Mel Blanc on Letterman, 1981


  • http://www.andygonsalves.com Andy

    Thanks for posting this, Jerry!!!

  • GeeVee

    So much talent, it’s almost freakish.

  • http://www.troydate.com Troy

    Wow! Mel Blanc & Hunter S. Thompson on the same show. Those were the days.

  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com/ Emmett Goodman

    Magnificent.

    Mel Blanc was a genius. Get these voice actors back into the movies!

  • Sean

    It’s amazing that the old Jack Benny routine with “Cy” still made me laugh! Mel is still an inspiration to us all, I’m sure.

  • intergalactic

    What an amazing guy.

    Any suggestions for a good read on Mel? Are there any documentarys on Mel Blanc and the old WB crew out?

  • J. J. Hunsecker

    That was great to see. But did I hear correctly? Did Letterman credit Blanc with voicing Elmer Fudd?

  • Paul Mular

    Will this be a bonus video on the Looney Tunes Volume 6 DVD next year?

  • Arlyn Rankin

    Wow I wish he was still with us. Truly a very talented man, I dont think Dave Letterman even new what type of genius he was interviewing. Thank you very much for posting this, Mr Blanc has been somone of great inspiration for myself. That just made my day. Thanks again.

  • http://www.electricminstrel.com Brett McCoy

    Wonderful stuff.

  • Steve

    As time went on, Letterman revealed a general loathing for cartoons. He gets really worked up at the name Pixar, claiming it’s just a cartoon and that the name is just there to fool the kids. Maybe being a parent will eventually wake him up.

  • http://www.isntlifeterrible.com Don Brockway

    The voices are so distinctive, and so tied to the characters, that I always have an strange experience when watching Mel Blanc voicing them in person: I can’t shake the feeling that the track has been dubbed at the point when Mel starts talking ‘in character.’ When I think about how many hours I spent as a child listening to Mel Blanc – in the Warner ‘toons, on Jack Benny, on Capitol Records… I never had a clue so many characters were voiced by the same man. Uggah Uggah Boo Uggah Boo Boo Uggah!

  • Simone Tse Tse

    This was the first season when Dave didn’t seem to know or care how to converse with anyone but comedians, sports figures or beautiful women – no, wait that’s today. intergalactic, try Mel’s autobiography “That’s NOT All Folks!!!.” Yes, out of 400 voices some are going to sound the same (Porky Pig/Sad Sack anything from “Phantom Tolbooth)-YET!!! NO OTHER, I SAY, NO OTHER voice arteeest has come close to creating as many ORIGINAL voices & sounds as the “Man of a Thousand Voices.” Catch old Jack Benny shows to see Mel as a master of deadpan.

  • http://crisafullidoodles.blogspot.com/ Marc Crisafulli

    I loved hearing the audience react to the montage! There must be at least a HALF HOUR of commercials, previews, and other stuff before movies these days… it’d be great if a short cartoon were thrown in more often!

  • http://www.electricminstrel.com Brett McCoy

    That poster that came out after Mel died chokes me up everytime I see it (or even think about)… the one where all of the characters are gathered around the microphone, they are all looking down sadly in reverence, with the caption “Speechless”:

    http://www.blackwolf-images.com/images/wbg/loon/trib_blanc.jpg

  • Corrado (Anthony)

    Yeah I didn’t mind “NBC” letterman who had lots of the more unique guests of the 1980′s like wrestlers etc, and had a more free form of show as compared to the “CBS” Letterman which is more conventional and generic. But I guess I must have a soft spot for those wraparounds with the late night with david letterman logo in different settings each break.

    Onto the interview which I found very fascinating. i liked the different stories of voices and cartoon-making. And I really liked the audience apprecating Mel’s talent by giving him multiple ovations. Much deserved, IMO.

    Oh and Letterman has also distanced himself from wrestling as well. He hasn’t had a wrestling guest in decades at least. So cartoons and wrestling. Letterman has really distanced himself from his cutting-edge days at NBC.

  • Chuck R.

    “Did Letterman credit Blanc with voicing Elmer Fudd?”

    Probably a mistake, but not entirely. Mel Blanc took over Fudd after Arthur Q. Bryan died. It wasn’t quite the same though.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Fudd#The_voice_of_Elmer_Fudd

    I feel lucky to have seen one of his live performances when I was about 13. I got to see him before the show, and he signed a Bugs Bunny cel for me. I’m amazed by the number of voices Blanc did, but more so by the fact that he can do almost any kind of accent, sing, and really really act. Even so, I don’t have issues with “actor-actors” or even “animator-actors” doing cartoon voices as long as it works. Watching The Incredibles, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  • Merrill

    One thing Dave overlooked was the terrible automobile accident in which Mel Blanc was involved in 1962 (I believe). Despite being in a coma for months, and being in a full body cast for a long period afterward, he continued to voice Barney Rubble. Also, I believe Mr. Blanc did do Elmer Fudd, some, although not very well.

  • http://www.fatkat.ca Gene Fowler

    Genius.

  • Galen Fott

    The thing that amazes me about Mel Blanc is the SIZE of his characterizations, the phenomenal heights and depths of emotion and expression he reaches. It’s impossible to fathom his contribution to the success of the Warner Bros. cartoons or to voice acting in general. I mean, it’s “just” a cartoon…why would you even THINK of giving a vocal performance at that enormous scale? But by doing so, he raised the whole affair up a few notches. What an inspiration it must have been to get to animate his voice.

  • http://cinemahustle.blogspot.com alexander

    He was an amazing artist. Great at what he did from almost every angle. I would never want his job though, being a voice actor seems like such hard, soul stretching work. I would never want to marry something a personal as my voice to an obligation that would require me to do things like some of the absolute dreck that Looney Tunes sometimes was. It seems bellow greeting-card-idea-man in terms of intolerable artistic slavery.

    It’s amazing that a talent like Mel could survive that strain.

  • http://chaoticunicorn.com Tasayu Tasnaphun

    Man, Mel was the man of men, such a huge asset of talent in one man, and a lost legend in todays world. Voice Actors need classes which start with a week of watching him and his videos, so they can feel the pride of their profession and the need to continue on such a great tradition!

  • Jim C.

    I think Daffy and Sylvester came to sound a lot alike.

    The accident Merrill mentioned was in 1961.

    “…a clever doctor had helped him to come out of his coma by talking to Bugs Bunny, after futile efforts to talk directly to Blanc.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Blanc#Car_accident_and_aftermath

    The role, the artificial person within him, woke up before his own self did. That’s wonderful and eerie at the same time.

  • Dock Miles

    Interesting that so many comments have noticed Letterman’s offhand condescension to Mel Blanc. Letterman was half-smart. “This guy is a legend but old hat,� he seems to convey. “He’s not part of the really, really big celebrity culture that’s coming. I’ll be a king there, and behind-the-scene types like this will be forgotten.� And never rate a slot on a talk show. But it didn’t work out quite that way. Dave is still struggling in the muck of also-rans. Blanc is untouchable for his work. He looks timeless. Dave looks like a particular sort of doomed, cynical pro.

  • http://superspecialstuff.blogspot.com jeannine schafer

    thanks for posting that, it really made my night!!

  • http://cartoongeeks.blogspot.com/ S. Michelle Klein-Hass

    OMG. What a night. Mel Blanc *and* Hunter S. Thompson, on the same Letterman episode. Back when Letterman was good.

    God, I miss Mel Blanc. Even during the twilight of his career he kicked butt. There are so many people currently getting jobs in the very insular and inbred world of voice acting who I would love to see get taken out back behind the woodshed by The Master. See, that’s a voice ACTOR there. Not a person who does impersonations. Not a person who does funny voices. Not an uncanny mimic with no soul. ACTING, dammit. Acting. It’s important. Study it a little, guys.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com Robert

    I recall reading once that the Daffy’s and Sylvester’s voices were basically the same except that Daffy’s voice was _supposed_ to be slightly sped up (pitch raised) in the recording process. Can anyone substantiate that?

  • http://www.comicssherpa.com/site/feature?uc_comic=csjvn Larry Levine

    Robert, you are correct. Daffy (sped up) & Sylvester (normal speed) were the same voice.

  • Galen Fott

    Right, at least Daffy and Tweety were sped up a bit.

  • http://www.mpwilson.com/uccu/ Mad William Flint

    I have the Speechless print up in my apartment. I’ve had the thing for something close to a decade.

  • Chuck R.

    Robert: Mel conceded that Daffy and Sylvester were essentially the same with Daffy sped up. This is why I think Mel’s greatest asset was his ability to act. He treated the two like completely different characters, which makes the voice re-use far less obvious (credit has to be given to the directors as well.)

    Dock: I’m not sure Dave has a condescending attitude toward Mel. A few things to consider: This is early in Dave’s Late-Night run, and he knows he’s no Johnny Carson. His schtick was to play host to flunky guests and jerk them around. He knows that Mel is a legend and he knows he’s not going to have any fun pushing his buttons.
    Amazing talent that he is, Blanc is clearly having little fun here. He’s dutifully plugging a really un-noteworthy film (animation was in the doldrums in the early 80′s), and is giving a lot of standard responses to standard questions (eg the tired “origin” of Bugs’ and Porky’s voices.) I mean no disrespect toward Mel Blanc. I’m just trying to lend some perspective.

    Now, if anyone can tell me more about Letterman’s attitude toward Pixar, I may change my mind.

  • Simone Tse Tse says:

    Legend (C. Jones?) has it Mel was mimicking Leon Schlesinger’s outrageous lisp for Sylvester. After the first screening, the boss sprayed out “Christhh. did anyone eltthh hear that ridicoulouttth voicethh.” On a side note: As a person who grew up with a lisp (true), did I feel humiliated when those cat and canary cartoons came on TV? Cthertainly NOT!! I loved those cartoons – but BE WARNED, there will be a movement brewing ssthomewhere that will feel Ssylvesthter is making fun of ssthomeone’s impediment. SSSthuffering SSthucatash.

  • http://cinemahustle.blogspot.com alexander

    I thought Dave was being kind of an asshole, but it didn’t matter because Mel just took over the whole situation and probably got more real laughs than Letterman got all evening.

  • http://childoftv.blogspot.com Brent McKee

    Mel takes credit for creating Porky Pig’s voice and his stutter which wasn’t the case of course. The original voice of Porky was Joe Dougherty, an actor who actually had a stuttering problem. Porky’s stuttering was the key point of Porky’s first appearance – a stuttering kid reading a poem. What Mel did was to control the stutter and to make it funny.

    Like many comedians Dave is really interested in Mel’s work with Jack Benny. I have a suspicion that if he were talking with Mel without anything to promote most of the conversation would have been about Jack Benny.

  • http://theworldofnexttuesday.blogspot.com/ the world of next tuesday

    Well Porky was also sped up. Yes, Daffy and Sylvester are definitely similar aside from the speed though wasn’t Sylvester “wetter” than Daffy, and their vocabularies and phrasing are pretty different.

    Mel is without a doubt my favorite voice artist and the one closest to my heart. But I do have to admit that Daws Butler did have a bit of a wider range of voices at least from my own criteria of both creating vivid character voices and not as often sounding like they came from the same person.

    I remember when his autobiography came out in the 1980s I heard Mel was going to be plugging it on “Live at Five” the local NYC news/talk program. I was hoping maybe I could say “hi” on his way in or out. Trouble was there were 2 main exits from what I remember. So I waited around an hour but I only sighted Gene Shalit.

  • http://gavinscartoons.blogspot.com Gavin Freitas

    How cool was that! What was even cooler was Mel knew the animation process very well. Fun post Jerry…..

  • http://www.comicssherpa.com/site/feature?uc_comic=csjvn Larry Levine

    Re: Jack Benny–Mel was also Jack’s violin teacher Prof LeBlanc & the sound effect for Jack’s Maxwell (car). Mel was also a regular on the Burns & Allen radio show as the mailman who would always exist with “And remember, keeping smiling”. Mel still keeps me smiling!

  • uncle wayne

    Only the splendid & heavenly merge of Cartoon Brew & YouTube could provide such 10 minutes of absolute joy! Thank YOO!

  • joecab

    Oh Mel, we sure miss ya. :(

    The clip doesn’t make clear that Mel wasn’t Porky’s original voice: that was Joe Dougherty for Porky’s first two years.

  • http://www.sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Mel does have an autobiography as mentioned in an earlier comment.
    I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to avoid it completely.
    I am certain that Mel was a lovely fellow but in the book he does not seem like a very honest character.
    I am certain this has everything to do with the fellow it was co-written with (name I don’t remember) and not Mel himself.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    [Interesting that so many comments have noticed Letterman’s offhand condescension to Mel Blanc. Letterman was half-smart. “This guy is a legend but old hat,� he seems to convey. “He’s not part of the really, really big celebrity culture that’s coming. I’ll be a king there, and behind-the-scene types like this will be forgotten...�]

    I’m afraid that attitude comes through loud and clear.

    I was even aware of it at the time. I’ll never forget Letterman’s rudeness to Hal Roach – an interview that so annoyed me that it caused me to stop watching his show for several years.

    But he’s downright obsequious around sports figures, though!
    He comes across an an occasionally funny, but ultimately shallow, superficial person with a LOT of issues.

    Letterman’s hero and inspiration was Steve Allen, who was just the opposite. He should have been watching more closely.

    As for Mel Blanc – the bigger they are – talent-wise, that is – the nicer they are.

  • Dock Miles

    >Mel does have an autobiography as mentioned in an earlier comment.
    I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to avoid it completely.

    >I am certain that Mel was a lovely fellow but in the book he does not seem like a very honest character.

    >I am certain this has everything to do with the fellow it was co-written with (name I don’t remember) and not Mel himself.

    Wow, this is both a serious charge and quite confusing. I’ve read “That’s Not All, Folks!” and, while it didn’t twinkle, it was a solid, enjoyable source of behind-the-scenes info and anecdotes. Don’t remember any dishonesty.

    And I don’t understand how a collaborator who’s supposed to polish a subject’s non-pro written memories into a readable book (in this case, Philip Bashe, and he’s done a buncha such works) is the source of falsity.

  • Jorge Garrido

    >>As for Mel Blanc – the bigger they are – talent-wise, that is – the nicer they are.

    How do you explain Chuck Jones and Frank Sinatra then, Mike?

    I think huge legendary talents tend to be either assholes or really nice, nothing in between. I could be wrong.

  • JW

    Legend (C. Jones?) has it Mel was mimicking Leon Schlesinger’s outrageous lisp for Sylvester. After the first screening, the boss sprayed out “Christhh. did anyone eltthh hear that ridicoulouttth voicethh.�

    The story that Chuck Jones told was that they needed a voice for Daffy and decided to use Schlesinger’s lisp. It wasn’t until they finished the cartoon that they realized they’d have to screen it for the boss. As Jones told the story, people prepared letters of resignation, and after the screening, Schlesinger said, “That wath great, fellath. Where did you get the voithe for the duck?”

    I did see Mel Blanc after an appearance and asked him if Daffy’s voice was based on Leon Schlesinger. His answer was yes.

  • http://www.sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Dock – it is entirely possible I’m misinterpreting the book. I first read the book when I was 15 or 16 and reread it a few times years later.

    I’m not suggesting there are any out and out lies in the book, but I do think that Bashe was very much in awe of his subject matter and wanted to portray him in the brightest light possible.

    In reading it I get the constant impression that he has enhanced all of Mel’s stories to try and create a mythology that he wasn’t finding in Mel’s version of events. Hell – I could be completely wrong though. Mel was one of my heroes as a kid (I had dreams of getting into voice acting) and it tainted that a little for me.

  • top cat james

    Y’all forgot the one cartoon Letterman DID enjoy-”Beavis and Butthead”. Letterman is a big admirer of Mike Judge and even voiced Butthead’s dad in their feature film.

  • Chuck R.

    There might be something to what Elliot says. I wish some other Termite Terrace employees could corroborate some of the popular WB mythologies that made for good soundbytes when all those underpaid talents started to write books and take to the podiums. Specifically, the story about instantaneously combining Brooklyn and Bronx accents to get Bugs’ voice. Wasn’t there some evolution to Bugs’ voice just like there was some evolution to his design? And just how different are those two accents anyway?

    The Daffy voice is another, although I can fully believe that it was patterned after Schlesinger, and I can believe he missed the reference, (when Leon appeared in WB cartoons, his lisp was pretty mild.)

    Other famous jerks whose work I love: Bob Dylan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Diego Rivera, Milt Kahl, etc. etc.

  • Dock Miles

    >but I do think that Bashe was very much in awe of his subject matter and wanted to portray him in the brightest light possible.

    >In reading it I get the constant impression that he has enhanced all of Mel’s stories to try and create a mythology that he wasn’t finding in Mel’s version of events.

    Well, it’s an autobiography, not a bio, and so Bashe’s role is supposed to be helping with flow, organization and clear prose, not spin on events. I think in such collaborations it’s impossible to know what words belong to who. But even if things happened exactly as you describe, it would have to be with Blanc’s full approval, so it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other.

    And, boy, compared with most of the showbiz memoirs out there, that book’s the essence of humility.

  • http://www.myspace.com/brandontoons Brandon Pierce

    Letterman also said in an interview that he hated all films that were made by the Zucker Brothers (Airplane!, Naked Gun, Rat Race, etc.)

    Interestingly enough, Letterman auditioned for the role of Stryker in the film Airplane, but Robert Hayes got the role. I’m thinking Letterman held an unfair grudge just because of that.

    Back to Mel Blanc. My only complaint about Mel’s stories is how he repeatedly tries to say that he invented Porky’s “grunt”. I firmly believe WB insisted on Mel to tell this story so as to throw off any PC police that found Porky’s stuttering “offensive.” Saying that Porky was originally voiced by someone else who had a stutter may have helped. You never know.

  • http://www.myspace.com/3635161 Tim Kelly

    Fantastic, but wouldn’t this be from 1982? That’s when 1001 Rabbit Tales came out.

    I have Mel & Noel on The Joan Lunden Show. The tape might be damaged, but if it’s still playable, I should upload it onto youtube (unless it’s already there!). Also a radio interview from (I believe) 1983.

  • Bernie

    Chuck R. stated ‘when Leon appeared in WB cartoons, his lisp was pretty mild.’ If you’re talking about 1940′s “You Ought to Be in Pictures” that was Mel looping Leon in silent footage, lending the boss a non-stuttering, slick, employer-appropriate voice. Don’t know if there exists any WB cartoon where Leon appears in sound footage with his own voice. We’ll just have to take the late Chuck Jones’ word for it.

  • Jorge Garrido

    >Chuck R. stated ‘when Leon appeared in WB cartoons, his lisp was pretty mild.’ If you’re talking about 1940’s “You Ought to Be in Pictures� that was Mel looping Leon in silent footage, lending the boss a non-stuttering, slick, employer-appropriate voice. Don’t know if there exists any WB cartoon where Leon appears in sound footage with his own voice. We’ll just have to take the late Chuck Jones’ word for it.

    Nope, that was Leon’s actual voice in “You oughta be in pictures”

    You can also hear his voice in “The March of Time” gag reel on youtube.

  • Andy Rose

    Mel’s book does contain some, well, “exaggerations.” But frankly, that’s kind of par for the course for many celebrity autobiographies. I think Mark Evanier has the best explanation: Mel had certain stories he’d worked out for mass comsumption (the “origin” of Porky’s voice) that weren’t really true but were good talk show fodder. He knew that ordinary audiences didn’t particularly care to know the full, tedious story. When speaking to animation historians and actors-in-training, he was usually a pretty reliable source.

    That said, I think the story that he came out of his coma *because* a doctor referred to him as Bugs sounds a bit too convenient. No one ever pushed him on it (for obvious reasons), but I’ve come to believe that was likely a “talk show” type of anecdote.

    The one thing I find to be genuinely troubling about the book are his claims to being the voice of the Road Runner. Thanks to Michael Barrier’s research, we know his story is not even close to being true. I’ve heard that union trouble about giving Paul Julian credit may have been a reason for this cover story.