Homer for president!
Dan Castellaneta… and the iconic voice inside of him
Chauncé Hayden: Describe what it’s like being the voice of Homer Simpson.
Dan Castellaneta: It’s kind of weird doing the voice of a cartoon character, because he [Homer Simpson] is so separate from me. I even watch The Simpsons myself, and I don’t even remember doing them.
How could you forget?
Because it takes six months to get an animated show on the air. By the time it airs, it’s a distant memory.
Be honest, are there Simpsons groupies?
There are a lot of people who have Simpsons merchandise and want it signed, but I think they would be considered collectors rather than groupies. There definitely is a cult following, if that’s what you mean.
How often do people ask you to do a voice from the show?
Um … not very often. I have such anonymity that nobody really asks me to do voices.
Why do you think The Simpsons has remained so popular?
A lot of reasons. I think people enjoy the petty humor and the sophomoric aspects of the show. Also, the fact that animation can explore other areas of society that regular television can’t. Plus, it shows that writing on an animation show can be elevated beyond just your regular kiddie animation fare.
On many occasions, Matt Groening has alluded to the homosexuality of Mr. Burns’ loyal assistant Waylon Smithers. Why not just out him already?
It’s funny, but I once saw that one come back to bite Matt in the butt. One time he was sitting down with his kids watching an episode, and Nelson said, “You’re kissing a girl? That’s so gay!” And Matt’s kids turned to him and said, “What’s ‘gay’ mean?” (Laughs) I always thought that was very funny. How ironic that The Simpsons forced Matt Groening to tell his kids what being gay meant!
Besides Homer’s voice, you also do Krusty the Clown, Barney and Groundskeeper Willie, just to name a few. Where do you get your inspiration from to create the voices of these characters?
Some of it comes from bad impressions of celebrities. The impressions are so bad that they sound original.
What about Homer?
Homer is an amalgam of many voices, including Walter Matthau, Mr. Magoo, and a goofy voice that a friend of mine used to do when we were in college. There was also a character on a local kids’ show called The Town Blob. And although he didn’t say words, he would make sounds like, [sounding like Homer with hemorrhoids] “Eeeeahhhhhhhhhhh, ahahah!” Also, many of the mannerisms and ways in which he talks came from Matt Groening.x
[As Homer] “Mmmmmmmm, ice cream!” That came from Matt Groening, and now is forever etched in Homer’s catch phrases.
Where did “D’oh!” come from?
That sound came from a Laurel and Hardy movie. It was written in the script as “an annoyed grunt.” The first time I saw it, I asked Matt what that meant and he said, “Whatever you want.” So, I recalled that in the Laurel and Hardy movies, whenever a character was frustrated, he would go “D’ohhhhhhhh!” Matt liked it, but he just asked if I could say it faster, because you don’t have the time to drag words out in animation. So, it became “D’oh!”
Are there any similarities at all between you and Homer?
I’m bald. Actually, I have about 26 more hairs than Homer. But I’m not yellow; I’m almost 100 pounds lighter than Homer, and I don’t eat pork!
Does your voice make it impossible to fire you?
I don’t know. They told us we were all expendable when we asked for more money, so who knows.
Do you really believe that you’re expendable?
Sure. Look at the movie Babe. They replaced the actor who did the first Babe. However, what does help me is that I do at least 10 regular voices, not to mention numerous other voices. Plus, we have a very clever crew, and sometimes the writers can’t think of something, so I’ll come up with an idea right on the spot. When we were all asking for money and walked off the show, FOX’s first reaction was, “Fine, we’ll replace all of you.” They thought they were replacing just six actors, but I don’t think they realized that they would have to replace more than 100 different voices. I’m sure they could can me and find an actor to do Homer, but they’d have to find an actor to do all those voices, and I doubt they could.
It’s called leverage.
(Laughs) Yeah! He’s a very laid-back kind of guy. He’s very funny. He’s actually a very funny, witty guy. I’ve met other guys who are cartoonists who are very quiet and soft-spoken, but Matt is very funny. (Laughs) He’s kind of a slacker in some ways. He has a work ethic, but by the same token he likes to go buy comic books, hang out, and buy the latest CD. He’s like a college kid in some ways.
What are the odds of the word “D’oh!” being chiseled on your tombstone?