Interview with Bob Bergen of "Looney Tunes" - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Interview with Bob Bergen of "Looney Tunes" 8/21/13

It was certainly an honor to speak with the man who does the voice of "Porky Pig" as well as so many other great cartoon voices. He couldn't have been nicer or easier to interview! He had many exciting stories to tell.

Here is the audio of our interview. I hope you enjoy it!

If the audio is not streaming well, please right-click on this link and save it to your computer. It should work better that way!

Interview part 1  Interview part 2 Interview part 3

Here is the transcribed version by Gisele. - I will be going through and adding more of it later if need be.

Bob Bergen (Porky the Pig) Wednesday 8.21 between Noon EST - 2:00 pm EST.

Suzanne: So you've been pretty much THE voice of Porky Pig since the late Mel Blanc voiced him, is that right?

Bob: Pretty much. I'd say 95+%. There have been occasions where there may be a project that's done not in union that I can't do, because I'm a member of the union, but I'd say for the most part, yeah! It's been me.

Suzanne: Did you get to meet Mel Blanc?

Bob: I did. When I moved to LA, I was a kid, and my dad took a job here, and I knew I wanted to be Porky Pig since I was about 5 years old. So when I moved to LA, I figured the best thing to do was call the man and say, "Hey, listen. I don't know if anybody's offered you an opportunity to retire, but I'd be more than happy to." I didn't think I was being rude, but I was actually doing him a favor. So, I looked in the phone book, and I couldn't find his number, and my dad informed me that Los Angeles is a much bigger area than where we came from, which was Cincinnati, so he traveled around the city, and he got every White Pages phonebook from Malibu to Pasadena. And I just called every Blanc in the book until I found his number, which was under his wife's name in Pacific Palisades, and I called him up. I taped the conversation, which is completely illegal, but I did it. I didn't know it was illegal at 14, and I got it posted on my website. Through the course of that conversation, he mentioned the name of the studio he was working at that week, so after I was finished talking to him, I called the studio pretending to be his assistant, and I didn't know the day or the time he was working. I just knew the name of the studio, so I said, "Hey, I'm calling to confirm Mr. Blanc's appointment for this week. Would you remind me what the date is?" And they gave me the date, and I told my mom, "I'm skipping school. I'm gonna watch him work." So, when we got to the studio, I told the receptionist that we were guests of Mel Blanc, and she showed me the room he was in. And when we walked into his recording studio, I told his producer that we were friends of the receptionist, and she said it was okay to watch, and I got to watch him work. Well, you know, when you're 14, anything's possible as long as you just allow it to happen. I didn't tell him in the conversation on the phone that I wanted to be Porky Pig. I just told him I wanted to do voices for cartoons. He was telling me how difficult it is and how challenging. I asked him, "Do you need agent? How does it work?" He wasn't discouraging, but he was honest. If you've got a fire, and it makes you want it even more, then you're probably right for this industry. He gave me an autograph, and he sent me on my way. I thought, "Well, okay, I'm not gonna be doing this today, because he's still working, so my strategy was to get into the business doing animation and voice-over, so if an opportunity came up where I'd be at the right place at the right time, then I'd have a chance to compete. For Porky Pig, I'd prepared and started studying voice-over and acting at that point.

Suzanne: You've been doing voices professionally, according to IMDb, since the 70's. It must have started before that, though?

Bob: I actually started learning in the 70s. I've been working professionally since the early 80s. I got my first cartoon a week out of high school. I took classes from age 14 to 18 and then secured my first agent right out of high school, and then it took me another 5 years hit-or-miss auditioning before I was able to quit day jobs and work as a full-time actor. So from first day in class to full-time actor was about a 9-year journey.

Suzanne: So how did you get into doing voices?

Bob: It was no secret that I wanted to be Porky Pig. When a teacher in school would ask me a question, I would answer like Porky Pig. It was kind of strange, but I just liked the character, and I was able to do him, so it didn't seem strange to me. I don't think it was what my Jewish mother had in store for me, but after a while, she realized that I was not just passionate but ambitious about this dream to play this character, so I was pretty driven.

Suzanne: I see you've voiced Luke Skywalker quite a bit. How did that happen?

Bob: Just an audition, you know. It was 15-16 years ago. LucasArts called me up, said I have an audition for you for Luke Skywalker, and I actually turned it down, because I told my agent I can't mimic Mark Hamill. So she called the producers and told them I was going to pass, and they said, "Well, we want to see him anyway," because they'd heard my demo, because there was something in my demo they liked. When I walked into the audition, I said, "Look, I can't do Mark." And they said, "Don't do Mark. Play Luke." I was like, "Oh, okay. That I can do." So, I thought character over impersonation, and I've done dozens of games and various TV specials and whatnot. So, yeah, the character's been very good to me. For whatever reason, Mark Hamill wasn't involved doing the games or the projects I was doing, so I guess, the force was with me.

Suzanne: Does your Luke sound like Mark Hamill at all?

Bob: To be honest, I don't think so, but I don't think my Porky sounds like Mel Blanc, either. The first game I ever did, which was a long time ago. It was a time when they didn't really give screen credit in the press packs to the reviewers. I think the LA Times just said the game is really good, and they went so far as to hire Mark Hamill to play Luke Skywalker. So, evidently, I sounded enough like Mark to get that kind of review, but again, I don't even think Mark Hamill when I'm playing the character. I think Luke Skywalker.

Suzanne: Were you a fan of the Star Wars movies?

Bob: Not really. [Laughs] I mean, I enjoyed them. I'd seen them, but I wasn't a diehard fan, so honestly, every time I'd work on a Star Wars project, I'd have to ask pronunciations of planets and characters and whatnot. But, I mean, I find it cool that I'm playing Luke Skywalker. I did 3 of the robot chicken Star Wars specials playing Luke. After the first one, George Lucas invited us up to Skywalker Ranch and premiered the episode, gave us all light sabers as parting gifts. So, I don't think you have to be a diehard fan to go, "That's pretty cool." So, yeah, I do enjoy the Stars Wars universe, but I must admit that I was not the kid who had Darth Vader pajamas.

Suzanne: Can you quote some Star Wars for me now in Luke's voice?

Bob: I absolutely probably could not. [Laughs] But I did Tom Kane's Yoda, and just for fun we did a scene, a re-enactment of I think it was "Return of the Jedi" that they put to the original score and the original sound effects that I have on an mp3 just for fans, just to hear it. From what I'm told, we do a darn good job of living up to the original.

Suzanne: Did they know you were doing Porky and not just stuttering?

Bob: No, it was very obvious that I was doing the character, 'cause a kid who actually stutters doesn't have the voice or the comedic humor of Porky Pig. When I was a kid, I got a recording of me doing it. I wasn't very good. I mean, puberty helped an awful lot with perfecting the character. But I thought I was good. In my head, I sounded terrific. Then the voice changed, and I was able to get some of the tones and the adult layer to the character that was pretty much needed to master the voice.

Suzanne: Does anyone ever give you a hard time for Porky's stuttering?

Bob: I know protests existed when I first started playing the character. My personal feeling is, "People there's a lot of bad stuff in the world, lighten up. It's comedy." There are people who had problems with Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges 'cause they thought that they were violent. It's called comedy. It seems there was a time when people were just looking to be insulted without actually feeling insulted. I did Speedy Gonzales in "Space Jam" and it was cut from the film, because they thought that he was gonna be insulting to Hispanics. When the film came out, the Hispanic population was like, "Where's our character?" So, I honestly think there are times when the world really needs to lighten up and enjoy life a little bit more and the humor and the differences. I'm a fairly sensitive person, and Porky's stutter has never been made fun of. It's never been an issue. It's a part of his personality. It's a part of the humor. I mean, Daffy Duck lisps. You know, Bugs Bunny walks around without any clothes and just wears gloves. Why? I don't know. But are people gonna call that obscene? Of course not. It's a cartoon. So, the long-winded answer to your question is, I just think it's really great comedy.

Suzanne: Have you done any other Mel Blanc voices?

Bob: I've done Tweety. I've done Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester Jr. I'd say Porky is the majority of what I've done but depending on the project, there's a handful of us that kind of share the characters. There have been 5 or 6 Bugs Bunnies over the years. Two or 3 people doing Daffy Duck. It really just depends on the project and the producer. Everybody's got their favorite.

Suzanne: I see that you were also in "WALL-E" and "Up"! Loved those movies. I just saw "Up!" last week, in fact! What voices did you do for those movies?

Bob: For "Up" I did dogs. It's funny because when you work on an animated feature, you only see the script that you're in, so you don't know the story. I went to the premiere with those of us who were in the cast, and we knew that we were dogs. So we're waiting for the dogs. And we're like, "Where are the dogs. We know there are dogs in this film. The house is going up. There are balloons floating up. Where are the dogs." And all of a sudden, here's the deal, I mean, you know, we didn't know the dogs were cut, so throughout the film, you don't get residuals, and that's what we wanted was our residuals. So, when the dogs finally appear on the film, two rows of actors started cheering, and everybody's looking at us like, "What just happened that we missed in the movie. What did you guys see?" We saw money. That's why we were happy to see the dogs. I've done a lot of animated features for Disney and Pixar and Fox and Universal. Because I'm not Tom Hanks, I'm not the major celebrity, I'm what you call, a utility player. So, they'll hire those of us who can do multiple characters to be -- Back then as television is today. They always use major character actors from film and radio, but Disney did an animated feature once 5 to 7 years, and they also didn't get screen credit back then. So, you wouldn't know who was voicing those characters. Today every major studio has a thriving animation department and there are animated features released almost on a weekly basis. They hire the major celebrities to play the leads. Now, are they taking work away from us? Well, if you watch the credits, at the end you'll see additional voices with all our names. Would we like to play the leads? Sure. Our ego says yes. But we get the same money, the same residuals, and we get to do what we love, but the using of celebrities in animated features has always been there. There's just so much more product today that it feels like there's more.

Suzanne: Congratulations on being nominated for an Emmy. What were you doing when you found out you were nominated?

Bob: Oh, funny. Well, my morning routine is I wake up really early, around 5 in the morning, and I pour coffee, and I go into my home studio, and I start my work and auditions, 'cause I have an agent in New York, and they need their stuff in by 6 a.m. my time. So, I turn on the TV, and they're announcing the Emmy nominations for this year, 'cause they do that every year at 5:45 in the morning. And they don't mention my category. They talk about the biggies, you know, the best actor in comedy and drama, etc. And I got an e-mail from a buddy of mine who is the chair of the awards committee at the TV academy who said, "Congratulations." And I said, "For what?" He e-mails me back. He goes, "You've got a nomination." And I go, "What?" So I went to their website, and I saw the complete list so that's how I found out. Then my phone starts ringing. This is my second nomination. I was nominated two years ago for the same show. I didn't win that one, so I have another chance.

Suzanne: Do you think you'll win?

Bob: You know that cliché "It's an honor to be nominated?" It really is true. I happen to be nominated with some really good friends of mine. I'm good friends with Lily Tomlin. She my co-governor of the TV academy. I'm friends with Seth Green, a terrific voice-over actor, and he directs "Robot Chicken." I've been on that show many times. You know what? I'm gonna say it's a really amazing honor and I'm enjoying the ride.

Suzanne: Your bio says you've done soaps. What role(s) did you play on soaps?

Bob: I stopped doing on-camera, because it got in the way of my voice-over career, but back in the 80s and early 90s, I did just minor parts on shows that don't exist anymore. I did "Capitol." I did "Santa Barbara." I did "Days of Our Lives," but it wasn't my passion, I've got to be honest. I've got some friends on "The Young and the Restless" and I respect the hell out of them, because they have to memorize so much overnight for the next-day shoot. I'm not good at memorization, because when you do voice-over, you read everything, so that muscle in my head is not well-trained. The people that do daytime drama are just unbelievable actors. The task ahead of them every day I envy, so I don't think I have it in me to do daytime drama. I will be out at dinner with a buddy of mine who's on "Young and the Restless," and -- like the other night we were at a party for the Emmy nominees, and he said, "I've got to go. I've got to memorize my stuff, and I start at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning." And it's like 9:30 at night. And I'm like, "How do you do that?" He looked at me and goes, "It's what I do." He'll say to me, "How do you do Porky Pig?" "It's what I do." So, you do what you do well. If you're on a soap for like 5, 10, 15 years, you're just conditioned.

Suzanne: How or why did you decide to be a voice actor rather than a regular actor?

Bob: I think what we do is regular acting, too. I don't like to shave. I don't like to memorize. I don't like what goes into having to be on camera. Now, if I were to do it again, I would do a sitcom, because I like the process of a sitcom actor. You know, when you go and you work for 3 or 4 days, and then you get up and you do like a play in front of an audience. That type of on-camera acting does interest me, but movies and soaps and things like that I don't know if I have the patience for it. I love theater. I love doing theater. I've got a one-man show that I've been touring for about 12-13 years. That's fun! But again that takes a big chunk out of your life, because I work during the day doing voice-over and then at night if I have to go over to the theater and perform, that's a lot of work during the day. But absolutely, if I were to get a call saying, "Hey, do you want to audition for a Broadway show and live in New York for 6 months?" Oh, yeah! I would do that!

Suzanne: Do you ever get recognized by people, for your voice, for your work?

Bob: Clearly. I mean, especially, Mel's voice. I'd say the majority of what I do as a voice actor is my own voice, because even those of us that do a lot of cartoons, commercials, promos, and narration, that's my bread and butter. But people don't recognize my own voice. I don't have a recognizable voice. The only time I do get recognized is when I go to fan conventions, like I was at Comic-Con last month, and you're walking around and people know who you are. It's an ego-boost, but it's also kind of weird. I'm not used to that. Many years ago, like right after 9/11, I went with some friends to Krispy Kream doughnuts late at night, and we were at the drive-thru, and she said, "Let me know when you're ready." And I said, "Ooh, you changed your voice." And she came back and said, "Yes, I did. Now you change yours." And so I looked at my friends, and I ordered a dozen glazed doughnuts like Porky Pig, and there was a hesitation and she said, "Please drive to the second window." I drove to the second window, and she handed me three dozen doughnuts. And I said, "I don't think you understood what I said." And she said, "No, I understood exactly what you said. That's the first time we've laughed since 9/11. They're on the house. Have a nice night." So, I turned to my friends and said, "Ooh, let's go to a Porsche dealer next."

Suzanne: So, I guess people at Comic-Con must know your name and your face or on the Internet?

Bob: You know, if you're a fan of anything, you're pretty well versed as to who people are, even the people that draw the cartoons. The fans know who you are, and with the Internet, everybody is Google-able, so I've got a website, I teach animation and voice-over. I've been doing that for 26-27 years. I've traveled the country teaching, so I'm not an unknown, but walking in the mall, no one's gonna know who I am. I could be a working actor and be able to go to a restaurant or a men's room and nobody stares. I think I've kind of an average, run-of-the-mill sort of look, but I don't walk around necessarily doing Porky all day long, so no one's gonna really pick me out in a crowd.

Suzanne: Is there any voice that you haven't done, that you would like to do?

Bob: Oh, that's a very good question. You know what? I don't know. I won't know until it comes up. Every day it's auditions. You never know if you're auditioning for what's going to be the next big SpongeBob SquarePants sort of thing that becomes this huge franchise. That would be nice. I won't know that until the opportunity arises. The majority of my career is creating original characters. Voicing Porky Pig is probably less than 10% of my annual income. It's just high profile, and people know the character. It was a dream of mine, but the majority of my day-to-day voice-over work is voicing characters and creating characters that are new. I didn't go into this for the money. I went into this because I love it, and to get to make a living at it is icing on the cake. I could be a guy who does voice-over whose passion is really to open up a comic book store and didn't do it, because I didn't have the guts.

Suzanne: Anything you'd like to tell your fans about your work, or upcoming projects, or about being nominated?

Bob: Well, first of all, thank you for watching. Those of us that work in this industry would be completely lost without the fans. They're the reason why our stuff continues, so thank you. I have a project that I did that comes out later this year that I can't talk about. It's like a top secret thing, but it's really cool, and it's one of those things where I'm like "Wow, I can't believe I totally got to do this job." It's not even a high-paying job. It's not even a high-profile job. It's just one of those, "My God, I got to do this." I can't talk about it, which is a bummer, but that will come out later this year. Looney Tunes show's alive and well and living on Cartoon Network. I have a whole bunch of stuff, a bunch of games I've done recently that are coming out later this year. I'm just one of those lucky guys who makes a living doing what he loves, so it keeps me busy and it keeps me out of trouble.

MORE INFORMATION:

Bob Bergen is a 2013 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Voice Over Performance for “Looney Tunes” for the voice of Porky Pig.

Primetime Emmy-nominated actor Bob Bergen has worked in all aspects of television: from sitcoms, to soaps, to game show host. His voice is heard in thousands of commercials, promos, animated series and specials. He has also worked on dozens of feature films, including Wreck it Ralph, The Lorax, Tangled, Tinker Bell, Spirited Away, A Bug’s Life, Iron Giant, The Emperor’s New Groove and Up. He voices Luke Skywalker in the Robot Chicken: Star Wars specials and is an Annie Award nominee for playing Cadet in the two-time Emmy-nominated series Duck Dodgers. He currently stars as Porky Pig in CN’s hit series The Looney Tunes Show.

He has been an active member of the Television Academy since 1994, serving on the Performers Peer Group Executive Committee and Daytime Committee. He is on Hollywood’s SAG-AFTRA board, and is national co-chair of their voice-over committee. Since 1987 he has been a volunteer Big Brother for two boys, and was honored as Jewish Big Brother of the Year in 2007.

Youtube clips with Bob Bergen/Porky Pig and interviews

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJY-JXVFAng

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5GQ718GyJY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGo6FxPfm1o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E0UqD-P5MQ&feature=related

More about Bob Bergen at:
IMDb
Wikipedia

Awards & Nominations Photos Videos

Outstanding Voice-Over Performance - 2013

Nominee
Bob Bergen, as Porky Pig
The Looney Tunes Show
Cartoon Network
Warner Bros. Animation

Outstanding Voice-Over Performance - 2011

Nominee
Bob Bergen, as Porky Pig
The Looney Tunes Show
Cartoon Network
Warner Bros. Animation

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