If you've watched animation at all over the past two decades-plus, you know Maurice LaMarche. The veteran voice actor has lent his pipes to just about every major animated TV series over that span. Some of his credits include Talespin, Taz-Mania, Animaniacs and its spinoff Pinky and the Brain, The Tick, The Critic, Duck Dodgers, Rocko's Modern Life, Dilbert and The Simpsons.
Seriously. Look it up.
Tonight, in advance of an all-new Futurama, Maurice joined me to talk about two of my favorite characters on the series - space invader Lrrr ("Ruler of Planet Omicron Persei 8!") and newscaster Morbo - and earning a third Emmy nomination for his work on the Comedy Central series. Also, world domination.
First things first, congratulations on your Emmy nomination (Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, as Lrrr in the episode "Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences"). How's that feel?
Very nice. I want to be the Susan Lucci of animation.
That has to be one of my favorite Futurama episodes ever, because I love Lrrr.
He's a fun character, and he sounds completely different from Morbo. (laughs) That's a running joke we have on the [DVD] commentaries.
My favorite moment is Morbo in "Three Hundred Big Boys" when his wife is adjusting his tie and he says "I will destroy you." Lrrr would never do that. Even though he's a king and a world-conqueror, he has all the same problems we all have, which I think is the message of Futurama on the whole. Technology may improve, things may change, but people are still basically the same schmucks. We all have the same problems. That's kind of a reassuring message.
We've been suspiciously without Lrrr this season. Are we going to see him coming up?
I don't recall doing another Lrrr script for the rest of season 6 and I haven't seen him yet in season 7, but we're only on episode 4 of season 7. I know he's a writer favorite. He could pop up. But I think if he pops up, they can't mine the midlife crisis thing anymore. They've already hit that twice (in "Lrrrenconcilable Ndndifferences" and "Spanish Fry").
What I'm hoping for is a shift back onto Kif. In season 6, we kind of lost him a little bit. I'd love to do a Kif episode.
My other favorite character is Morbo. How did you come up with that booming voice for him?
Morbo was originally played by Billy West, doing his McLaughlin Group impression. They came in and asked me if I could do something like Lrrr, and I did. They pitched it and effected it and dropped it lower, and when I came in, I just imitated what they did with pitching and effecting. Now they don't have to pitch and effect Morbo.
If there was a Morbo-centric episode, what do you think it would be about?
I kinda wonder what happens when Morbo takes off his makeup and goes home at night. But I don't know. They'd have to create a really interesting backstory for him and make it different from Lrrr.
He's always talking about this invading army from this planet. But maybe they lost interest and moved on. And he got this job as a newscaster for grocery money while waiting for the invading army to get back.
Those aren't the only characters you voice on Futurama. You've also done Kif Kroker, Calculon, Hedonism Bot and others. Do you have a favorite amongst the group?
It's like asking if you have a favorite child. I love them all in different ways. Hedonism Bot is tremendous stuff. He's a character that wouldn't be too bad to follow around. Kif probably has the softest place in my heart, though. I so relate to him. We've all been Kif at one point or another. I love the whole eyerolling and the sighing.
How do you keep all the voices you've done in your career straight?
Sometimes I forget. "Was I on that show?" I'll look it up on IMDB.
I'm very proud of my CV. I've been very blessed to be on some very good stuff. There's quality there as well as quantity. All those shows have one thing in common: really terrific writing. They're all geniuses.
I read on Wikipedia that you once voiced 29 characters in one 30-minute episode of The Critic. What the heck was that all about and how did you manage it?
The original script had 29. I'm not sure if the 29 made it to screen. I think it was more like 27 or 26. When I say 27, I mean like a hot dog vendor, a taxicab driver, whatever. It's like one or two sentences each.
I was sort of the Billy West of The Critic. They threw me the celebrities. Tress MacNeille plays more characters in Futurama than anyone, me included and Billy included. At last count, she played 78 characters.
To me, though, you will always be associated with The Brain from Animaniacs and later Pinky and the Brain. That was such a huge part of my childhood. Is there a role people associate you with more than any other?
It is absolutely The Brain and I'm very proud of that. I'm a fan of the show. I probably would have watched it even if I wasn't on it.
In every actor, there's that frustrated actor that wants to rise to the top. I just analogized all the frustrations of an actor - of just missing the brass ring - to taking over the world. It was perfect for me to play. I was used to being thwarted. Ironically, Brain became this sort of crowning achievement.
With all the voice roles you've done, is there anything left you'd still like to tackle?
You know, I actually have always wanted to play The Joker in some way or another. I came very close. I did get to play Mr. Freeze in the new Arkham City game.
I'd like a chance to play Brain again, and I'm hoping with the resurgence of Smurfs and all that, somewhere in [Steven] Spielberg's brain, he'll say, "It's time for more of those guys. And let's get Mo and Rob [Paulsen. the voice of Pinky]." The kids come back to the theater to see their childhood. Not to reinvent it. We get a thrill when we see a movie and it's the voices from our childhood. So it's sort of a double wish - to see a Pinky and the Brain feature film and to get to play Brain again.
My thanks to Maurice LaMarche for this interview! Check out an all-new Futurama tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on Comedy Central.