A Chat with Billy West, Billy West interview, Futurama: Bender's Big Score

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Billy West has voiced animated characters ranging from Ren and Stimpy to the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and spent many hours on various spots on your radio dial, but at present, he’s probably best known for his work as Philip J. Fry on “Futurama.” The series lost its battle against cancellation, but like another animated series on Fox, it has since risen from the dead as a result of ceaseless reruns and has spawned a new series of feature-length movies. The first in the bunch, “Bender’s Big Score,” was released on DVD in November and is now making its basic cable debut on Comedy Central. We spoke to West about the revival of “Futurama” as well various other exploits he’s participated in throughout his career. First, though, we had to catch up with him, as he didn’t answer when we first tried to call him.

Bullz-Eye: Hello?

Billy West: Hi, I’m looking for Will Harris.

BE: This is he.

BW: Will, this is Billy West calling you. I’m sorry I missed you; I had a scheduling mix-up on my end.

BE: No big deal. I work at home, so I had plenty of things to keep me occupied.

BW: Oh, good. No better place to work than home.

BE: So I’m guessing you guys have lost track of how many articles about the return of “Futurama” have started out, “Good news, everyone!”

BW: No, but I’m glad. I’m really glad! The only ones who seem to bitch about it are the ones who downloaded it for nothing on YouTube. They have some mastermind who put it up in ten installments on YouTube, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe there are people who actually think that they aren’t doing anything wrong just because they plan to buy the episode, anyway. Okay, we’ll put you on the honor system! But, I mean, they get their back up. It’s, like, “I’m not doing anything wrong! I’m gonna buy it, okay?” And the other thing is the bitching, the incessant bitching about…y’know, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are like fire. They’re the ultimate consummation machine. They get onto something and burn it to a crisp, and as soon as there’s nothing left, they go, “That sucked,” and move on.

BE: Yeah, the internet tends to be the bastion for all the idiots in the world.

BW: I guess. But it’s us, though. Who else is it? You look around, and there’s people who walk the earth who loved disco, and you ask them today, and they’re, like, “Who were those fucking idiots back then? I just have no idea, man. I just have no idea.” Well, it was us, right? “No, no, it was somebody else.”

BE: Or, “Not me, I was listening to punk.”

BW: Yeah, right. That’s why you know all the words to “Fly, Robin, Fly.”

BE: (Pauses) Uh, what’s wrong with that, man?

BW: (Laughs)

BE: So is “Bender’s Big Score” the most convoluted storyline in the history of “Futurama” to date?

BW: I don’t know. I mean, I learned science from it!

BE: I can believe it!

BW: I didn’t understand science, but when you put it in terms of time travel, I guess it’s interesting enough for me to make me understand it. Like, when there seems to be a practical application for these theories…? So I had less trouble than I thought I would following the timeline stuff.

BE: That math lecture that’s included as a special feature on the DVD is dizzying in its revelations.

BW: Oh, I know. It’s like your brain doesn’t want to feel the pain, so you just kind of try to forget about some stuff.

BE: So when the writers came back, did they just try to stuff as much stuff in for the fans as they possibly could, as a reward for sticking by them all this time?

BW: I think it was a reward. When they came back, there were story ideas that were left over from what they’d wanted to do on television…y’know, had there been another season…and then they had all these other challenges to meet. They knew they had to record this stuff before the strike, and there was a lot of hustle and bustle about it, but…I don’t know. I like the idea of the story and, y’know, most people got into it. I saw it on the big screen, which was unusual, because it wasn’t meant to play on a big screen. When I saw it on the television screen, I liked it better.

“They have some mastermind who put (‘Bender’s Big Score’) up in ten installments on YouTube, and I couldn’t believe there are people who actually think that they aren’t doing anything wrong just because they plan to buy the episode, anyway. ‘Uh, yeah, okay, we’ll put you on the honor system!’ They get their back up. It’s, like, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong! I’m gonna buy it, okay?’”

BE: Where was it screened?

BW: At the Arclight Theater, which is a mammoth theater.

BE: Oh, right. I’ve never been there, but I’m definitely familiar with it.

BW: Yeah, it’s beautiful.

BE: Since I presume you’re regularly asked to do this voice or that voice, I’m guessing it wasn’t too hard to get back into the swing of doing Fry, The Professor, and Zoidberg.

BW: No, not really. They were marathon sessions, though, much longer than I was used to, because we had to do a lot of stuff in a short time, and I was getting hoarse at the end of the recording sessions because there was a lot of stuff to do. But as far as getting back into the characters and the feel, I think I picked up where I left off.

BE: Do you bounce back and forth from character to character in mid-recording, or do you…

BW: Yes. I do that a lot. They don’t want to go through the script a zillion times, like, “Okay, you went through the script as that character, now go through it again as the other character.” No, I just do it as it comes.

BE: Are there some voices harder to switch between than others? And do they avoid writing them in the same scene if they can?

BW: No, they just kind of trust me to be able to roll with the punches. I mean, there have been four or five pages of dialogue where I’m just talking to myself as different characters.

BE: I read somewhere that you modeled the voice of Fry to sound like yourself at age 25. Have you now upped it to sound like you did when you were 30?

BW: (Laughs) It was pretty much the same thing. I mean, I’ve got a strange…I’m 56 years old, and when I’m talking to people on the phone, disc jockeys or whoever, they’re, like, “You sound like you’re about twelve!” But I can kind of go all over the place, which is nice.

BE: So does the cast of “Futurama” have the same kind of bond as a live-action series would, since you don’t necessarily interact in the same way?

BW: You mean in real life? Yeah, it’s really a mutual admiration society. I got along well with everybody from the beginning. Plus, I happen to think that, y’know, how lucky am I to just get up in the morning and be able to walk into a room with genius-level people? To me, in my head, the same tide rises all boats, and I can stand to improve by watching and learning everybody. And I get along great with John DiMaggio (who voices Bender). He was the breakout character for the show; I think he even won an Emmy. And Maurice LaMarche and Phil LaMarr, and Tress MacNeille is brilliant. Lauren Tom is exactly what we needed for that role (of Amy Wong), as was Katey Sagal, as a matter of fact. She is Leela for me.

BE: Yeah, actually, I was going to ask how easily she adapted to doing voiceover work. Because she didn’t really have any experience in that field, did she?

BW: No, she didn’t.

BE: Did she fall into it pretty easily?

BW: She has a bigger-than-life voice because she knows what it’s like to be a microphone performer. She’s a singer. And a lot of actors don’t know what to do with a microphone when it’s just in front of them and there’s no cameras.

BE: Was everyone equally enthusiastic to get back in the saddle and do more “Futurama”?

BW: Oh, absolutely. For me, I just thought it was the best thing I’d ever done. I had more fun, it wasn’t grueling or painstaking in any way. The recordings were always fun; even if I couldn’t talk, I’d find a way to do it.

BE: Now, I haven’t actually tallied them up, but it seems like there are an inordinate amount of bare asses in this film.

BW: Yes. I guess it’s a trend. There’s only so many space outfits and different interplanetary costumes you can come up with. Eventually, you’re gonna have to get down to beings who don’t need clothes for some reason…even though we do lean into it for the human characters on the show. That was part of the plot point, anyway, with Fry having a big, weird interplanetary binary code on his rear end.

BE: Have you considered getting it reproduced on your own rear end?

BW: Um…I can’t remember the last time I saw my rear end.

BE: So it might already be back there. You really don’t know.

BW: That’s true. I don’t know. (Laughs)

BE: I checked out the audio commentary, and, wow, that thing just descends into a never-ending series of “Sopranos” impressions at one point.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that people are like fire. They’re the ultimate consummation machine. They get onto something and burn it to a crisp, and as soon as there’s nothing left, they go, ‘That sucked,’ and move on.”

BW: (Sheepishly) I know. That’s just because I don’t know what to say production-wise or director-wise or writer-wise, so I always lapse into this anarchy, commenting on how my chair is uncomfortable or some of that “Howard Stern” stuff, like, “It’s too hot in here!” It basically just means that you don’t have anything to say. So I would just start unloading.

BE: Was that you doing all of them?

BW: I think John DiMaggio might’ve been joining in, but I can’t remember. I haven’t listened to it since we did it.

BE: Well, the most prominent voice, whoever it is, keeps yelling, “Skip! Ohhhhhhh! Skip!”

BW: Oh, yeah, I think that was Johnny. We’re both big fans of that show.

BE: So how did the writer’s strike affect the remaining three movies? Are they all in the can, voice-wise?

BW: Well, they were, but the thing is that when you’re putting the finishing touches on a movie, the writers have to look at what was done and what was recorded and try to make it better…and they couldn’t do that! So a lot of stuff had to be left as-is, because the more time that goes by and the more you deliberate, you go to yourself, “I could’ve done that better.” Or, “We could’ve had a better line there.” And that’s what we wanted to do, but we couldn’t do it because the strike was going on. But I was driving by the studios today and I didn’t see any strikers, so I think the strike is over. (Writer’s note: Obviously, our conversation took place prior to the formal declaration of the strike’s conclusion.)

BE: I’ve heard several reports that say it is, but for every one I hear, there’s another one that says, “Don’t give up the fight, the battle rages on!”

BW: Yeah, well, that’s because they dropped animation in that deal. Thanks, guys! Yep, the red-headed bastard stepchild of the industry: the voiceover actor and the animation writers and directors.

BE: I regularly read Mark Evanier’s website, and he’s educated me a lot about the world of animation in this fight.

BW: Oh, yeah, Mark is a great guy.

BE: I’ve never met him, but I’ve traded E-mail with him.

BW: Yeah, he’s really, really cool. He’s got a big heart, and he knows what he’s talking about.

BE: I’ve probably learned more on his site than just about any other blog on the ‘net.

BW: Yeah, and the thing is that he’s not an armchair quarterback, like some of the ASIFA guys, which is the Annies, the Academy of Animation or whatever it is. There are guys over there that don’t do anything in the industry and are nothing but compendiums of or doing homages to the work of others, and think they bring something to the table. But they’re not the real deal. Mark is.

BE: How much of an ad-libber are you? Or do you prefer to stick to what the writers have written?

BW: I always want to respect what the writers worked hard on, and then they’ll always defer to me after they’ve gotten what they’re looking for. They’ll say, “You got anything?” And I’ll screw around with stuff, and a lot of times it’ll make the cut.

BE: As far as the upcoming movies, can you offer any teases? I mean, obviously, the Wikipedia pages are frighteningly in-depth as far as what’s been released thus far, but…

BW: Yeah, but Wikipedia gets a lot of stuff wrong.

BE: I know there was one point during the commentary where someone made a comment to that effect.

BW: I think it was me! Because they wrote all this crap about me that was so inaccurate, saying that I worked under this name, and someone had pulled some name out of their ass. I think it’s because the average person can just get into Wikipedia and just add things. “Here, I know this about him!” And the next thing you know, I invented Vitamin E or the clothes dryer.

BE: But you did discover tungsten, correct?

BW: No, manganese.

BE: My bad.

BW: Yeah, someone beat me to tungsten.

BE: So can you give us some more dependable info about the other flicks?

BW: Well, the one that’s next is “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” and I’m sure you’ve read some stuff about it, but it’s really funny, and it’s also really creepy. There’s this creepy, pervasive feeling through the movie that you kind of have to learn to live with as you follow the story. But there’s this tentacled creature that literally has billions and billions of tentacles, and they get into people. And at one point, Fry, as a result of his encounter with a tentacle, starts his own church and becomes a preacher, preaching how wonderful it is to have a tentacle. It’s always that kind of thing, taking something so absurd and blowing it up into crazy proportions. I think there were some pencil drawings and teasers that were floating around.

“(‘Futurama’) is really a mutual admiration society. I got along well with everybody from the beginning. Plus, I happen to think that, y’know, how lucky am I to just get up in the morning and be able to walk into a room with genius-level people? To me, in my head, the same tide raises all boats, and I can stand to improve by watching and learning everybody.”

BE: Yeah, I’d seen some things that referenced several different storylines, but I couldn’t tell how they tied together.

BW: Yeah, the problem is that I’m so close to the episodes in that I recorded them, but I don’t know how they’ve come out or how ready they are. The next movie after that, though, is “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” and…I can’t remember too much about them. I have to go back and read them, y’know. I don’t have the synopses on hand. But the next one is definitely “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” and it’s coming out in a couple of months.

BE: Do you have a personal favorite episode of “Futurama”?

BW: Yeah, I do. It was the one that was apparently shown last, and it wasn’t intended to be the last episode of the show, because it was recorded earlier. But it’s the one where Leela forgets somehow that Fry used the universe as a display board for his feelings and his love for her, and…

BE: Is that the one where he’s playing the holophone?

BW: Yes! They did a few of those episodes, which I thought were absolutely beautiful, but that last one just…it just got me.

BE: Any favorite guest stars?

BW: I liked that we had John Goodman. He was just very fun. I was so surprised that, when he came there, he went, “Where’s Billy West?” He knew who I was! I was just blown away by that, because I’d followed his career for so long.

BE: Do you occasionally meet “Futurama” fans who scare you?

BW: Yes. Yes, I have. One in particular, but I can’t even talk about it, legally.

BE: Sounds like a great story. Except probably not at all.

BW: Well, you know, in the age of the internet, anyone can say anything they want about you, including something that their deluded mind made up. And once it’s out there, people are sick nowadays, they’d rather believe something is true than not believe it if it looks too juicy for them to resist. So, now, it might as well be true if someone says something about you.

BE: As someone who’s been burned in several interviews by stuff from Wikipedia that I took to be true, I know where you’re coming from. So I’m guessing you’re at least a certain level of animation / voiceover geek, given how long you’ve worked in the industry, but are there any of the old guard of voiceover stars with whom you developed friendships?

BW: Well, Mel Blanc was gone before I came on the scene, but I did meet him years ago in Boston…well, at Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was playing in an old hall there, and I came up from Boston to go see him, and it was amazing. I got to shake hands with him and chat with him for a moment, and…it was like that painting where God is reaching down from the heavens and outstretching his index finger to man, who’s trying to reckon with it, putting his finger skittishly in the air. That’s what it was like. I mean, the guy lit the way, and I was just so glad that I actually got to meet him. I got to meet a guy named Don Messick, who did Scooby-Doo, and I’ve worked with some fantastic voice actors like Mr. Frank Welker. God, he’s the mack daddy. Everybody just kind of looks to Frank, and he’s one of the most unassuming guys you’d ever want to beat, but he’s just this dynamo of talent. He does noises, animals, and voices, and it’s just insane. It’s like he has control over every chamber in his body.

BE: Speaking of Frank Welker, I actually have a Dynomutt action figure within arm’s length.

BW: Oh, yeah? You’re really into it!

BE: Well, to a certain extent, anyway. I grew up with those shows, you know. And for the record, the figure’s still in the box, because if I’m gonna be a geek, I might as well be a full-fledged geek.

BW: See, there was nothing like that to collect when I was a kid. Now, we’re buried in records of ourselves.

BE: And now that the kids have grown up, they can afford to buy the stuff they couldn’t afford when they were younger.

BW: Yeah, except when you go to try to buy a comic book at a convention that’s worth a lot of money, and the guy’s got it in a case and says, “You don’t got the money. Don’t ask.” And I’m go, “Listen, I guarantee I got the fucking money? How much?!?” “It’s not for sale.” They put them in the case just to drive people nuts, and then they sit there smugly in front of the case so that, when someone actually does look serious about getting it, they can say, “It’s not for sale.” Oh, yeah? You came how many miles to attend this convention to put it in a glass case to tell people it’s not for sale? How warped are you…?

BE: A friend of mine actually got a dealer to part with a copy of “Fantastic Four” #1 recently, and he’s still beside himself.

BW: (With legitimate awe) Oh, really? Wow!

BE: He may never take it out to read it, but it’s just the knowing that he has it.

BW: My friend Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob, I went to his birthday party one year, and his wife…see, there used to be a Marvel theme restaurant up at Universal Studios…

“I did meet (Mel Blanc) years ago, and it was amazing. I got to shake hands with him and chat with him for a moment; it was like that painting where God is reaching down from the heavens and outstretching his index finger to man, who’s trying to reckon with it, putting his finger skittishly in the air. The guy lit the way, and I was just so glad that I actually got to meet him.”

BE: I’ve eaten there, actually.

BW: Yeah, I don’t think it’s there anymore, but Captain America would bring your food to your table, and we always have such a good time quipping on anything, making commentary. And there was a guy drinking at a bar. And it was already funny to see a bar in a Marvel restaurant, but the guy had been drinking there all afternoon, and Tommy asked, “What kind of guy goes up to the Marvel-themed bar and sits there getting drunk all day?” And I said, “Probably the guy who started Gold Key Comics.” Which is totally an inside geek joke…

BE: (Laughs) …which is probably why I thought it was funny!

BW: (Laughs) But most people would never understand that. But I used to read Gold Key Comics, like “Supercar,” which was based on my favorite TV show at the time, or “Magnus: Robot Fighter.”

BE: Have you heard about the “Turok” animated movie?

BW: (Excitedly) “Turok: Son of Stone”?

BE: Yeah, I haven’t seen it, but by all accounts, it’s incredibly good.

BW: Really?

BE: Well, I don’t know that you can trust the word of Harry over at Ain’t It Cool News 100%, but he’s a huge fan of it, and he was a fan of the comics, too.

BW: Y’know how there’s a vibe in the air where, one summer, a whole bunch of sea monster movies will be made, and you wonder, “Hey, how did one know that the other was going to make one at around the same time?” But they just do, and that’s why you get “The Abyss” and “Leviathan” and whatever. But now it’s cavemen. Except they don’t know what to do with them. Like, the Geico cavemen got a TV show, but they ruined it by taking the original idea, where this guy was really smart and insulted by the treatment of cavemen, and turned it into something like a cheesy movie, y’know? (Adapts a movie-announcer voice) “Take a couple of cavemen, bring them to Harvard University in 1966, and Harvard will never be the same again!” (Immediately kicks into James Brown’s “I Feel Good”) You know? Because James Brown equals “wacky party is spoken here.” It’s the signpost that tells you what’s up ahead. Anyway, obviously, they don’t know what to do with cavemen, but there’s definitely a hunt on. “Turok” is definitely a good candidate, and from what you’re saying, it sounds like they didn’t completely ruin it. So that’s good!

BE: Okay, we’ve officially descended into unbridled geek-speak at this point…

BW: (Laughs)

BE: …so I should probably just hit you up with a few rapid-fire questions so I don’t take up too much more of your time.

BW: No, I’ve got time.

BE: Well, if you’ve got time, then I’ll just keep on for a few more minutes.

BW: Okay!

BE: Do you ever feel intimidated stepping into the shoes of classic established characters, or did it get easier after you crossed the Mel Blanc barrier when you did Bugs Bunny for “Space Jam”?

BW: Well, I auditioned among hundreds of people, and Ivan Reitman picked me to do the role, but what happened was that I took my instincts and threw them out the window, because every other person that walked in the room, they’d say, “He’s too Jewish,” or, “He’s too Brooklyn,” or, “He’s too tough,” or, “He’s too soft.” It was by committee that I had to play this character, and…I wasn’t intimidated because I have a journeyman mentality. I don’t lay claim to any character; I have no particular emotional resonance to a character I didn’t create. I just try to bring as much to the table as I can. But I walk out of that job that day, and I go, “I’m a day player. That ain’t my gig. Maybe tomorrow it might be again, but…” I just don’t get hung up on that stuff if it’s not mine for real, if I didn’t create it. And that’s the healthiest attitude to take, because they’ve always got someone else that someone wants to use. I was very excited about doing it, but…

(At this point, the weirdest thing happens: someone cuts into our conversation who can’t hear us even though we can hear them, and this person begins to check their voicemail. Billy and I are struggling to talk to each other over this third party, and finally we both give up and hang up. Before I can call him back, however, the phone rings.)

BE: Billy?

BW: Hey!

BE: I have no idea what was going on there!

BW: Me, either. I believe we had crossed wires there, but I started feeling really skeevy about listening to someone else’s voicemails and realized, “Ew, maybe I don’t want to listen to this.” (Affects high-pitched voice) “Yes, this is the young Asian boy that one of you guys was looking for…”

BE: (Laughs) Okay, I have no idea where we were…

BW: I’d just said that I was all excited about doing Bugs. That’s all I knew. Some people didn’t like it, but, y’know, what do you tell these people? “Oh, okay, I’ll just go back and tell Ivan Reitman that he was stupid for choosing me.”

BE: Yeah, that kind of comment always goes over well. Okay, here’s a flashback for you: when you were doing that short-lived revival of “Beany and Cecil” with John Kricfalusi (creator of “Ren & Stimpy”), John attributed its biting the dust to interference from the network. Would you say that’s a fair assessment based on your recollection?

BW: At the time, it did seem like that, but then it began to appear as if that was almost his M.O. in life: to do six episodes of something, and then pull out a thirty-ought-six shotgun with a laser sight on it and aim it at his big toe. I’m sorry, but there are some people who are like that, who want to blame it on the rest of the world.

BE: Have you had any communication with him since he tried to get you to bail out of “Ren & Stimpy” so he could get back in with the show after his “departure”?

BW: I just said that I knew what they were going to do, and I wanted no part of it. So he turned it around and said, “They wouldn’t take me.” Good thinking. Good job. Yeah, now I’m the guy with the rep. But it was abominable. I don’t know who was doing the thinking there, but they were just cries for help. They weren’t even cartoons anymore. I’ve talked to him here and there, but it’s always like you’re talking to a funhouse mirror when you talk to him, and you just never know quite what’s going on, and you begin to feel like you’ve lost it after you’ve talked to him. You just go, “Okay, I’m just going to pretend that never happened.”

“I’ve talked to (John Kricfalusi) here and there, but it’s always like you’re talking to a funhouse mirror when you talk to him, and you just never know quite what’s going on, and you begin to feel like you’ve lost it after you’ve talked to him. You just go, ‘Okay, I’m just going to pretend that never happened.’”

BE: Do you have a favorite obscure show from your resume that doesn’t get a lot of acknowledgement?

BW: Gosh, there’s so many of them. There’s one that I did that I don’t know if many people saw here, because it was a European cartoon, but it was called “Poochini.” He was a dog, a pooch, and he lived with this family. And he’s this cheerful little Italian. He had an Italian accent, and everything was really beautiful, sunny, and charming in his world, but then he had to retool his thinking and learn how to deal with things, just like a normal person would. I thought it was charming.

BE: Did you enjoy working on “The Weird Al Show”?

BW: Yeah, I love Weird Al. I was a huge fan of his, because I was a fan of Spike Jones and a fan of Stan Freberg…who I did work with.

BE: On that show? Because I know he appeared on there.

BW: No, he was on an episode of “Ren & Stimpy.” And he told me that I knew more about him than he did.

BE: High praise, indeed. Oh, I meant to tell you that I remain impressed that you do a Larry Fine impression, given how few others do.

BW: Aw, thanks! Yeah, nobody seemed to give a damn about the guy, but I just thought that he was the Keith Richards of the Three Stooges, if you ask me. and I just love that strange voice. It’s a Philadelphia voice, a regional thing that’s kind of mid-Atlantic in a way. But everybody there who did voices sounded kind of like that, this nasal plumbing thing that they all got going. Larry would be like... (Does his best Larry Fine) “Hey, Moe, you took my money, didn’t ya? Then it’s Shemp! He’s come back to haunt us!” He had that nasal blockage thing. And so did George O’Hanlon, who played George Jetson. (Launches into impression) “Aw, c’mon, Janey, honey, the cleaners are 500 miles away! It’ll take an extra five minutes just to get there!” And I hear these things. This is why I know stuff enough to be a guy who really cares about what’s gone down in the business, and I always love stuff like that. It helps me understand the psyche and the characters a little better, hearing it in their voices. It’s a silly thing, but…

BE: I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but they’ve got a ton of Howard Stern audio-only clips up on YouTube from your era of the show…probably illegally, but they’re still funny.

BW: Oh, really? No, I haven’t seen them.

BE: Are you proud of your legacy on that show?

BW: Oh, yeah. When in Rome, you know…?

BE: Do you have a favorite impression from that era?

BW: Well, I used to love making fun of the guy who sat in front of me (Jackie Martling), doing a puppet version of him. That was very “Twilight Zone,” to torment the guy with his own spitting image and just drive him crazy. He’s writing jokes and you’re overwhelming him by telling him he’s a hack and a bum. It’s very psychologically wounding, and it finally reached a point where the puppet’s screaming at him, “I’ll never leave you, so enjoy your life!”

BE: Are you still popping up on Adam Corrolla’s radio show?

BW: Yeah, occasionally. I’m going to start popping back in. I just got too busy; I was doing conventions and I went overseas. People just love “Futurama.” I had no idea, so it was a revelation to me.

BE: Hey, not to me. I’m sure the producers of “The Simpsons” would disagree, but from the perspective of both myself and several of my friends, it was very much like “Futurama” arrived just as the classic years of that show were winding down, and we were all going, “This is awesome!”

BW: Yeah…

BE: And I still like “The Simpsons,” don’t get me wrong. But certainly some would say that certain years are more classic than others.

BW: Oh, yeah, it’s like that for a lot of things. Your initial impressions of something are hard to get past. And, plus, everyone’s perceptions change. You watch an episode from the 5th season of something back to back with an episode from the first season, and you can instantly tell that it was a work in progress all the way. Which I like, because it comes alive that way, that there have been these changes along the way. It’s how it is with just about every cartoon. That process just seems to happen.

BE: Whatever happened with “Billy Bastard”? I’ve seen the trailer on YouTube, but nothing else.

BW: We did a sitcom kind of version, “On the Couch with Billy B,” and it’s him and his immediate dysfunctional family, and they’re watching television. Stuff goes on in real time in the house. And, God, I’ve taken it here there and everywhere, but I had to stop because of the strike, so that’s what held up things. But I’ve been talking to people now that the strike has started to wind down, so we’ll see what happens with it.

BE: And, lastly, I was reading your FAQ on your website. Did you really have a friend suggest to you that life in animation must be “nothing but tits and ice cream”?

BW: (Shocked) What…?

BE: Honest to God, it’s an exact quote from your website.

BW: Okay, and then I think I said, “No, you’re wrong, it’s all sunglasses and blow jobs.”

BE: Hmm. I don’t remember reading that on Mark Evanier’s site…

BW: Uh-oh. Yeah, that is a treacherous quote from me, isn’t it? But, yeah, most people do think that’s what it is. But the reality is that you work like a dog…or, at least, I do. I really throw myself into this stuff. I’ve worked ten hours a day, having to scream and yell at the top of my lungs, and then have to sell something delicately in another situation where my job is to be a salesman. It’s rough.

BE: Well, it’s been great talking to you, and I appreciate you calling me back after that very weird incident.

BW: Hey, no problem. I’m glad I got to talk to you!

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