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William Richard "Billy" West (born April 16, 1950) is an American voice actor, comedian, musician, singer, songwriter, and radio personality, best known for his voice-work in a number of television shows, films and commercials.
He has done hundreds of voice-overs in his career such as Ren Höek (Season 3 and onward) and Stimpson (Stimpy) J. Cat on The Ren & Stimpy Show, Doug Funnie and Roger Klotz on Doug, and Philip J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and a number of others on Futurama.
He also does voices for commercials and is the current voice of The Red M&M and Buzz The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee.
In addition to his original voices, he has also voiced Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Popeye, and Woody Woodpecker during later renditions of the respective characters. He was also a cast member on The Howard Stern Show.
William Richard West was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 16, 1950. He was raised in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. West played in several bands in the late 1960s and 1970s and began a radio career in 1980. West has been sober since the age of 35 and is a vegan.
West worked at WBCN in Boston performing daily on the air on The Big Mattress show, then moved to New York City in 1988 with no guaranteed future, working at K-Rock Radio (92.3 FM WXRK). West was discovered by Howard Stern during that time and became a regular on that radio show until leaving in 1995. Once again, West ventured into the unknown having moved to Los Angeles where he found considerable continued success as an in-demand voice actor and performer. West continues his status and career to this day.
West launched his career in the early 1980s performing daily comedic routines on Boston's WBCN. He left the radio station in 1988 to work on the short-lived revival of Beany and Cecil, which would be his first role in television. He was also a castmember and impressionist on The Howard Stern Show during the 1990s, where he gained considerable fame with his impersonations of Three Stooges middleman Larry Fine, late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and Stern's head writer Jackie Martling . West's most notable film work was in Space Jam (1996) providing the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. He has provided the same voices for other Looney Tunes films and video games.
West's first two high-profile roles came almost simultaneously: Doug and Ren & Stimpy, which were two of the first original three Nicktoons (the other being Rugrats). Over his career West has been the voice talent for close to 120 different characters including some of the most iconic animated figures in television history. He has become one of few voice actors who can impersonate Mel Blanc in his prime, including characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and other characters from Warner Bros. cartoons.
In 1998, Entertainment Weekly described West as "the new Mel Blanc" and noted his ability to mimic well-known voices, though he would rather develop original voices. West's favorite characters are Philip J. Fry and Stimpy, both of which he originated. West has been very outspoken over his displeasure about the influx of movie star actors providing voice-over for films and major shows. West has stated that he did not like the Disney version of Doug, and that he "couldn't watch" the show. West was the voice of the show's namesake, Geeker, throughout Project Geeker's 13 episode run.
West was the voice of Zim in the original pilot for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. Richard Horvitz was chosen for the series role because West's voice was too recognizable, according to Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez during DVD commentary. West is also the voice of "Red" in numerous M&M commercials as well as the 3-D movie "I Lost my M in Vegas", currently playing at M&M's World in Las Vegas, NV. West also voices a number of characters in the series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. He does not play a regular character in that series, but appears in almost every episode of the show voicing various minor and one-off characters. West voiced the character Moobeard in Moobeard the Cow Pirate, a short animation featured on Random! Cartoons, and reprises his role as Elmer Fudd in Cartoon Network's series The Looney Tunes Show.
Ren & Stimpy
West provided the voice of Stimpy in Nickelodeon's The Ren & Stimpy Show from 1991 until 1996, and he provided the voice of Ren from 1993–1996 (after Ren's original voice and series creator John Kricfalusi was fired by Nickelodeon for delivering un-airable episodes). West performed other characters on the series as well, such as Mr. Horse (another role that West was issued after Kricfalusi's departure) and the "Announcer/Salesman" of such shorts as the "Log" ads (a voice West would years later use as the Narrator for The Weird Al Show).
According to West, he was originally supposed to do the voice of both Ren and Stimpy (and performed both characters on the tape that was used to sell the show to Nickelodeon), but then Kricfalusi decided to do the voice of Ren himself once the show was sold and he had West on board as part of the selling point. However, West provided Ren's maniacal laughter when John Kricfalusi was the voice of Ren.
Billy West on the Exhibit floor at Comic Con in San Diego, California. Billy West's roles in Futurama include Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan, as well as various other incidental characters. As he and other Futurama cast and crew point out in DVD commentaries, West voiced so many characters throughout the series that conversations are often held entirely between characters he is voicing.
West went into the Futurama auditions and was asked to try out for, as he says, "just about every part"; eventually landing the professor, Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan. West later got the part of Fry, which originally had gone to Charlie Schlatter. While West is known for doing many different and unique voices, the voice he does for Philip J. Fry is often considered to be closer to his natural voice than any other character he has done (in an audio commentary, he states Fry is just himself at age 25). This similarity, West acknowledges, was done purposefully in order to make it harder to replace him in the part along with placing more of himself personally into the role (DVD commentary).
The part of Zapp Brannigan was created for Phil Hartman, but he died before the show started and West was issued the role. West has described his interpretation of Zapp Brannigan's voice as an imitation of Hartman, but described the actual vocalizations of the character as being based on "a couple of big dumb announcers I knew." Futurama was renewed by Comedy Central as four direct-to-DVD films broken into 16 television episodes. West reprised his roles for these films, and has been signed on for a new 26-episode season of Futurama which began airing in June 2010.
West was the announcer of the program Screen Gems Network which ran from 1999–2001. He was also the promotional announcer for The Comedy Channel before it merged with HA! to become Comedy Central. Over his career, Billy West has voiced multiple characters in television commercials. These include (but are not limited to):
- "Red", the plain/milk chocolate M&M (1996— ) (after Jon Lovitz departure from the role in 1996)
- BuzzBee, the honey nut bee for Honey Nut Cheerios
- An alien for Pentium 4
- Popeye for Minute Maid
- Babe Ruth, Mickey Goldmill, and Bruce Lee for Brisk Iced Tea.
West voiced the Speed Racer character in a late-1990s advertisement for Volkswagen, because the commercial's producers could not locate Peter Fernandez, the original voice of Speed. However, the producers did locate Corinne Orr, the original voice for the characters Trixie and Spritle.
He also provided voices for the Eric Kaplan-created webtoon Zombie College as well as voicing two characters in Tofu the Vegan Zombie.
Perhaps West's most notable film work came in the 1996 movie Space Jam. He starred alongside his good buddy Michael Jordan, West provided the voice of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. West reprised the roles of Bugs and Fudd in subsequent Looney Tunes feature-length films and returned as Fudd in the theatrically released Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
In 1998, West starred in the direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island as Shaggy Rogers, becoming the second person to portray the character (the first being Casey Kasem). He was one of the top contenders to replace Kasem after his retirement in 2009, but lost the role to Matthew Lillard.
In 2000, he provided additional voices in Disney's Dinosaur. In 2004, West voiced the classic character Popeye in the 75th anniversary film Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, and made his live-action film debut in Mark Hamill's Comic Book: The Movie. He also appeared in a cameo in Garfield: The Movie. Other films featuring West's vocal talents include Joe's Apartment, Cats & Dogs, Olive, the Other Reindeer, TMNT, The Proud Family Movie, and three Tom and Jerry direct-to-video movies.
West is also a guitarist and singer-songwriter with a band called Billy West and The Grief Counselors. They have released their first album, Me-Pod. West has toured as a guitarist for Roy Orbison and Brian Wilson.
In 1982, West sang lead, doing an impersonation of Mike Love, on a Beach Boys-inspired tune, "Another Cape Cod Summer This Year," by studio band ROUTE 28, written and produced by Erik Lindgren on his Arf! Arf! Records label.
West has collaborated with Deborah Harry, Lou Reed, and Los Lobos, and he has played live on several occasions with Brian Wilson, including the guitar solo on the Beach Boys tune "Do it Again" on Late Show with David Letterman, in the mid-1990s. The Futurama episode "Proposition Infinity" features the track "Shut up and Love Me" which was written and played by Billy West and Greg Leon.
Throughout the 1980s, Billy West provided character voices on Charles Laquidara's Big Mattress radio show on Boston's WBCN. West was also one half of the award winning WBCN Production team from 1980–1986.
From 1989 through 1995, West provided The Howard Stern Show with character voices such as Jim Backus, Lucille Ball, Raymond Burr, Johnny Carson, Connie Chung, Sammy Davis, Jr., Doris Day, Louis "Red" Deutsch, David Dinkins, Mia Farrow, Larry Fine, Pete Fornatale, Frank Gifford, Kathy Lee Gifford, Rudolph Giuliani, Mark Goddard, Bobcat Goldthwait, the Greaseman, Jonathan Harris (as Dr. Zachary Smith), Leona Helmsley, Shemp Howard, Lance Ito, Elton John, Don Knotts, Jay Leno, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Martling (as the Jackie puppet), Ed McMahon, Al Michaels, Billy Mumy (as Will Robinson), Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor, Maury Povich, Soon-Yi Previn, Marge Schott, Frank Sinatra, Rae Stern (Howard Stern's mother), George Takei, Joe Walsh, and Robin Williams until eventually leaving the show over money.
West was an occasional contributor to The Adam Carolla Show, a syndicated morning radio show that replaced Stern's show on CBS in LA. On February 19 and 20, 2007, The Howard Stern Show ran a special two-part retrospective of West's work with the show. It marked his first work with the show since leaving after his last show on November 1, 1995. On June 9, 2009, West appeared on Jackie Martling's Jackie's Joke Hunt on Stern's satellite radio channel Howard 101.
West's talents have also extended into the realm of video games. Characters most notably voiced by West are perhaps Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in numerous Looney Tunes video games.
Other video game characters voiced by Billy West include:
- A police officer on the radio of Need for Speed: Undercover (2008)
- Stimpy in Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots (2007)
- Dr. John Zoidberg in The Simpsons Game (2007)
- Additional voices in Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly (2002)
- Sparx in The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (2007)
- Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan in Futurama (2003).
- Ninja in I-Ninja (2003).
- Nash and Zam in Crash Nitro Kart (2003).
- Murfy in Rayman 3 (2003).
- Murfy in Rayman Arena (2002).
- Muttley and L'il Gruesome in Wacky Races (2000, 2001, 2008).
- Some voices in Mad Dash Racing, for the Xbox in 2001.
- Voice of Red, the red M&M in M&Ms: The Lost Formulas (2000).
- The Sneetches and the Munkits in Storybook Weaver
- The Sneetches and the Munkits in Storybook Weaver Deluxe
- Hamton J. Pig in Tiny Toon Adventures: Toonenstein
- Atomic Bomberman in Atomic Bomberman
- Emilio Baza in Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned
- Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd in Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time
- The Yak in Nicktoons MLB (2011).
- Some of his characters' voices such as Stimpy are based on the voice of Larry Fine of The Three Stooges.
- Turned down the opportunity to reprise his role as the voice of the title character on the "Doug" (1991 -spinoff, "Brand Spanking New! Doug" (1996) because he considered it a role he did and did well and it was time to put it aside and move on.
- He doesn't like talking about doing Ren and Stimpy because he hated working with John Kricfalusi. He didn't even come back for the short-lived (and ill-fated) Adult Party Cartoon series.
- In the adult spinoff Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon many of the original voice cast members returned with the exception of Billy West, who said this series wasn't funny and believed being in it would hurt his career, which led to Eric Bauza filling the role of Stimpy.