mature video games. I never auditioned for Adult Swim or shows that I didn’t want to participate in. One reason for this, besides my religious beliefs, is that when I was doing a lot of work my boys were little. And children are like heat-seeking hypocrisy missiles. If they heard me say “damn” or “hell” or whatever, oh my goodness, would I have paid for it.
What are your thoughts on other actor’s portrayal of Krang, including your friend Brad Garrett?
They’re delightful. As the show progressed, Krang got more evil and scarier and appropriately so. Our culture has changed and shows have changed and gotten darker and tougher, generally. But, believe me, styles are all over the place. That show, particularly, got darker in the way it was written, in the way it was animated, and in the performances. I used to be recorded in Hawaii while on vacation. It’s called being recorded wild and they put it in. Well, Fred Wolf got tired of this and he recast. He asked the cast, “Who does Krang?” So, Townsend Coleman raises his hand and does four or five shows doing Krang’s voice. So, I tease him to death to this day. I’ll say things like, “You volunteered to replace me?!” It’s a good laugh.
Did Brad Garrett contact you at all before doing his version of Krang or did he just make it his own?
Brad and I are best friends. We get together and have lunch or see each other or he teaches with me. When we do, we’ve never talked about show business per se. I don’t know if he’s worth a gazillion dollars or if he’s broke. We talk about family. We talk about jokes that appeal to us. We talk about our mentor. Old comedians that still knock us out, like Rodney Dangerfield. We’ve just never talked about work. It’s just not part of our relationship, which is the same with other people I know, like Ed Asner and Rob Paulsen. We just talk about life. That seems to be a center to having a good relationship in show business.
What was it like working with Mark Hamill and the rest of the stellar cast on Batman: The Animated Series?
It was wonderful. I did a series with him called Wing Commander Academy, and Mark and I got along famously. Both of us have been married to the same women for a long time, we have kids—a lot in common. I’m sitting next to him in the studio. He’s supposed to be in a plane and I’m on an intercom on another plane and I yell “Maverick, six o’clock. Watch your tail!” He responds very quietly with, “Gotcha.” I stop the session and said, “Oh, he’s cheating. He’s face acting.” Of course, Mark Hamill knew about on-camera acting as well as being a very proficient voice over talent. Why? Because I think he learned by doing the BBC version of Star Wars for radio.
Many fans say that Mark Hamill is the best Joker of all time.
Well, there’s a funny story about that. Mark and I went in to audition for the Joker role when that came up. We walked in together. At the bottom of our pages it said, “A Tim Curry or John Glover type.” We walked in for the audition and there sat Tim Curry and John Glover, so we thought we had no chance. Come on! So, we went in and did our best. I did my idea of the Joker, which was to make him manic depressive and crazy, with a southern bell dialect. I went way far. Mark did his best and didn’t get the role. Tim Curry got the role. About nine months later, the role became available again. Why? Because Tim Curry was too low—a baritone. He was too low for the look of the character. I did the same thing I had done the first time and didn’t get cast. Mark did and that’s history. He’s absolutely phenomenal at the role and within the style of the show. In those days, every show you did, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they said, “Oh, this show is real.” So, we all had hooded eyes. I’d say, “Yeah, right. It’s melodrama. It’s not real.” So, I went too far. Mark didn’t, and he got the role and fit in perfectly with the cast.
In the 1990s, you provided voices for a variety of TV shows, including TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Tom & Jerry Kids Show, Sonic The Hedgehog, The Addams Family, and The Tick, just to name a few. Looking back on it, how do you feel about your work in the 1990s compared to the 1980s?
I think the scripts were better and the performances followed suit. Everything has gotten better over the years. I have three favorite projects I’ve worked on. One for money, one for critique, and one for a specific story. The money: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We made a lot of money. The critique was the unabridged audiobook of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The third is TaleSpin. I played a character named Wildcat, who was an ignorant but lovable character and the sidekick to Baloo. They had a hard time casting that role because the picture of it they had drawn made him look stupid and big. He was prognathic, meaning his jaw bulged out. He was kind of bulky so everybody played him like an idiot. I thought, what if I played him nice, like he didn’t know what was coming next? And I got the role. Well, I didn’t know this at the time and, certainly Disney didn’t know it, but I grew up around the deaf and there’s, oftentimes, more than one problem with a deaf person. They’re on the spectrum or there’s some problem. That was included in my characterization of Wildcat. Years later, I get a call from a person that is representing her patient who is on the spectrum. This patient was highly autistic and she asked if she could put her in touch with me. I said, “Yes.” Well, I still have a relationship with this person. Why? Well, people who had autism got on buses in the morning and went to public schools, where they had resources for people with autism. They were humiliated on the way there and the way back. They came home and watched TaleSpin, where there was a special character, as they used to call it—my character—who everyone loved. I was not aware—but I became aware—that I did sound special. I thought I was just naive. That made it one of the most meaningful characterizations I ever voiced.
When people think of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, they think of Tim Allen. However, you’ve voiced the character for numerous projects. How did that opportunity come about?
Well, I auditioned for the role and I was close enough. I have a similar voice to Tim Allen doing Buzz Lightyear. I noticed when he did Buzz Lightyear in the first Toy Story, he’s doing a little bit of a John Wayne impression. So, I could copy him doing that—pretty good, but not great. So, I got the role. In those days, all of the classic characters—Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck—they’d get $800 every time they’d open their voice, which was good money then. Well, they made me sign a favored nation contract with whomever played Woody. Why? So, they wouldn’t get runaway overages where an agent was going to ask for more money. What Disney and Pixar didn’t know is that Tom Hanks made a deal with John Lasseter at Pixar to only have his brother Jim do Woody. Once Arlene Thornton heard about this, Jim’s agent, his fee went from $800 to $2,700 every time he opened his mouth. Well, I had to get the same amount, didn’t I? So, for nine years it was one of the most lucrative roles I ever did. I did all the toys and there were a lot of them. That’s how that went down the pike. Eventually, they got rid of me and I figured they found someone better than me. I was a close match but not perfect. No, my replacement wasn’t better than me but I bet he was cheaper.
So, why didn’t Tim Allen do the voice of Buzz Lightyear for all of those toys instead?
Tim was too busy. He had a show on TV and was doing movies. He had Home Improvement and those Santa Clause movies at the time. I remember once I went in and did a little bit of a song for network radio that Disney bought and I got $30,000. Why didn’t Tim get it? He was busy. Now, I believe he does all of Buzz Lightyear, which is fine, too.
What’s your relationship like with Tim Allen?
None, I’ll tell you why. One time I said to the vice president of character voices at Disney, Rick Dempsey, “I’d like to meet Tim and thank him.” Rick said, “That would be a very bad idea.” The reason why is because Tim once went in and said, “Why the hell doesn’t my brother do my voice? What’s going on?” So, I don’t know Tim. I’ve never met him but I’ve seen him a couple of times. But if I had a conversation with him, that would be the last thing that would come up.
I find that people who know how to control their voice can sing. Can you sing?
No, not a note. I’m horrible! It must be some psychological thing. I can sing in character a bit. When people flip, I flop.
What voice actors most impress you with their singing ability?
There’s three people that come to mind. One is Jim Cummings, who I believe is the greatest voice over talent ever. Not only can he read and perform characters amazingly, but he’s musical. He comes from a band. That’s his background—drumming and being in a band. Also, someone who sings like a bird and is incredible is Rob Paulsen. The third person is Tress MacNeille. I hired her to do a commercial years ago and oh my goodness, I had no idea how amazing her ability was to harmonize and carry a tune. Tell me about your friendship with Ed Asner. What does he mean to you?
He’s one of my closest and dearest friends. He mentored me. He was my next door neighbor for years, and I still see him to this day. He’s old enough that he could be a brother but not a father. But, again, it’s a relationship that’s built on our families. Of course, he loves old, bad jokes and stories about other actors, and we do that. But, he means a great deal to me. He had a simple way of teaching. When I’d work with him, I’d go right across the street. I’d be reading and he’d say, “You’re talkin’ too good! You’re talkin’ too good!” He’d put his big meat puppet hand in my face and I’d say, “What are you talking about?” Then he’d launch into Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot from memory and in perfect English. In the middle of his monologue he said, “See, anybody can do that.” Then he said the following words which I often share with my students: “Talk like people talk.” The connection is so much more important than getting things correct. As you know, Michael, much of articulation and diction is about hitting the 24th row. It’s about theater. It’s not about what we need to do in front of a microphone.
That reminds me of Barry Manilow. He’s brilliant and he knows how to play to the entire crowd in a way that is masterful. He knows how to connect with the audience in a way unlike any other artist I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible to witness live.
Well, I have not seen him live. But there are some people who have an uncanny ability to connect with an audience. Dame Sybil Thorndike once said that there are two things you need to be concerned about: the other actors and the audience. You have to play to the audience. You can’t just forget about them. I can understand why you were impressed and in awe of that skill that Barry exhibited because that is a gift.
You and Scott Brick teach together. Tell me about that. What’s it like working with him?
I’ve listened to thousands of hours of him narrating and he’s a delight. I also teach with him at UCLA. I listened to him teach, and I think he’s an even more gifted person when he teaches. Why? He has all the examples that he gives, and the metaphors and similes he comes up with are very effective for teaching. I don’t think I’ve told him that yet.Why are the six elements of character voice so important?
I think the reason why I was propelled to deconstruct the character voice is because I thought I could do it. It’s never been enough for me to just do something. I had to define how I did it. That’s a control issue on my part. To answer your question, I was very fortunate to deconstruct the character voice. It was academic. I was at a university. I landed in the late 1970s in Hollywood, and it turned out that what I deconstructed is exactly what professionals did. As you know, teaching at Temple, you can’t teach if you don’t deconstruct. I’m of the second generation of voice actors. The second generation didn’t get training, but the third did. And the first certainly didn’t. They came from television and film and radio. So, why it’s valuable is because people can learn the skills and apply that. With any artful endeavor, you have form and content. Form is the outward visage and content is the inner-working. Voice is the form, and content is the thinking and feeling and acting that’s underneath it. I would say that my success has less to do with my versatility and more to do with my ability to act. I got roles for being a good actor underneath, rather than being someone who dazzles with technical ability.
Dick Hill, one of my favorite audiobook narrators, retired last year. What are your thoughts on Dick and his work?
I’m not real familiar with Dick’s work. However, I admire the amount of work he did. He worked in a different era from what they are requiring these days. That’s not to say he couldn’t do it. He read really well. Now, you have to perform. Today, if they have any sense of you simply reading, you fail. What is a performance? It’s as if you are making up the words and not reading from a script. That’s what occurs. I love Elliott Gould but you get the sense that he’s reading to you. Dick, I think he’s between reading and performing, but it’s a bit different now.
Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks? Oddly enough, I know many authors and narrators who don’t.
I love them. I listen to audiobooks every single day of my life. Not just in the car but at night. It’s kind of a joke. I’ll listen to an audiobook and I can’t go to sleep. I need to continue to listen. I’ll dream and want to add to a conversation with people in the dream but they won’t shut up. And I get angry. That’s because somewhere in my mind I’m hearing an audiobook. Then I wake up and go, “Oh, that’s it.” (laughs) I so enjoy them. I don’t think I learn from TV or movies now, but I enjoy those mediums. But I do learn a lot from audiobooks because I have a vivid imagination. I see things or feel things or sense or smell things as I’m listening to an audiobook. So, I’m engaged.
You’ve also done voice work for numerous video games. How does this kind of work compare to providing your voice for a TV show, radio, or another medium?
About 85% of the performances in video games are about drama. And about 85% of the animation I do is about comedy. I haven’t talked about comedy yet, and that’s a huge gift of mine. I’ve always been funny, and you can’t train someone to be funny. You can train them to perform funny. You’re always alone when recording for a video game, and people are playing video games, so you have to imagine the other characters and your actions as you do the voice recording. You have to imagine talking to a player. I’m less versatile doing a video game than I am doing animation. Why? Because they want, generally, more real. I call it movie acting.
I know many fans would love to meet you. Do you plan on appearing at any conventions over the next year or so?
I’ve only appeared at a couple conventions because I teach on the weekends. So, I can’t. That said, I would encourage people to take one of my classes or attend one of my events and work with me as a teacher. You can also do one of my home study courses, where you can talk to me and I’ll work with you on homework. As far as conventions, not yet. But never say never. I do see that the original Ninja Turtles are at all of these conventions, and they ask me to come. But I always say that “No matter how much fandom I have, I’m not a turtle. I’m a villain and villains never get the attention of heroes.” So, I’m a little reluctant. They’ll make a zillion dollars, and I’ll make $14 and a bottle cap.
Oh, I think you’d do really well. And I can imagine a panel where the Ninja Turtles are doing a Q&A and you’re behind the stage and you do the Krang voice and come out and surprise the crowd. People would flip out. They’d love that!
(Laughs) Well, I’ve always been welcomed at conventions and it’s good. It’s all good, and I love seeing them. But with my current teaching schedule, it’s not possible at the moment.
You’ve had a lengthy and diverse career. Is there anything you’ve yet to do that you’d like to accomplish?
I’ve written short stories, and I’m writing memoirs right now. It’s really painful. I’m Irish. Talking is easy. Talking to you is great. But writing is painful. That’s why I think that Samuel Beckett is such a good writer and succinct in what he says because it’s painful. I do like the end product of writing and hearing it performed, but the process is tough.