Yesterday I was driving around and caught a Fresh Air interview with voice actor Billy West. I don’t know his work on “Futurama,” and almost turned the interview off before listening to it. Boy, that would have been a mistake. The interview was terrific, and he was a real kick explaining (and demonstrating) how he does different voices and vocal patterns. He told this screamingly funny story about watching two old-school Jewish comic actors playing roles in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and he provided the voices too. I thought I was going to run off the road I was laughing so hard. NPR provides a handful of excerpts from the interview on a limited transcript. Here West is learning how to do Popeye’s voice:

“I loved Jack Mercer, and I got him. I understood him. And what helped me understand that Popeye voice — it’s a high voice and a low voice at the same time — cause when I was a kid, we all used to try to do that and we all stunk. It didn’t sound right. So one day, I see this film — it was an independent film called Genghis Blues. And it was about this blind singer in San Francisco who wrote a hit for Steve Miller. … And he was listening to a world-band radio one night, and he heard this strange noise. And it was a program about Tuvan singers. And Tuvans had a way of singing where they could do one and two voices. And I realized, ‘Oh man, that’s how this guy did it. Jack Mercer.’ [He imitates both voices.] There’d be two voices, an octave apart. And he’d put them together.”

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