Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Billy West Willing to Join Cast of 'Ren & Stimpy' Remake, Open to 'Doug' Reboot

Comedy Central is set to reboot Nickelodeon's iconic '90s animated series The Ren & Stimpy Show. Although announced in August 2020, information about the new series has been scarce.

However, legendary voice actor Billy West, who voiced the titular dog and cat in the original series, recently revealed that he'd happily join the cast for the reboot - but also muses that the show's take on comedy might be unpopular nowadays.

Speaking at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 on May 28, West said "I don’t know how they’re going to do it in this climate," adding "I guess I’d be offended if I had no life experience at 20."

He added, "I made a joke about Rush Limbaugh dying. I said he invented hi-def radio; he was high and deaf." West said some people "always see from this kind of tunnel vision — ‘What do you do for a living? I get upset.’ Comedy is subjective. Some things aren’t for anyone. It is what it is, not a target to be shot down. It's easy to shoot from the peanut gallery. I don’t care anymore. I'm 70, and I don’t have to explain. I’ll do it. I’ll keep coming till they don’t let me come in anymore."

West also revealed that he's keen to revisit another beloved '90s Nickelodeon character.

"I'd love to do Doug," West said. "They're 25 years older, so just imagine. 'Dear diary, today I blew up a courthouse.' Have Roger Klotz as the judge. 'Funnie, I'm sending you up the river. I knew I’d see you. You've got guilty written all over your face, and it’s even spelled wrong!'"

A Doug reboot most likely won't happen, at least with West involved, as he won't work for Disney, the current owner of the Doug IP, explaining that he doesn't agree with their schedules for voice actors.

During his Phoenix Fan Fusion panel, West had nothing but praise for a few famed comedians who'd passed away. The first was Newsradio and The Simpsons star Phil Hartman, who, in a way, gave West an opportunity on Futurama.

"At the time, I was working on The Howard Stern Show," West said. "And one day my wife said, 'You know who called? Phil Hartman.'  He'd called to say that he was a fan, and I said, 'Gee, I kind of know who you are.' Phil said if I moved out to L.A., he'd help [me] get roles. And a guy like me would move from studio to studio. We even did an M&M commercial together, where he was [a chocolate bar]."

Hartman died in 1998, and around that same time, West was beginning work on Futurama. In creating the voice of Zapp Brannigan, West relied on their shared love of vintage media.

"Phil and I both loved radio," West said. "I used to call them those big dumb announcers. Those guys who you thought were always lying. 'Friends, do you know what we need? Really need? Coffee!' Who talks like that? So something like, 'Kip, tell the man I mated with a woman.' Or Jeanine Pirro from Fox [News], who takes 45 minutes to say something that could be 30 seconds. Deliberate and deliciously stupid."

The other fallen comedian that West had in his thoughts was Gilbert Gottfried, who he said had a rather unique talent that would have proven especially valuable these days.

"He rebranded tragedy," West said. "He was unafraid in the face of horrific tragedy, in the face of cracking someone up in the face of something horrible. There’s plenty of time to figure out what happens with that town and that kid [the shooting in Uvalde, Texas]. But I’m glad to be here. I’m framing this in the gallery of my mind."

And West was clearly channeling Gottfried when he doled out a one-two punchline just as someone brought up the subject of Aquaman.

"Who is gonna replace [Amber Heard] in the film?" West said. "Maybe it'll be Kevin Hart. I wish I could cut his foot off and carry [it] like a rabbit's foot. All these good things start happening to me."

Legendary voice actor Billy West during his panel at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 on Saturday, May 28. Benjamin Leatherman

If there were a common thread among both West's panel and his career at large, it's how connected things often feel, and how both people and themes repeat in splendid ways. Case in point: when West offered a story about Futurama co-star Katey Sagal.

"I got to guest on that Joey Lawrence show, Brotherly Love," West said. "So one time, I walked outside the building where we're shooting, Columbia Studios in Hollywood, and I saw this woman on a payphone (that's when they still had them). That’s Katey Sagal — and she looked at me like I was invisible. And now she’s my girlfriend on Futurama. She was part of my future and I didn’t know it. So you never know what will happen."

It's amazing to think that not even Fry or Stimpy can be considered West's most "iconic" role. No, that goes to the Red M&M, something which West seems both amused by and especially proud of.

"You know that Christmas commercial?" West asked. "I made that 30 years ago."

Perhaps that role is near and dear to West because, after the brand originally went with John Lovitz (Red) and John Goodman (Yellow), he had to audition five times, "pulling out every trick to impress them." It may, however, have everything to do with his co-star.

"I came home one day, 28, 29 years later, and my wife said, ‘Come and see this show Oz,'" West said. "There's the absolute worst guy, this total racist psychotic. And my wife said, 'He’s no actor; he's the real deal.’ I said I know him. He’s the Yellow M&M — it’s J.K. Simmons (Ghostbusters: Afterlife). I worked with him for that long. One time, he won an Oscar, and two days later he's doing a commercial with me. That’s the mark of a true actor; celebrities are not my heroes, actors are."

If West's attitude toward the younger generation seems a little harsh, it may be that he comes from a different time and is, admittedly, out of touch with current politics. In sharing a story about Vietnam, West revealed his own form of political "protest" for Richard Nixon.

"I was almost drafted in the '70s," he said. "I went down and got tested. There was a shrink there — you’re not supposed to know, but I could tell. He asked, 'You like sports?' and I said I like tennis ‘cause you don’t have to depend on anyone else. I also had the flattest feet in the world, and hypertension, so I couldn’t get in."

But the moment stuck with West, and Nixon's handling of the Vietnam War, and his other missteps and controversies, helped inform West's supervillain-esque portrayal of Nixon in Futurama.

"The producers asked me why I’d said, ‘Aroooo,'" West said. "And I just thought Nixon was always turning into a werewolf. And now there's a continuous loop of the stuff I did in Futurama in his presidential library, so I won."

West also opened up about how grateful he is for has legions of fans. "I don’t have any family left," West said during his early afternoon panel at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 on May 28. "I just have my brother left. So to be considered family by so many, it’s an honor to me."

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Original source: Phoenix New Times.

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