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Futurama Star Billy West Answers Slashdot Questions

Roblimo posted more than 8 years ago | from the 1000-years-from-now-things-are-still-a-mess dept.

258

So. You had some brilliant, whacky, and insightful questions for Futurama star Billy West last week. Today we have his brilliant, whacky, and insightful answers. Thanks go to long-time Slashdot reader Kevin Day for arranging the interview, but the real thanks goes to Billy, who was so excited about doing this that he and I ended up talking about Slashdot via cell phone -- and he caught me while I was at a local lumberyard, thinking about plywood, not Slashdot or Futurama. I wish I'd recorded the conversation. It was totally surreal. But reading Billy's answers -- and using your imagination -- will give you a good idea of what it was like. :)

1) Question number plz99
(Score:5, Interesting)
by ak_hepcat

Who are some of your favorite voice actors to work with, obviously not limited to just the Futurama cast, and what are your favorite moments or stories with them?


Billy: I love the group of voice actors I'm privileged to work with every day. I don't give a shit what ANYONE says -- these people are all trained actors. The best I've ever seen. I will get back to the question after this not so brief announcement. Celebrities are not superlatives in our field of expertise. If celebrities that are schnoring in on our field started out trying to do what we do and were held to the standards we started out upholding, a great many of them would've never made it. It's easy for a celebrity to audition for a character who looks and sounds just like him or her. Now the studio creates characters based upon who they had in mind for the role in the first place, like a rigged fight. There is no magic, no transformation or sonic alchemy, no voices we've never heard before and no chance for most journeymen who are voice artisans to work in animated features. The general consensus is "Why?" Kids and adults pay no mind to whether Brad Pitt, David Schwimmer or Spade or Will Smith is blessing the project with their "magic" talent. For the characters they play, it could be my brother in law or the plumber. It is what it is and it will never change. This is because the folks in question know that every other huge movie is now a CGI movie. It eliminates the need for on-camera performers including stars and celebrities. Being a star or celeb does not equal the God-given gifts of those in the real craft. I'm waiting for the professional athletes to "eminent domain" us. But in general, I enjoy and respect these folks at the work they do best.

Now, back to our originally scheduled question!

All of the VO's (the usual subjects) I get to play with ARE my favorites. Every day one of us raises the bar and inspires everyone else, I think. I don't ever want to stop learning or getting better. I learn every day from all my peers. Women and men. Their unique and perfectly defined voice characterizations leave me in amazement. Most can do impressions if they are called upon to perform sound-a-likes, craft original characters with upwards of hundreds of personalities and sounds. Don't forget about killer instincts. I witness it everyday.

Fave moments--
When I was doing Futurama we'd be recording and it was so hard to continue once because John Di Maggio couldn't stop bursting out into laugher every half hour or so. He'd get hung up on something wickedly funny from the script and it would set him off. Matt G. and David X enjoyed it even when I plunged in and started my nonsense riffing. We had to be shushed repeatedly. Then all in the room would start up at some point later when the "call-back to the joke fever" set in. It was so funny to see John in the corner of the room with his bead buried in a pillow so his thunderous guffawing couldn't be heard! Too many stories to mention...

2) Re:Question number plz99
(Score:5, Interesting)
by dr_dank

This leads to a bigger question: does Billy actually get to work with his castmates? Especially on an ensamble show like the Simpsons, its extremely common to have voice actors record their bits at different studios or at different times of day.

When the cast of the Simpsons did "Inside the Actors Studio" a couple of years ago, they joked that that was one of the few times in the run of the series that the cast was all in the same room together at the same time. --


Billy: In a cartoon show we work with almost all the actors and sometimes the whole cast would be present. There are exceptions when people have other work or time constraints that keep them from being at the session. Sometimes they will work with one or two actors to play scenes off each other and sometimes a performer records solo.

I have a question. If all the Simpsons could show up for the "Actors Studio" with no problem, why couldn't they......... I'm just being silly.

3) Well...
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Black Parrot

Leela or Amy?


Billy: Leela. She has more sweater meat than Amy. Uh..I think. That was Fry not me!

4) Hank vs. Billy
(Score:5, Funny)
by Lev13than

In a cage match of you vs. Hank Azaria, who would win? How about your characters vs. Hank's characters? What if it was in jello instead of a cage?


Billy: I know that would be FUN! Can you imagine me and Hank in a cage pissing circles around each other with voices? Yeow!

5) New Series: Writers
(Score:5, Interesting)
by justinstreufert

Billy --

We've heard a lot about the original voice actors who are returning to Futurama. This is great, and I believe it is absolutely essential to the success of the new season. However, what about the other staff? Are the writers of the Fox episodes returning for the new season? Is there anyone who isn't coming back to the show who you'll miss?

Thanks! Can't wait for the new season!! Can I be cryogenically frozen until 2008?


Billy: Outside of the voices, I don't know if ALL the writers and artists are on board, but I'm guessing most of them are.

Greetings from the year 3000. It still sucks! BTW you can be cryogenically frozen. Walt Disney was. They trot him out every year for "Disney on Ice."

6) "Pirates"
(Score:5, Interesting)
by TheRequiem13

How you you (not your employers) feel about consumers downloading episodes of Futurama and watching them on their personal computers or portable media player of choice?

In particular, I mean those that pay for cable TV, but don't enjoy being bombarded with ads interupting the shows every 5 minutes, and find major network schedules highly restrictive.


Billy: I was always poor, but I was pretty much raised to try to pay for everything that I wanted and don't recall ever conscientiously wanting something for nothing. Of course, it depends on an individual's situation. We're all in the same boat no matter what happens. We all wish on the same stars. I do know that a lot of advantages in technology are spurred forward as an answer to a company's perceived infringement on their product. Then there's another advance to make the former technology obsolete and on and on. But you will ALWAYS have to buy SOMETHING no matter how you feel about it. Unless you're just a dyed in the wool crook. I always hope everyone finds their happiness in a way that hurts no one. Thanks for your question.

7) Writing
(Score:5, Interesting)
by captnitro

Do/did you ever get to work with the writers on material, or improvise something on your own that makes it into the show? It seems like separating the inherent humor of many of the voices (Zoidberg comes to mind) and the way they speak, and the written material itself, would be hard.


Billy: I don't work as a writer along with the writers on the show. But I do offer ad-libs or different ways of talking for the characters. That's easy for me to do. I just want to bring as much to the table as possible. We all do.

8) The Web
(Score:5, Interesting)
by ThePolkapunk

You're one of the few actors I know of with a web site that includes the actor's involvement. How important do you think this has been in your career and continued fame? Do you think this will become important for all successful actors to have?

How important do you feel the internet has been in the success of Futurama? I know there are tons of references to fan postings and web sites on the Futurama DVDs. Do you think Futurama episodes online contributed to the continuing success of Futurama after it was cancelled? I'm sure there are plenty of people who weren't significantly exposed to Futurama until the episodes began making their way online...


Billy: I wanted to be able to talk to everyone that was into what I do. My guests are very smart, not war-like or malcontents, they're funny and imaginative and great people in general. I post all the time. I have never posted on anyone else's website ever. My page is where I say what I want to say. Every now and then a sniper from the Internet's grassy knoll breezes in, barges onto my site, takes a dump on the carpet and runs. "Just because."

I hate to say it, but it's mostly a very FEW 1st, 2nd or 3rd time posters. They show up with a full metal jacket of either a Howard Stern agenda or a Ren and Stimpy agenda. This tiny group of people harasses me about the Stern show and the time I spent there. It began 13 years ago and ended 10 years ago. I'm all done there. Most folks from the Stern groups thank me for making them laugh back then, and for that I am forever grateful to them. All I did for ten years was explain over and over why I left. Same thing with a very FEW but active spastic dogs with an R&S boner that came on basically to pick a fight with me.

I won't take any shit from anyone, but they would also attack my guests trying to get to me. I was very upset over that aberrant behavior. I can tell an innocent post from a loaded one. What do you think I am? Iggorrrent?

As far as the return of Futurama, I think it had everything to do with the Internet and the voluminous amount of fans around the world. That and the DVD sales. It was because of you all that the show is back!

Thank you for the question.

9) Futurama Flavored Humor
(Score:5, Interesting)
by eldavojohn

What exercises (if any) do you use to warm up your voice when you perform? Is it just something you're naturally good at or do you go through daily techniques and practicing like a musician or singer?


Billy: I never had any vocal training. I guess I was just a freak. I did things then the same way as I do now. With cosmic abandon. Think I share this with a lot of other VO's. I just found myself in the church chorus and in public school it was the glee club and school plays. I don't think a lot about it. It's in the head mostly and you try like the devil to replicate the sound that originates there. The voice somehow always finds new places to go to accommodate your ideas. There was a time when it was a little difficult to do the blood-curdling screams and those high pitched "genderless" voices. So I went to the best guy in the biz. Gary Catonah is a "voice-builder" who showed me the very precise vocal exercises to build up the little-used muscles around the throat. It was like a miracle! I wound up even better vocally than I'd ever seen before!

Little known fact: I did an entire season of Futurama with one vocal chord because the other one had constricted up into itself. I think it was collateral damage from a nasty, nasty flu I had caught. I saw a doctor and squared it away but it took a long time.

10) Your projects
(Score:5, Interesting)
by AiY

I saw something a few months back about a project you were trying to get off the ground called "Billy Bastard - Amateur Human Being." It sounded like a great premise and promised me something better than most television. Any updates? Air dates? General info?


Billy: Billy Bastard was what I was 21 years ago when I was cross-addicted to alcohol and cocaine. A very volatile mix.

I would wind up in the most bizarre situations and have NO recollection for the most part of what had gone down. I was a fierce rock n' roller and had just gotten into radio in Boston. I've been clean for 21 years now, but I had written down stuff that happened. It was tragic until I read it to a friend here and there. They would break up with laughter. To me it wasn't funny, but they reminded me that if it all happened to someone else -- I would be in hysterics as well.

I guess "Seinfeld" was pitched 100 times before someone saw a diamond on the floor and had the sense to pick it up.

A few people have seen the 11 minute pilot, but we couldn't work anything out so far. We'll keep pitching it until we meet the right folks for this.

Myself, Jim Gomez, Bill Wray and Dave Guppel believe in it strongly and I think it's really funny. My VO friends, the incomparable Jim Cumings, the mighty voice of Moe La Marche, and the facile and talented lightning in a bottle Rob Paulsen were so gracious to add their magic to this show.

I will always post relevant bulletins as to where we are with the project. I won't hold a press conference if I get a great meeting with someone.

11) Leave it at the beep
(Score:5, Funny)
by El_Smack

What's the message on your answering machine?


Billy: Ocean's 11...uh, I mean chapter 11--no!

I left witty little voices on my machine, but I would come home to 16 hang ups. Callers checking in and out just to hear the message and end the call. Nowadays it's just "Hi. Please leave a message" in a deep friendly disarming voice.

-----

Thanks for making this fun for me, guys,

B-dub

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FP (-1, Offtopic)

javamann (410973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660718)

Kewl

It sure is. Billy is a homo in real life. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660967)

I wonder how he can barely let his homosexuality from bleeding into his Futurama character. Maybe it has something to do with:

  One-Eyed-SlickWilly vs One-Eyed-Leela

Who will win? The odds are stacked on this one! I would pay to see Leela dislodge her eye into Slick Billy's manhole. I bet it would slip right in just as any other large melon. Billy sure is one stretched bung-cunt. Fuck you Bill! Fuck YOU!

Logged-in users aren't forced to preview their comments. Create an Account!To confirm you're not a script,
please type the word in this image: scandal

How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660723)

I'm not offended by Billy's use of the word "shit" in his answers, but if my kid is reading this then it might be a good idea to put a little disclaimer or warning on top of the article next time.

Cheers.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660759)

Your kid is going to be really messed up.

Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction...

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

javamann (410973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660795)

No, his kid now has a weapon to get a reaction out of his parents.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (3, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660836)

I thought letting your kid read /. was a good thing? Kinda like taking him to StarBucks for an $8 cappuchino. Makes him more sophisticated.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660846)

Is that what it's supposed to be?

At my workplace, it's more like "for every action there is an equal and opposite criticism"...

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (5, Funny)

daniil (775990) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660783)

Why the fuck do you let your kid read Slashdot?

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (5, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660929)

Easiest way to keep them from having sex.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661349)

Sure, but do you really want them to be still living with you in their 40s? Every action indeed...

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (0, Redundant)

benbread (910501) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660796)

What sort of little kid reads Slashdot...?

You are totally missing the point! (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660998)

The point isn't that some things, like Slashdot, are for adults. The point is: Think of the Children!

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661324)

All the 6 to 13 year old girls we attracted on April 1st?

OMG! Ponies!!!!!

Bull-pies to your kid! (1)

EvilCabbage (589836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660810)

Keep an eye on what he's reading yourself.

Many thanks to Billy West for taking the time to do this, great read!

Bring on the return of Futurama..

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660817)

if my kid is reading this then it might be a good idea to put a little disclaimer or warning on top of the article next time.

Have you read the /. posts lately? You better ask Rob to put a disclaimer at the top of the entire /. site.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (5, Insightful)

JesseL (107722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660821)

If you're concerned about your kid reading 'colorful' language, why in the world would you let it read slashdot? The only filtering going on here is what gets moderated below your viewing threshold. I can say any foul word I can think of and my post will be enshrined here for as long as slashdot lives (unless I quote scientologist scripture).

To quote St. Carlin:
"Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker"

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660841)

> To quote St. Carlin: "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker"

What, you got something against tits?

(Personally, the only things I ever want to have against tits are my own body parts.)

While we're at it, "Fart, Turd, Twat". And the vilest obscenity of them all: "FCC".

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660881)

While we're at it, "Fart, Turd, Twat". And the vilest obscenity of them all: "FCC".
No, there are two words that are even more obscene: MP** and RI**.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661064)

My favorite curse word is actually G-d. Seriously, what single word has caused more problems and brought more pain and misery to more people?

*Prepares to be flamed*

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661274)

what single word has caused more problems and brought more pain and misery to more people?
Money.

But it's close.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661422)

what single word has caused more problems and brought more pain and misery to more people?


Microsoft.

Sorry. It's /. I had to do it.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661191)

Oops, missed that one in the copy-&-paste.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (3, Funny)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660859)

How old is your kid?

I have 4 brothers and sisters far younger than me (3, 4, 6 and 14) and they swear more than I ever do, and I am really good at it.

It's fun watching a 3 year old tell your Dad that he is a fucking wanker :D

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661070)

Your mamma be proud.

Best troll I've seen in a long time. (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660862)

Well done.

Shame on you people who fell for it! ;)

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660866)

Your kid reads Slashdot?? Him seeing the word "shit" is the least of your problems.

Show and tell. (5, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661099)

"Your kid reads Slashdot?? Him seeing the word "shit" is the least of your problems."

Especially when Aunt Doris comes to visit. Your little tyke comes out into the living room, and instead of singing "I'm a Little Teapot", he turns and happily shows everyone the new goatse trick he learned online.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660946)

fuck shit cunt cock damn piss motherfucker cocksucker tubgirl.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661084)

If your kid is old enough to read that interview, then I guarantee you that the word "shit" has been in his vocabulary for some time.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661341)

"but the real thanks goes to Billy, who was so excited about doing this that he and I ended up talking about Slashdot via cell phone -- and he caught me while I was at a local lumberyard, thinking about plywood, not Slashdot or Futurama. I wish I'd recorded the conversation. It was totally surreal. But reading Billy's answers -- and using your imagination -- will give you a good idea of what it was like. :)"

If he didn't tape the conversation, how did we can the answers?

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (0)

kalirion (728907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661085)

Man, poor guy aims for a +5 Funny and lands on a -1 Troll instead. I guess its a statement about our society that so many people took him seriously.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661119)

ah, well if he wanted +5 Funny, he should ahve been...uh...Funny.

Re:How about a "Reader Discretion Advised" warning (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661231)

Whilst you are a bit of a troll, you hit upon something I pondered upon reading Congress May Add Record Requirements to MySpace [slashdot.org] here a couple of days ago.

Its that slashdot is a massive site with large readership and no protections for the younger people here.
Will slashdot and other similar communities be forced to comply with the logging requirements of a new law?

The Only Downside of BW (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660788)

Most of his voices sound like Billy West doing them. Mind, Mel Blanc had a lot of voices which were recognisably his, too, but Mel could do some voices I never knew were his.

Nice to see he has moved on and had success since the acrimonious Ren and Stimpy days.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660897)

Billy's voice of Fry is the everyman, though; he's your bud, your best friend. I would almost go to say he's the reason we want the show back.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (2, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660994)

Billy's voice of Fry is the everyman, though; he's your bud, your best friend. I would almost go to say he's the reason we want the show back.

Silly me. Here I was thinking we wanted the show back because it was humourous and had a rich cast.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (0, Troll)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661088)

"Billy's voice of Fry is the everyman, though; he's your bud, your best friend. I would almost go to say he's the reason we want the show back."

Silly me. Here I was thinking we wanted the show back because it was humourous and had a rich cast.


Silly you, the show is back only because it made the studios profitable and the cast rich.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661304)

No, we want the show back so the cast will get rich.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (3, Insightful)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661410)

Silly you, the show is back only because it made the studios profitable and the cast rich. Silly him? Silly you... profitability is not why we want the show back.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660902)

You can say that about most voice actors, including Hank Azaria, who BW mentioned specifically in the above article. While Billy West is a great voice actor, to try and compare him (or anyone else for that matter) to the legend that is Mel Blanc is a little unfair.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (4, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660988)

You can say that about most voice actors, including Hank Azaria, who BW mentioned specifically in the above article. While Billy West is a great voice actor, to try and compare him (or anyone else for that matter) to the legend that is Mel Blanc is a little unfair.

The great training ground for great voice actors was radio, which really doesn't exist anymore. There may be a few DJ's who do some voice work, but nothing like the schedule which tuned up and turned out talent like Mel. Mel Blanc can be heard in classic radio as the Happy Postman on Burns and Allen, Professor Le Blanc and many other voices on Jack Benny, including the sound effects of Jack's 1908 Maxwell. He eventually would find work in Merry Melodies cartoons, but the great volume of his work and exploring voices was in Radio.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (4, Insightful)

sgant (178166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660996)

Well, I had no idea that Fry, Zoiberg, Farnsworth and Zap were all the same actor until the series was canceled...so he certainly didn't sound the same to me at all.

Even now, I go back and try to see if I can tell if it's the same actor and I still can't tell. Guess I have a deaf ear...which explains why I make my living as a musician. lol.

Re:The Only Downside of BW (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661055)

I'm in the same boat, only I didn't know they were all done by Billy West until I looked him up on wikipedia while reading this article.

Maybe it's just me... (2, Insightful)

gid13 (620803) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660809)

...But he seems kinda not all there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking him, hell, maybe it makes him better at what he does. But I just get this sense that he does NOT think like me, in a way I don't normally get from reading interviews. Is it just me?

Re:Maybe it's just me... (4, Funny)

Tuscahoma (84407) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660874)

He's just missing the Delta brainwave.

Re:Maybe it's just me... (1)

christian.elliott (892060) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660889)

He says in one of his answers that he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol for a peroid of time. Maybe that had some adverse affects. Maybe he should run for President! Zing.

But like I always tell people,

We're all crazy, just some of us havn't realised it yet.

Re:Maybe it's just me... (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660890)

My guess is that this lost a lot in the transition from voice to print.

Re:Maybe it's just me... (4, Insightful)

WinkyN (263806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660937)

... And no offense to you, kind sir, but maybe the fact he doesn't think like you is one reason he is so successful.

Actors are creative people, and his interview responses were very creative. Most successful people are creative in some form or fashion, and having a fresh take on things can be the difference between success and failure. Do you not think Einstein was creative? How about Newton?

Creativity is the catalyst of innovation, be it for a capacitor, rocket engine or new funny voice for a cartoon. Did anyone really expect Stimpson J. Cat to have the voice he did when you look at him? What about Dr. Zoidberg? Being creative helped give those characters a different voice and helped make their shows extremely successful.

Re:Maybe it's just me... (1)

PixelSlut (620954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660938)

And maybe that's why he has the job he has and you have the job you have. Every type of job requires a certain type of creativity; not that being a voice actor is necessarily more creative than a C++ programmer, but that it's a different type of creativity. And I would expect that to come out in his personality and how he thinks.

Re:Maybe it's just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661238)

And maybe that's why he has the job he has and you have the job you have. Every type of job requires a certain type of creativity; not that being a voice actor is necessarily more creative than a C++ programmer, but that it's a different type of creativity.

Or more succinctly: "You gotta do what you gotta do".

Re:Maybe it's just me... (5, Insightful)

apflwr3 (974301) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661110)

...But he seems kinda not all there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking him, hell, maybe it makes him better at what he does. But I just get this sense that he does NOT think like me, in a way I don't normally get from reading interviews. Is it just me?

I think this has more to do with the presentation.

Most interviews we are highly edited. If they're in print the language is cleaned up, if on video or radio then only the best sound bites are used. Have you ever seen or heard raw interview footage? Unless it's completely scripted in advance-- meaning the subject gets the questions ahead of time and then meticulously prepares a response-- most don't sound all that much more coherent than this. By the way, most celebrity interviews (Barbara Walters, Today Show, etc.) are scripted as I described.

This interview seems to be a guy from Slashdot firing off random questions at Mr. West and then transcribing his answers verbatim. Additionally, it seems to be very informal, conversational and "off the cuff" (lightweight questions with answers that don't exactly take a lot of forethought.) Nothing wrong with that, but it's not a "professional" style. Why don't you transcribe a casual phone call with a friend and see how "all there" both of you sound?

Re:Maybe it's just me... (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661361)

Billy Bastard was what I was 21 years ago when I was cross-addicted to alcohol and cocaine. A very volatile mix.

That might be a clue as to why... He's not exactly a sheltered tech nerd.

Too articulate (4, Funny)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660823)

When reading I heard Frye's voice in my head but the words weren't stupid. Kind of like this Onion [theonion.com] article. Very weird.

The sweater meat comment made me feel at home again.

Re:Too articulate (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660853)

When reading I heard Frye's voice in my head but the words weren't stupid.

Funny that, it's exactly the mentally assigned reading voice I come up with. I don't think I've ever heard Billy talk in his normal speaking voice, but rather imagine it isn't far from it, just a bit deeper as cartoon voices tend to be higher pitched, that and Fry is supposed to be younger.

Comic Book : The Movie (1)

EvilCabbage (589836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660838)

Billy plays a large part in Comic Book : The Movie (google for it), a mockumentary about bringing a comic book super hero to the big screen.

It's great watching him in this film, he comes of really quite sly and subtle in his humour, probably something that doesn't come across too well in print.

Of course, the Futurama DVD's with commentary including Billy West are just hilarious, oddly enough I'm watching Season 3 again right now.

Good News, Everyone (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660861)

I just invented a bore-o-meter. And it's currently off the scale.

Re:Good News, Everyone (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660900)

Well, put it on the scale and let us know how much it weighs. :)

Thanks, Billy (3, Interesting)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660872)

If Billy is lurking about Slashdot, I'd like to thank him for answering my question and being a generally insightful interview subject. A follow-up question to something he said:

I have a question. If all the Simpsons could show up for the "Actors Studio" with no problem, why couldn't they......... I'm just being silly.


During the "Actors Studio" with the Simpsons, Julie Kavner (voice of Marge) stayed for only a brief time and mostly hid behind a Marge mask, not wanting her likeness to taint her cartoon and real-life acting persona. Mr. West has an understandable distaste for so-called celebs that barely have any acting talent to begin with that just have their voices added to animated features for the star power.

Is there a similar stigma on voice actors that only use their natural voices like Julie Kavner, not possessing a thousand voice talent like a Mel Blanc or June Foray?

Re:Thanks, Billy (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661023)

I, too, can understand a distaste for celebs that play at being VA's, but on those lines, I must ask, what of Mark Hamill? He is perhaps best known for his role in Star Wars, so he definatly has the celeb draw there. However, he has also done a considerable amount of voice actor work. I, for one, will always remember his voice behind The Joker in the Batman: The Animated Series, and as Larry 3000 from Time Squad.

Re:Thanks, Billy (2, Insightful)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661239)

He's also awesome as Detective Mosley in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers for PC! He took on a great southern US accent, and so did Tim Curry as Gabriel!

Re:Thanks, Billy (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661255)

On the other hand, Hamill was so typecast that the only way he could probably get work was as a voice actor. He was so big that he was probably only offered certain roles that he didn't want, and the only way to get out of it was to only use his voice -- and not "his" voice, at that.

Re:Thanks, Billy (1)

aiabx (36440) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661440)

I'm guessing Billy is ok with Mark Hamill, who plays regular recurring characters, but is more annoyed with the animated guest stars on, say, the Simpsons. There isn't much acting involved to show up and be yourself for a dozen lines.
On that subject, 2 further thoughts: a) my favourite Simpsons guest voice was Dustin Hoffman, who acted under a pseudonym, and had a substantial character.b) How do we know Stephen Hawking did his own voice? Couldn't anyone type lines into his voice machine, or a similar model?

Re:Thanks, Billy (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661555)

And there weren't guest stars on Futurama? Let's see... Beastie Boys, Leonard Nemoy, Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, Richard Nixon's head, Hypnotoad... if you want to get down on The Simpsons for using guest stars, you've got to take down Futurama a notch too. Bam!

Re:Thanks, Billy (4, Insightful)

LMacG (118321) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661352)

You actually believe that Julie Kavner is using her natural speaking voice when doing Marge Simpson? Are you sure it's not her natural voice for Patty, or maybe Selma? No, wait, maybe it was as Timon's mother in Lion King 1 1/2.

OK, granted she's not a "thousand voice talent," but I'd hazard a guess that Mr. West's distaste is more for somebody like Will Smith in Shark Tale.

Re:Thanks, Billy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661466)

"Mr. West's distaste is more for somebody like Will Smith in Shark Tale."

or Will Smith in general

Roblimo phone sex (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660949)

Roblimo got wood while talking to Billy West.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

pirates (4, Insightful)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15660961)

one thing that I think was missed a little about the issue of piracy is simply that if we don't watch it on their channel or buy the DVDs then they just won't make it any more. The damn networks like to mess around with scheduals to the extent that they kill the shows; when this happens it falls on the more hard-core fans to buy the dvds and vote with our wallets to get it back. Piracy seems to harm that effort at least.

I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (0)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661052)

it falls on the more hard-core fans to buy the dvds and vote with our wallets to get it back. Piracy seems to harm that effort at least.

Please explain to me ... when I download every episode of Futurama for free, how does this stop a hard-core fan from buying the DVD?

I'm curious.

Er? (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661230)

If your bothering to download and watch every episode...

Isn't that by definition a hard core fan?

A casual fan wouldn't bother to go through all that trouble.

Lots of replies but still no answer to my question (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661332)

If your bothering to download and watch every episode...

Isn't that by definition a hard core fan?


Most of them weren't that funny. If they show stayed cancelled I wouldn't have cried or lost sleep.

Seeing as it's being continued anyway I guess I could download the new episodes. I can't see how a few more downloads can hurt anyone? Who exactly is going to not buy the DVD just because I download some files from the net?

I'm genuinely curious as to who these people are. Who are they?

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661235)

because if you would sit and wait to download all the episodes it means that you at least like it to some extent... I would say that about 40-50% of the people who download all the episodes would have bought the dvds legally had they not have downloaded it. If you would not have done then fair enough... but if you watch it at least twice a week I would say chances are you would have paid up.

I think this is how I aviod the false logic of how every download is a lost sale.

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (2, Interesting)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661377)

because if you would sit and wait to download all the episodes it means that you at least like it to some extent...

Akchully, nowadays you can get operating systems with 'multitasking' so you can download files in the background whilst doing other things like listening to music, writing comments on Slashdot and even sleeping. (Though you don't need a multitasking operating system for the last one.)

I would say that about 40-50% of the people who download all the episodes would have bought the dvds legally had they not have downloaded it.

I would say that 65% think that buying all the DVDs costs far too much and is a complete waste of money. Plus I am no fan of CSS. If they removed that stupid waste of time called DRM and region encoding and reduced the price enough so that I can afford it and make it more funny I might consider buying it.

But probably not.

Just curious though, do you think that I in the 40-50% of people that would have bought it legally if I hadn't downloaded it?

Clue: I have never seen it on TV so if I hadn't downloaded it I would never have heard of it and I would have just skipped over this Slashdot story just like I do with the Firefly stories or whatever that film is called that you lot always go crazy about.

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (1)

holt (86624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661569)

because if you would sit and wait to download all the episodes it means that you at least like it to some extent... I would say that about 40-50% of the people who download all the episodes would have bought the dvds legally had they not have downloaded it. If you would not have done then fair enough... but if you watch it at least twice a week I would say chances are you would have paid up.

Perhaps if you watch it at least twice a week, but in my experience downloading definitely leads to sales. I caught Dead Like Me, an excellent show that was originally on Showtime, on HDNet recently, and I liked it enough that I downloaded the two seasons. After watching them, I bought the DVDs. There is no way I would have invested $90 on a show I had only seen once, and HDNet doesn't seem to show them in order so the continuity of the show (which is important for this series) would have been thrown off if I had tried to watch them on TV. The irony of the situation was not lost on me when I skipped over the MPAA's anti-piracy ad on the DVDs.

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (5, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661252)

How, I'm curious, does one square "I'm not a hard core fan, sorry" with "I download every episode of Futurama for free?" Something seems off kilter. And of course the incredibly obvious answer to your question is, networks decide on the life or death of programs based on estimates of viewership, which can be accurately determined in only a few ways (nielsen ratings, or for cancelled shows, DVD sales). When you go, (and your million pals who have an equivalently overdeveloped sense of entitlement and concomitant lack of conscience), and download the episodes using another method, it does not indicate the true amount of audience desire for the show. I.e. you skewed the stats.

Thus, all of you who downloaded are not included in the number of people, from the network's perspective, of people who are interested in the show. That discrepancy can surely make the difference between a show whose future is secured and one who is doomed to scheduling hell and later cancellation, especially on networks like FOX whose programming execs are in fact nothing but trained number monkeys and don't understand other factors like show quality and artistic value when making determinations about cancellation.

For a person to download an episode that is a.) not avaiable in any other way, or b.) occasionally, because it was either the 'bestest episode evar' or he/she missed the showing, is one thing. Downloading a readily available series in toto is something else again. And while the /. crowd balks at calling the second theft for technical reasons, it is ethically equivalent as far as I can tell.

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (0)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661498)

When you go, (and your million pals who have an equivalently overdeveloped sense of entitlement and concomitant lack of conscience), and download the episodes using another method, it does not indicate the true amount of audience desire for the show.

They are worried about getting accurate statistics? Why don't they subscribe to the BitTorrent trackers and keep an eye on how many people are downloading at any time? Oh I know! Because they are too stupid to figure out how to do it.

Anyone with an internet connection can figure out what the most popular downloads are right now [thepiratebay.org] and with a bit of investment of time and money they could get very accurate (not perfect but good enough) statistics from all over the world in real time. They could probably hire a clever teenaged PHP script monkey to do it for less than the cost of one of their boxed DRM-loaded DVD sets.

Please come back when you have a real reason.

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (1, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661266)

Please explain to me ... when I download every episode of Futurama for free, how does this stop a hard-core fan from buying the DVD?

Better yet, please explain to me how it costs the show anything when I watch it at first-run, then download it for free, then still buy the DVD sets when they come out?

Re:I'm not a hard core fan, sorry. (1)

kirun (658684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661461)

The media industry claim that 100% of piracy represents actual losses is nonsense. The opposite claim - that piracy represents 0% lost sales - is equally nonsense. If full-season downloads weren't available, a good chunk of the people who liked the show enough to download everything would probably have bought the DVDs instead.

Re:pirates (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661222)

Something that was covered, but not in detail, was that people like to watch these episodes conveniently, on their own schedule.

I'm waiting for somebody to wise up to this and invent a way to let us download episodes for free, while forcing us to watch the commercials, just like when we watch TV. Maybe allow them to skip commercials for 50 cents or so.

Perhaps a new file format that streams in interchangeable ads? Just need to figure out a seek mechanism that won't circumvent advertisements.

Schedules (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661315)

"he damn networks like to mess around with scheduals to the extent that they kill the shows"

I couldn't agree more. I quit watching several shows (especially on FOX) because they kept changing the schedule. That means moving it by 1/2 hour or an hour, or not running the show one week so they could show the pilot for some new show. Sunday night used to be our FOX TV night, but the irregular schedules got so out of hand I quit watching entirely.

Part of being a "good consumer" of TV is being a drone right? Part of that is watching out of habit right? Fucking with the schedule really makes that hard.

I'm about to give up on some newer shows too because of this new idea to extend the season with occasional reruns mid-season. When that happens, I turn the TV off (what? you think I have an alternate show I watch weekly at the same time?). It also makes the time slot more "available" to other activities because there is some question as to weather I'll be watching the show at all on a given night.

Give me a good show at a regular time every week without fail, without slipping in reruns, and I'll glue my eyeballs to it regularly and catch all (most) those darn commercials like I'm supposed to. The only one I think lives up to that recently is 24 and they're on thin ice with the story lately.

Re:pirates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661370)

I downloaded many of the episodes to watch when the DVDs were only available in Europe. But as soon as they were released here I was quite happy to buy them and get rid of the downloaded episodes.

Why did he leave? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660972)

Ask him why he left The Howard Stern Show, the best work he's ever done.

He's impression of Marge Schott will go down in history as the greatest voice work ever done.

Re:Why did he leave? (1)

Duds (100634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661022)

I think you've misunderstood the way this works. He's already answered the questions we posted.

You're about a week late.

Re:Why did he leave? (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661118)

Ask him why he left The Howard Stern Show

Billy: "All I did for ten years was explain over and over why I left."

I think he might be tired of answering that question now.

He never answered (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661345)

He's always dodged the question or given a typical "...well it was time to move on..." kind of dodge.

In fact, he manages to dodge any sort of question that is non-trivial. It's not like the guy has a great rep; he's a fruitcake who does the voice for a robot on a failed TV show.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15660987)

What a guy, learnt a few things about Billy West there that I had no idea about.

Sweater meat (1)

The Hobo (783784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661002)

That's one I've never heard before. Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Marge gets implants and Lisa goes "Your endownment's bigger than Harvard's" (and it follows something like "and Lisa takes the cake for the best off the cuff remark")
Too bad I'm not at home, I'd upload the clip..

Seiyuu ex machina (4, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661035)

I went to an anime convention a couple of years ago and sat in on a Q/A session with 4 voice actors including Scott McNeil [imdb.com] . All the actors, but especially Scott, were always joking around and doing their voices for no reason. It was awesome hearing the one guy say "I love fluffy bunnies" as Cobra Commander and Starscream!

I asked the actors, all anime seiyuus (voice actors), a similar question to the one stated here - what was their opinion of their productions being distributed for free around the internet? Scott said that he didn't care one bit because voice actors are paid a flat fee regardless of the popularity of the show. 2 of the actors who did voices for Dragonball Z agreed with this wholeheartedly.

I get the impression that all but the most high profile voice actors don't see a dime of merchandising fees or other collateral income. It's a shame because these people are very passionate about what they do. The 4 panelists stayed way later than they were supposed to because they loved answering questions. Some people got up on their chairs and peformed some of their own wacky voices and the panelists were very supportive and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. I have a huge respect for these actors - particularly Billy West who is incredibly talented - and I hope the studios realize how hardworking and dedicated they are and reimburse them accordingly.

Re:Seiyuu ex machina (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661196)

I asked the actors, all anime seiyuus (voice actors), a similar question to the one stated here - what was their opinion of their productions being distributed for free around the internet? Scott said that he didn't care one bit because voice actors are paid a flat fee regardless of the popularity of the show. 2 of the actors who did voices for Dragonball Z agreed with this wholeheartedly.

Considering they're the second set of voice actors to do roles on the show as well as not financially invested in the show I doubt they'd care. They've been paid. The response likely changes as you get to the people responsible for the production of the show, both the original production and the regional localization. They've invested a chunk of change in preparing something for people to enjoy in exchange for compensation.

The voice actors are only one small part in the production of a show, hired to do their part (much like the animators, writers, and other staff.) However, justifying the warezing of shows on the fact that the staff is already paid is fairly poor, as one of the best ways for them to stay employed is the success of shows enjoyed.

After all, without financial success in DVD sales I doubt Futurama would be making a comeback no matter how huge its fanbase was.

Re:Seiyuu ex machina (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661265)

I get the impression that all but the most high profile voice actors don't see a dime of merchandising fees or other collateral income. ... I hope the studios realize how hardworking and dedicated they are and reimburse them accordingly.

The studios are not there to fairly reward the people that work for them. They are there to best reward the stockholders and/or owners with maximum profits, by any means necessary.

The standard contract (for cast, crew, directors, producers, whoever) in Hollywood may specify a certain percentage of the profits from the work (and, if you do all the research, you'll find that these percentages for all the contracts sometimes add to over 100%). However, the amount of these "profits" are determined by rather convoluted accounting which shows that there is no profit. Seriously; no Hollywood movie or TV show has made an official profit, ever.

Don't take my word for it. Ask Stan Lee; he had (has?) a lawsuit with the studio that made the Spiderman movies. Ask J. Michael Straczynski, executive producer of Babylon 5; he has written many times about this in Usenet postings, back when B5 was still being made. Ask Courtney Love about a similar racket the record companies run on musicians.

It's endemic to the business, and it's not going to change.

Thank you (1)

dysfunct (940221) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661103)

I know nobody is going to actually read this and that complementing the editors is against the group-think, but still: a big thank you to Roblimo, Billy West, Kevin Day and the people who posted the questions. I really enjoyed reading this interview.

- mike

do77 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661107)

VISIT Rec3Nt article put

Is it just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661136)

or did he dodge all of the questions about the success of Futurama from internet piracy?
I know that I had never heard of Futurama till a friend downloaded all three seasons and I watched them at his place. I spent the next two seasons glued to the tv every sunday watching! (except when football would run overtime...then I called fox screaming cussing and yelling at them...they didnt like me)

Now I own all the boxsets and a good chunk of the comics!

All he says...he grew up poor...blah blah blah...depends on individual situation...blah blah blah...nothing really but "I really dont want to answer this question!" Then later he goes on saying that he thinks it had everything to do with the internet and dvd sales! DUH!

I am not trying to troll here, it just really irks me that he recognizes that the success partially came from how wide spread Futurama became because of the internet but then he just attempts to ignore that it wasnt just because there was an internet but because IT WAS ALL PIRATED! Sure there are those that download and never buy, but you cant argue against the fact that those copies were the foundation for spreading Futurama and boosting the DVD sales! Forget those low quality 50MB rm files, I bought the DVDs as fast as I could!

Maybe those were his real answers, but it just reads to me like "I dont want to offend the **AA's/Fox/whoever by saying that piracy helps, so I will just go with the do-what-you-have-to answer". In other words, a cop-out.

Kenneth Lay dead at 64 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661147)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Ethical paragon Kenneth Lay was found dead in his Colorado home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to business culture. Truly an American icon.

I hope he had a painful death. (-1, Offtopic)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661334)

That bastard. Thanks to his scum-bag firm, my team at work has to spend boring BORING days making sure our systems are 'audit ready' for the new laws passed because of Enron.

Re:I hope he had a painful death. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15661431)

its called Sarbanes-Oxley you dumb shit

Umm... Question (0, Flamebait)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661294)

"But you will ALWAYS have to buy SOMETHING no matter how you feel about it. Unless you're just a dyed in the wool crook. I always hope everyone finds their happiness in a way that hurts no one."

So does this mean that every time Billy watches TV, he never skips a commercial and ALWAYS buys SOMETHING they are peddling? If he does watch a TV show and doesn't buy something, then is he hurting the advertisers and being just another dyed in the wool crook?

Just needing a little clarification. His response made it sound like he doesn't approve of the watching/listening of media for personal use unless you somehow pay for it, ALWAYS.

Did anyone else (2, Insightful)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661465)

Think it would be great - after hearing the recording goofs portion - to have a video reel of the recording session outtakes included on the DVD extras on the next Futurama compilation?

With John DiMaggio's high energy it sounds like it would be quite a hoot.

Words of wisdom. (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15661502)

I always hope everyone finds their happiness in a way that hurts no one.
Very wise words, but Billy should start watching his back. People assassinate each other for saying things like that.
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