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KP: When you talk about the fact that Critic, Pinky & The Brain and Futurama were three of the best shows that you worked on and the most enjoyable shows, what makes it an enjoyable job for you?

LAMARCHE: Working with super talented people, and super funny people who are just funny in the moment, and the stuff that happens between takes is as funny as the stuff that’s on the script. Very often what’ll happen is you’ll be on a show, the script will be very average, and then the snide comments that come after we stop rolling tape are the funniest thing.  But the quality of these shows was great, and we just had a ton of fun.  The fourth most fun show I ever did was a show called the Chimp Channel.  A show that was really well-written, brilliant cast, strong characters.  Probably laughed more on that show just in terms of sheer, oh my god my guts are starting to hemorrhage from laughing, but the show just didn’t translate, because they didn’t go to the expense of putting CGI lips on the chimps and it just became like Lancelot Link.  And you can only watch that so long.  It was actually a distraction away from the terrific writing of the scripts.  What would have made that a funny show would have been a show about a bunch of actors recording the lines for a show about chimps, because the scripts themselves were hilarious.  We all had a tremendous time.  But I’d never been on something that was so much fun that didn’t translate.

KP: What’s a bad job for you, or a job you don’t enjoy?

LAMARCHE: Really high-pitched voices that have to talk very cutesy-wootsey, and sell toys that are based on the principal of turning a sock inside out.

KP: Boy oh boy, I wonder what you’re talking about.

LAMARCHE: Gee, what do you think?  I’ll give you 15 guesses, and the first 14 don’t count.

KP: And the last one will lose any future work.

LAMARCHE: That’s right.  Listen, Marsha already knows that I hated The Popples. That it was the job from hell.  Because I had to come in every day and just be ultra cute and be “bishi, boffo, hoo hoo hoo!”  And I wanted to vomit at the end of every session.  I would sooner have sold my body on Santa Monica Boulevard than go back for another one of those.

KP: That’s obviously a character-based reason why a job’s not enjoyable. Is there a situational based reason why a job isn’t enjoyable for you?

LAMARCHE: Well, you know, apart from the previously stated, you know, over directing, keeping the actor the entire time needed and just line reading them backwards and forwards, I tend to make the best out of every situation. And there are just directors who are an absolute joy to work with, and who know comedy and who understand timing and story and characters and, you know, there are some that are a little bit more, you know, workman-like, and that’s okay. You try and help them.

KP: What percentage of comfortable to uncomfortable do you deal with when you’re doing jobs?

LAMARCHE: Oh it’s 99% comfortable.  I mean, I’m almost never uncomfortable in a job. Like I said, the last bad experience I could relate to you came from well over 14 years ago, and that was that GI Joe thing.  Everything since then has been pretty terrific.

KP: And now there are contractual reasons why that other thing won’t happen again.

LAMARCHE: Oh absolutely, yeah.  Yeah, I mean, the entire union rallied around that one, because we had all at one point or another worked for this director.

KP: Talking about making that transition to live action, one thing I do have to ask is how did the Ed Wood “voice cameo” come about.

LAMARCHE: It came out of the blue, man.  It was unbelievable.  I later found out that being an animator, Tim Burton is very much in touch with all things animated, as it were, and animation.  Being an animator, Tim Burton was aware of Pinky & The Brain and, of course, he had a relationship with Spielberg, and he just heard the voice and went, you know, love what Vincent D’Onofrio did physically with the part, but the voice… D’Onofrio made an odd choice, especially considering he’s not a high-voiced man, but he chose to effect this sort of effete, reedy pitched thing for the character while physically doing Welles perfectly, down to the way he pursed his lips around a cigar.  He did it like, (high-pitched) “How do you do, I’m Orson Welles.”  I have the dailies still, somewhere in my collection of 2,000 videotapes. They sent me the dailies and said, “Do you think you could loop this in the Welles voice?”  So, you know, “Absolutely.” But it came from Burton’s awareness of Brain, of Pinky & The Brain, and the way I do the voice.  So they actually flew me up to San Francisco, and I did the session with Burton in the room, and he directed me, and you know, he just… he was surprisingly normal.  I’d heard all these stories… “Ooh, you’re gonna work with Tim Burton. Oh, he’s weird, he’s so out there, he’s so bizarre.” The most bizarre thing is that as he sat in the chair, he pulled his knees up to his chin and had that kind of like scrunched up kinda thing.  But other than that, he was incredibly focused and knew exactly what he wanted, and I just thought he was an incredibly bright man.

KP: What kind of direction did he give you?

LAMARCHE: Faster.  Make it match the lip flaps.  Obviously in looping that’s the key direction. It’s the unspoken one. Just as when you’re directing an on-camera actor in film, the unspoken direction is, “Make it seem like it’s really happening.”

KP: Did you in any way feel self-conscious coming in and re-voicing an actor?

LAMARCHE: I hoped that when he saw this he wouldn’t be pissed off.  I really wasn’t aware of D’Onofrio. I hadn’t seen Full Metal Jacket.  I’d not seen him in that, and he was not an actor I was aware of.  But I just thought, “Whoever this guy is, god he got the look down, and I just thought I hope it’s okay with him.”  I know I would feel strange being replaced on something, or at least just having my voice replaced.  But what I really wanted to bring to it was as accurate a dub as possible, because this has got to look seamless.  Burton and D’Onofrio had come so far in perfecting the physical side of the character, and I just felt like I’ve got to bring my portion to the table and really make this fit and suspend disbelief that Orson Welles is actually back from the dead and sitting in a booth at Musso & Frank.  Apparently, that’s the only apocryphal scene in the entire picture though.  Everything else is based on fact.  As far as anyone knows, that meeting never took place. It’s the only dramatic license they took.

KP: But it should have.

LAMARCHE: Yes, it should have.

KP: It’s quite something to go from listening to the tape in your car to bringing it to Brain to essentially playing Welles in a film.

LAMARCHE: Yeah, this whole thing has become a cottage industry, and I feel beholden to Phil Proctor for having given me the tape in the first place.  But on the other hand, screw ‘im.

KP: No residuals then?

LAMARCHE: No.

KP: That also brings up a question of live action.  Has that ever been an area that’s intrigued you to cross over into?

LAMARCHE: Well, apart from my slobbering egomania of coming here in the first place to get the big sitcom or the big movie career, I’d have to say in the last couple years it really has fallen off my to-do list.  It used to intrigue me, and I’ve done it. I’ve done a handful of things on camera.  And you know, now I’m sort of philosophical about it.  Just very laissez-faire.  If it comes my way, great. If not, oh well. I was speaking to Rodger Bumpass today, who plays Squidward on SpongeBob.  And he was telling me he’d just finished doing two movies in a row, on camera, and he’d never ever pursued it in his life, but it happened the director was a friend and gave him a small part in this one Hallmark Channel movie. It’s about chefs, called Just Desserts, and it stars Lauren Holly, as I recall. And he said he came off of that and went right into a murder mystery with the same director, and it just so happened the guy was a friend and said, “Hey, you’d be good in a bit part in this.” And then went, “Hey, you’re good,” and gave him a bigger part in the murder mystery.  Sometime before I die I’m sure some pal o’ mine will take a chance on me on camera and that’ll happen.  But I’m not busting any doors down to get on camera, so I can play Ray’s friend #3 in the Italian restaurant scene of Everybody Loves Raymond.  It doesn’t thrill me that much to see my puss on television.  I had my little time doing that, where I did a couple of guest stars and a mess of talk shows and the Young Comedians special, and I know what I look like.  But if it was something really special or a favor for a friend - or, you know, the part of a lifetime - great.

KP: What is your view of the work you did on Mark Hamill’s Comic Book: The Movie?

LAMARCHE: I’ve not seen it yet.  He was nice enough to put me in it.  Just basically playing myself, and it’s part of the special features on it.  I thought it was great of him to make the movie in the first place.  Many years ago when I first met him, and he would… our first meeting was actually hilarious and surreal to anybody on the outside looking in, and to me.  Batman was wrapping up the morning session at this studio we used to work at, and Animaniacs was coming in, and Mark was walking out to his car and talking to Andrea Romano, and I was walking up the steps to the studio, and Andrea said, “Oh, Mo.  Have you ever met Mark?” And Mark puts out his hand and goes, “Oh my god, Maurice LaMarche. Oh my god what a pleasure to meet you.  I love your work.”  You know, before I could get out the standard, “Hey, I love your movie, I’m a big fan of Luke Sky…” - you know, all this.  He was a fan of mine!  He is an archivist.  He loves standup comedians.  So he knows the work of nearly every standup comedian who’s ever put anything on videotape. And he had all my appearances in his library already, and was quoting my act to me.

KP: Did he do the celebrities as waiters bit?

LAMARCHE: No, but he loved the “tribute to me” thing that I did on the Young Comedians special.  It was just bizarre.  Here’s a man who has starred in movies that have grossed a billion dollars, and he knew me, and was doing the sort of fan thing with me!  And who am I?  I’m a voice guy.  So that was really nice, and from there we just developed a friendship, and he gave me his home phone number right there and then.  “Anytime you want to come out to the house, I’d love to have you.”  I just met the guy and I have Luke Skywalker’s home phone number in Malibu.  So he said early on, not long after this, he said, “You know, I think you guys are the most talented people in show business.  Nobody can do what you do. I think it’s a shame nobody knows what you look like.  I am gonna make a movie. I’m gonna put all my voiceover friends in it.”  And sure enough, the guy was true to his word.  There was almost nothing in that movie except established voiceover actors.  Everybody he used, except for the celebrity cameos, are established voiceover actors.

KP: What’s stunning is people looking at that and not realizing the talent there - the industry almost views voice actors as some kind of weird, bastard step-children.  That they’re not real actors.

LAMARCHE: Oh, I know.  And I don’t get it.  I truly don’t get it.  Here we are, we’re doing the closest thing to rep theater you can get, where in an episode of The Critic, for instance, I played upwards of 20 characters every episode.

KP: Does your record still stand, that you set with The Critic?

LAMARCHE: I don’t know.  Mike (Reiss) and Al (Jean) have not told me otherwise, but yeah, I believe that was the record.  I beat Harry Shearer by one voice.

mo-06.jpgQS: Was it 29?

LAMARCHE: Yeah, 29 characters in a 30 minute episode.  Luckily each character didn’t have a full minute of screentime, or it would have been The Mo Show.  (As Lovitz) “The Critic starring Jon Lovitz.  Well, well, smell.”

KP: Yeah, we know there’s an episode out there that Jon didn’t work on.

LAMARCHE: No, there’s one line out there that’s me as The Critic.

KP: And which line is that?

LAMARCHE: I can’t tell you.  I’m sworn to secrecy.

KP: By whom?

LAMARCHE: By Jon.  I’m a man who keeps my promises.  The one line slipped in.

KP: Did that aggravate Jon?

LAMARCHE: (laughing) He always felt… I guess he was a tad annoyed.  Entertainment Tonight did a story on The Critic, and they wanted Jon, obviously.  He’s the star of the show.  Jon was off shooting City Slickers 2.  Well, we had our second season premiere coming up and we were lucky enough to have ET wanting to cover the show.  We wanted to get off to a good start on the new network.  So they said, “Come down and shoot our number two guy.  Shoot Maurice LaMarche, who’s the impressionist on the show who does all the movie parodies, and he plays Jeremy Hawke and the butler character.  He’s entertaining enough.  He’s not Lovitz, but it’s the next best thing.”  So they did.  The came down and shot me, and we had a lovely time with it, but in it, I subbed Jon, as we did for the five episodes he was away making City Slickers 2. I played Jay for temp track purposes, and then Jon came in… actually Jon didn’t come in.  They flew out every week to Utah with a whole digital audiotape thing and recorded him in his hotel room doing the lines.  At one point the mixer got mixed up and left in one of my temp track lines, because he thought it was Jon.  So it stayed in there.  But when they shot me, he came back from Utah and he called me up and he said, “Oh great,  Now everybody thinks you’re the Critic. They think you’re the one that does most of the shows and I just lend my name to it and do the odd episode.  You know, wish you hadn’t done that, Maurice…”

KP: Like it was your fault.

LAMARCHE: Yeah. Like I set out to deceive the world into thinking I’m the Critic.  Meanwhile, his whole take was, “I hope this doesn’t make me like Jim Backus.  I don’t want to be remembered as Mr. Magoo.  Did all this body of film work and Saturday Night Live, and everybody’s gonna remember The Critic. I  don’t want it to be like that.”

KP: You should have just convinced them that you were Jon after plastic surgery.

LAMARCHE: Of course, I’d be happy if anybody remembered me for anything.  Even if it is The Brain.

KP: Oh, that’s bull.  People remember you, and people know you.

LAMARCHE: That’s what I’m saying, and I’m happy about that. If 20 years from now, if my son’s kids are watching Pinky & The Brain on whatever medium is available… you know, whether they have it beamed directly into their brains… television will be a thing of the past.  You just download entertainment into your brain and it’ll replace dreams.  But whatever it is, I’d be happy if my kids’ kids watch Pinky & The Brain.  What a thrill.

KP: Your kids can go, “My father is The Brain.”

LAMARCHE: I only have one boy, but he does that now.  He’ll just come out with it too. It’s like, you know… I can’t tell whether he’s proud of it or embarrassed about it, but it’ll just kinda be this non sequitur in a given conversation with a new friend, he’ll just go, “My dad’s The Brain.”  Just tosses it off like, “Oh yeah.”  Like, “I have an edge, and my dad’s…”

KP: (laughing)  That’s how he’s gonna get girls in future years.

LAMARCHE: Oh geez, I can’t… please, he’s nine years old!  I don’t want that visual.

KP: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.

LAMARCHE: Nah, that’s alright.  In nine more years that’ll be inevitable.  Such a handsome boy, thank god.  He got his looks from his mother.

KP: And looking at the fact that you do have a legacy, do you often think of that?   Or at all?

LAMARCHE: I want my legacy to be peace in the middle east…

KP: If only you hadn’t waited until the very end.

LAMARCHE: I don’t think about it.  I think about it as… hopefully, this is all going into my retirement plan, and I won’t be broke when I’m 65, but I don’t think of it as this great… the way Mel Blanc’s legacy is Bugs Bunny. It just doesn’t occur to me that anything of that magnitude, that pop cultural magnitude, is tied to me in any way.  Weird.

KP: Can you envision a time 50 years from now when someone goes to resurrect Pinky & The Brain and someone has to come in and do Maurice LaMarche doing The Brain?

LAMARCHE: No, I’m envisioning that in, like, five years, because I still want to do the voice and I want to ask for a whole shitload of money for it.

KP: Then you get the phone call that Harry Shearer is doing it.

LAMARCHE: Yeah! (laughing) That is exactly the way this town works. I tell you, you’re wasted over there in the Carolinas.

KP: “What could I do Mo?  There was money!”

LAMARCHE: That’s right.

KP: “I wish I were a good man like you.”

LAMARCHE: Yes, but the $150,000 an episode he’ll be making on The Simpsons by then will not be enough.

KP: “Why does Brain sound like Mr. Burns?” That’s what they’ll ask…

LAMARCHE: A la the Garfield turn of Bill Murray playing Garfield. Of course, if Lorenzo were still alive, I wonder if that would be the case.  It might be.  My dread is that if they ever do Pinky & The Brain: The Motion Picture, it’ll be Kelsey Grammer and Eric Idle. 

KP: No, I’m sure they’ll give it to Bill Murray to do The Brain. You would love that, right?

LAMARCHE: They would do celebrity versions of us.  “We can’t get the original guys - who knows who they are.  Let’s get Kelsey Grammer because he’s an intellectual sounding guy and let’s get Eric Idle ’cause he’s a wacky cockney, or wacky Englishman, and that’ll be the new Pinky & The Brain.”  So I don’t sit there fantasizing about Pinky & The Brain, the feature film.

KP: Has anyone every contacted you about it?

LAMARCHE: I have heard tell - and this is only rumor, mind you - that Steven… not Seagal…

KP: Well, we know what clout Seagal has…

LAMARCHE: Yeah.  That Steven has thought of doing a Pinky & The Brain motion picture.  And each time that he’s ordered a pencil test or a CGI test of a computer generated mouse, which is redundant, he makes something else.  Like I heard Mousehunt started out as him investigating the possibility of a CGI Pinky & The Brain.  And then he went, “Well, you know what, I’m in bed with Warner Brothers on that one, and it’s too much money, it’s too weird to divvy it up.  Let’s just make a whole independent thing.”  And so he made Mousehunt.  That’s the rumor. Strictly rumor.

KP: How does that make you feel, that it comes that close?

LAMARCHE: It was never meant to be.  It was never mine.

KP: And when it is, it’ll be Kelsey Grammer.

LAMARCHE: Hey listen, it took them how many years to make Scooby-Doo, the motion picture?

KP: Or Rocky & Bullwinkle.

LAMARCHE: Yes.  Eugh.  Thank you. Thanks for putting it all in perspective for me.

KP: At least the voice work was good.

LAMARCHE: Yes it was.  It was excellent.

KP: If only the script had been there for it.

LAMARCHE: Yep.

KP: And you certainly do have a fanbase out there. Something like your appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years back, which caused a bit of a ruckus because it’s not something you had done prior to that.

LAMARCHE: Well it’s funny, I’d done one before that, but it was a very smallish one. It was for Gordon Bressack, my dear friend who created Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys.  So I had been there before and had done an appearance, but it didn’t garner as much attention as that one. Futurama panels are 5,000 strong.  We fill the entire large auditorium at the San Diego convention center.

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Comments:

3 Responses to “Interview: Maurice LaMarche”

  1. Denny Says:

    I don’t think Marice did that great of a Puzzle anyway. Dan H did a much better one in the first season.

  2. Paul Says:

    Thank you for entertaining me over 3 very late evenings (took me that long to enjoy this interview, once I found it was more than one web-page). Long-time fan of Maurice ever since that HBO Dangerfield Special he was on with Sam K and Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Nelson, et al. I can’t wait to see him on the Animaniacs Vol. 2 dvd. I really liked your persistent interviewing style - the way you continually riffed back on what he was saying, asking definitions, making jokes about the Superman references: love the site - keep it up!

  3. joanne Says:

    I very much enjoyed this

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