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BILLY WEST The Best Of The West

Fry, voiced by Billy West
Fry, voiced by Billy West

“It might be cool to be a nerd now, but it wasn’t 50 years ago, I tell you.” Says veteran voice actor, Billy West. Best known for his voice work on Futurama, Ren And Stimpy, Doug and Space Jam, West has been a multitude of characters over the past quarter of a century. It hasn’t always been easy for West.

“I used to love comic books, and had about one and a half friends. I did find one kid across town that read comic books, so I had a friend for life. I was also super sensitive, so they took special interest in circling the wagons….but you know what? All those guys are either dead or in jail. So if anyone is reading this – it pays to be a good guy.”

His career in voice-over acting has allowed West to achieve many highlights, working with many actors he admired in his youth. “Warner Brothers decided they were going to do modern interpretations of classic characters. They did one called  Daffy’s Rhapsody Or The Hunter’s Lament  and it wasn’t a cartoon, it never previously existed, save for a phonograph record from 1952 and it was Mel Blanc performing Daffy Duck. So they added me as Elmer Fudd and I got to work with Mel Blanc, in the oddest sense. For me it was the greatest achievement. If I had a bucket list it would be on it.”

As much as he loved reprising classic Warner Brothers or Hanna-Barbera characters, West preferred to add his own mark to the industry. “I love doing Bugs in Space Jam. All these people that influenced me, I got to fill in when they were gone. It’s kind of a dream come true, but the thing that really trips my trigger is creating something new. I didn’t want to be a sound-alike, as you would just be a footnote.”

Creating something new is certainly what West did, providing a host of characters for a variety of animation. In Futurama alone he voices Fry, Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth and Zapp Brannigan, just to name a few. “Asking for a favourite is like asking a mother who her favourite kid is. I put so much into every single one of those that I did.”

Of course with all those characters, it is inevitable that sometimes West will be performing a number of different voices in one scene. “I just take a deep breathe and shove away at it. I’m sort of really good at it, I can talk to myself in different characters. One of the rewards of a misspent youth.”

As for the convention circuit, it has amazed West to see how far sci-fi, comic book and cartoon fandom has come. “I’m thrilled. What are the odds of people not only liking what you do? I mean the age groups there – there’s my age (63) down to the little kids. It’s great to see everyone about.”

DAVID O’CONNELL

Supanova Pop Culture Expo runs at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre from Friday, June 26, until Sunday, June 28. For tickets and info, go to supanova.com.au

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