One voice… many characters?
During Comic-Con, I got to see two panels back-to-back, one with Patrick Warburton and the next with H. Jon Benjamin and it got me thinking–here are two talented voice actors who voice multiple characters, but they’ve really just got the one voice.
Among voice actors, Frank Welker is legendary for his ability to become a vocal chameleon. Listen to the opening of Rob Paulsen’s Talkin’ Toons Podcast and you’ll hear just a small sample of some of his different voices and characters. Tara Strong explores the full range of her voice, from the throaty, gravelly Raven to squeaky, high-pitched Bubbles. In his acting workshop, Bob Bergen stresses that there is a lot more to voice acting than just making with the funny voices. He teaches that the voice is nothing without a fully realized character behind it to bring the voice to life. So what does that mean for Patrick Warburton and H. Jon Benjamin? Is it okay that they don’t have a different voice for each of the characters they portray? Are they good enough actors to make their one voice work for a wide array of different characters?
I found a few samples of Patrick Warburton and H. Jon Benjamin in action so you can listen and decide for yourself. Do you think one of them is a better actor than the other?
First up: Patrick Warburton:
Family Guy – Joe Swanson
The Emperor’s New Groove – Kronk (Jump to 1:25)
The Venture Bros. – Brock Samson
Happily N’Ever After – Prince Humperdink
And now, H. Jon Benjamin:
Bob’s Burgers – Bob
Archer – Sterling Archer
Lucy: Daughter of the Devil – Satan
Dr. Katz – Ben Katz
So what do you think?
I have to admit, up to this point, I never gave PW a lot of thought. I kind of discounted him because he’s just got “the one voice.” I figured he was just doing the same thing over and over again under a different character name. Then I took a closer look at PW and his body of work. I gotta admit, while he tends to voice characters that are of a similar type (you know, big muscles, tiny brain), he finds a way to lend something different to each one so that it’s not just the same voice with a new name and a new face. I find each character unique and believable.
H. Jon Benjamin first came to my attention as Sterling Archer in the FX animated series “Archer.” He’s brilliant. The show is brilliant. I can’t get enough. Then I found out HJB was also on “Bob’s Burgers.” Whaaaa? Two primetime animated shows on two different networks simultaneously?? Wow, that’s impressive. So I watch “Bob’s Burgers.” I’m ready to fall in love with HJB all over again. Bob speaks and… wait a second… why is Archer’s voice coming out of that guy’s mouth?? It was weird, it was wrong, it just didn’t work for me. I was utterly disappointed. I’m not saying HJB is a bad actor, but I’m finding that I don’t love his voice acting outside of Archer. Maybe that’s just because Archer is such a great character and HJB has interpreted him perfectly.
So what do you think? Does one of these actors do a better job using their one voice for all their different characters? Can you think of any other actors who have one voice yet portray different roles? What’s more important to you: one really good voice or many great voices? Leave some comments and get the conversation rolling!