You know them, but you don't know them: Live Talks Los Angeles, who brought us Tina Fey and Steve Martin for a chat recently, present An Evening of 1,000 Voices With Billy West and Tom Kenny. West is best known as the voice of Philip J. Fry on Futurama and Stimpy on Ren and Stimpy (not to mention his hilarious Marge Schott on Howard Stern's show). And Kenny famously lives in a pineapple under the sea as SpongeBob SquarePants. The two voice actors will sit down with Kristine McKenna to talk shop, but they submitted to some questions via email first.
L.A. WEEKLY: What's it like being more famous for your voice than your face?
BILLY WEST: To be recognized for the work and not recognized as a celebrity suits me fine!
TOM KENNY: Tough question. … While I have been known to use my own face on special occasions, I rarely use my own voice. I guess neither is famous! Once in a while I do get recognized by someone who thinks I'm Billy West.
What do your fans request the most when they meet you?
WEST: The fans will ask to hear the voices I've done and I gladly indulge them.
KENNY: That I do the outgoing voice-mail message for every kid they've ever met! My voice is on almost as many answering machines as the person who recorded the default one that comes with the answering machines.
Do you ever make restaurant reservations or play pranks on people on the phone while in character?
WEST: I did prank calls as a kid. Every now and then I will try to fool someone I know. Years ago I remember getting a prank call from “Big Al” Anderson (the guitar player from NRBQ) and he said he was from the IRS. I bought it hook, line and sinker! He seemed like he couldn't wait to haul me off to jail. I was so freaked out — good thing I was wearing my brown pants.
KENNY: Nah, I don't have the requisite cruel streak you need to keep a prank going. My wife does, though. On April Fools' Day, she left me a bunch of messages that I was supposed to be at a Transformers voice-over session, and that Michael Bay was livid; that he was calling my agent every five minutes and ready to strangle me!
What's the coolest thing about being a voice actor?
WEST: Knowing my voices will be around after I'm gone. When I was a kid, nobody listened to me! I like things better this way.
KENNY: Being able to make a living doing all the stuff that got you sent to the principal's office in fourth grade. On a less snarky note, being able to walk into Children's Hospital and make a brave kid who's very ill smile for a couple of minutes is a fringe benefit that I hadn't anticipated. There — I said it. Corny, but true!
What will you be talking about with Kristine McKenna?
WEST: I will try to not screw around too much when Kristine wants serious answers to stuff.
KENNY: I don't know, but I'm sure nervous as hell. She's interviewed so many of my heroes — Bo Diddley, James Brown, Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone, even Orson Friggin' Welles, for godsakes! I should be interviewing her about why she's sunk low enough to interview me!
Track 16, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg C-1, Santa Monica; Wed., May 11, 8 p.m.; $20, $95 includes VIP reception at 6:30 p.m.; livetalksla.org. –Libby Molyneaux
Wed., May 11, 8 p.m., 2011