Bob Bergen One of The Top Voice Actors (Porky Pig & Others) Talks His Amazing & Inspiring Journey & More! Read more here--->>>
We had the pleasure of speaking to one of the most recognized voice actors of our time, Bob Bergen. If you haven't heard the name but you have heard the voice of Porky Pig in the last thirty years then you have heard Mr. Bergen!
Bob took us on his journey to becoming one of the most successful voice actors. We started with a five-year-old little boy sitting in front of the TV with his dream and his voice and ended with the man who people now wait several years just to learn from. This is one of those feel-good interviews. The kind that touches that little kid with a dream that lives inside all of us. And if you are still waiting on your dream; hopefully this will give you just what you need to wait a little longer and to work harder to make your dream come true.
Five years old isn't necessarily too young for a kid to have an idea of what they want to be when they grow up. If you ask a young kid, usually one of two things will occur. They will shrug their shoulders because they don't have an idea yet. Or they might have one and say, "A cowboy." A dollar to donuts you ask that same kid next week and the answer has changed. They might want to be a policeman. And the next week that same kid might want to be a football player.
But not this kid. Not five-year-old Bob Bergen. He knew exactly who he wanted to be and it never ever wavered. Bob wanted to be a cartoon character, a very specific character, Porky Pig. This dream was birthed and cultivated in front of his TV. "I was enamored by Saturday morning cartoons. I would mimic the cartoons."
His first audience was his mom. Bob's mom told stories of those early "shows." "My mom told stories that she'd be in the kitchen on Saturday mornings' making breakfast. She'd hear a cartoon in the living room. Then she'd hear the line repeated. She would think 'that's odd.' My mom would stand behind me and watch me mimic the cartoon back to the TV. I didn't realize I was doing anything talented. I was just having fun." We bet his mom knew how talented he was even at five. Moms know everything.
Bob like most of us watched many cartoons as a kid. But it was Porky Pig that captured Bob's heart and attention. He watched Porky Pig all the time. In school, when a teacher asked him a question; he'd answer in his Porky Pig voice. His classmates must have loved Bob! When he got older, he started paying attention to and reading the television credits. Given Bob's love for Porky Pig it's no wonder one name stood out more than any other, Mel Blanc (well-known voice actor, Porky Pig among others, and radio personality). "I would see Mel Blanc's name. Then I would research him to see if he was on any other shows. Or if he was interviewed I would make sure I watched them. This was before DVR's. I would have a little cassette recorder in front of the TV and I would record the audio from the interviews." Resourceful. Wise. Observant.
When Bob was fourteen his father, a salesman, got a job in L.A. and the family moved there. For Bob, it was as if he had struck gold. He had. He was now living in L.A.; L.A where cartoons were done. L.A. was where Hanna-Barbera was (animation studio). And as you might have already figured out L.A. was where Mel Blanc lived. That's when the fourteen-year-old Bob really went to work.
The younger generations have it made. You have a question? You need some information? No problem! It is all at your fingertips. But those of us who are a little older had to put in a little more time and effort back in the day. There were encyclopedias, books, the library. But research and information gathering weren't at your fingertips and more likely than not you had to use multiple sources in your fact-finding efforts. It wasn't one-stop shopping like it is with the internet.
Bob wanted to learn everything he could about Mel Blanc and Porky Pig. He did use books and encyclopedias in his fact-finding efforts. But his favorite resource was the good old fashioned Alexander Graham Bell, telephone. For young people, not a cell phone. A telephone with an actual cord. LOL. "When we moved to L.A. I did most of my research using the telephone. I would call the studios. I called Mel Blanc. Back then I figured out if you wanted to do something you just picked up the phone and did it. Now with Social Media, everybody is accessible. But back then they weren't. I had a lot of people to hang up on me." Laughter. "My dad brought home a whole bunch of phone books and I found the numbers in the phone book."
Bob had been watching and studying Mel Blanc and researching. He wanted more. He wanted to meet and experience his future face to face. He got the lead on how to make that happen from his handy dandy Alexander Graham Bell telephone. "I had talked to Mel Blanc on the phone (The fourteen-year-old Bob had become phone pals with Mel!) and he gave me the information of where he was recording that week. He didn't invite me to come. He just happened to mention the name of the studio. I said to my mom, 'He's going to be at this studio on this date at this time. Let's just go.' She said, 'Cool.' I said, 'I'm going to skip school.' She said, 'Great.'" Super cool mom! "I pretended that I was a guest of Mel Blanc when I saw the receptionist. She said, 'He's in that booth over there.' I walked in the booth and I told the producers we were friends of the receptionist and she said we could watch. I just "finagled" my way in and my mom let me do it. So my mom and I just sat with the producers and watched him work through the glass." Fantastic!
Watching Mel let Bob know he had a lot of work in front of him to make sure he was prepared when opportunity knocked. At that time Bob didn't even know what Mel did had a name, voice over. All Bob knew was he wanted to do what Mel was doing. So, when Bob and his mom left the studio he called Hanna-Barbera and asked how could he do what Mel was doing. He was referred to Daws Butler. Daws was also a well-known voice actor. Daws did almost every cartoon character that Mel didn't. For the next four years, Bob began to put in the work. "I studied with Daws and studied with anybody that offered a class in voice over in L.A. I did two years of acting at an acting conservatory and three years of improv. Experience begets experience. If you take a class you talk to fellow students. 'Where else do you study? How else do you prepare?' I started rubbing elbows with people who had the career I wanted just by meeting other people in classes. I was involved in work out groups with some of the top earners in the industry. And they invited me to more work out groups."
Bob's nine-year journey from his first voice-over class to working as a full-time actor happened organically. It happened because as Bob simply put it, "I wouldn't take no for an answer. I knew what I wanted and I just did it." Bob started taking classes at fourteen. He got his first agent and his first job and eighteen. And by the age of twenty-three, he was working as a full-time actor. As an on-camera actor Bob starred in classic sitcoms like; The Facts of Life, Gimmie A Break, Silver Spoons and One Day At a Time. Bob loved being on-camera. But he loved voice-over more. "I found on-camera was getting in the way of my voice-over career so I had to put it on the shelf." Laser focus is always the way to go.
His laser focus ensured he was prepared when the opportunity came calling for the dream that started as a little boy mimicking his favorite cartoon, to be actualized. "I was in the business working quite a bit. I started working full time in the voice-over business in 1987. Mel Blanc passed away in 1989. I happened to be with a great agent who had connections. Warner Bros held auditions. I got my first Porky Pig job in 1990. I was in the right place, at the right time, working in the business with an agent with clout." Preparation meeting opportunity. We learned that in the voice-over industry no voice actor has a contract for a character no matter who the character is. They are actors for hire. However, Bob has been the person they have used the most in the last thirty years for Porky Pig. Well, that tells us all we need to know about how good Bob is, doesn't it?
You can imagine the number of projects Bob has been involved in the last 30 years as the voice of Porky Pig! Countless. His most recent project is Looney Tunes Cartoons. They are doing over two hundred new shorts over various platforms from theatrical movie theaters to online to cable. "The Looney Tunes Cartoon shorts we are doing right now are the closest that have resembled the classic Looney Tunes. A lot of hard work has been put into them. The scripts and the music have been outstanding. It's just amazing."
Bob gives of himself and back to the industry that has given so much and meant so much to him. He teaches three eight-week classes a year. The classes have a four-year waiting list. Wow! How great is it that people now seek after Bob like he sought after Mel! Life comes full circle. Bob also travels on occasion for weekend classes. Follow Bob on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn when those classes happen.
For those of you who may be trying to break into the voice actor or voice-over business Bob recommends; to study acting, study improv, become a really good actor then study voice over. Bob also suggests to those still in high school to study theater and business in college. And if you want to do animation L.A. is the place to be and to study. Plus research research research. The accessibility is at your fingertips! You don't have to use the telephone book like Bob did! And after all your hard work you will get to the point where you are demo ready and competitive.
Bob let us know there isn't one single thing he would change in his awesome journey. "Nope. I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't made the mistakes I made. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had the guts to pick up the phone and find Mel Blanc. Yeah, I wouldn't change a thing."
We absolutely loved talking to Bob! His story should spur and motivate us all in the pursuit of our dreams!
Bob has many great upcoming projects coming up he couldn't share yet; so keep your ears and your eyes open!
Bob, thank you so much for speaking to us!
I AM KP Smith