When talking to voice actor Rob Paulsen, you never know who might join your conversation. It could be Raphael or Donatello from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Carl from “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “Animaniacs” Pinky and Yakko, or other characters Paulsen has voiced during a career that spans nearly 30 years.
At 63, Paulsen is busier than ever, directing new episodes of Nickelodeon’s “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (and voicing the new character Foot Lieutenant) and performing in a national live tour of “Animaniacs in Concert!” His “Talkin’ Toons” podcast is on video and Nerdist.com, and the “Animaniacs” reboot comes to Hulu in 2020. His book, “Voice Lessons,” will be released Oct. 8.
The upbeat Paulsen, who holds a Daytime Emmy, Peabody and three Annie awards, seems unstoppable, even defeating throat cancer recently. Before the cancer diagnosis, Paulsen says, people had encouraged him to write a book, but he didn’t think the world needed another Hollywood celebrity bio. “But once I had cancer, and throat cancer no less, I thought the experience and the outcome was a story worth telling,” he says.
Paulsen says the book reaches beyond his story to include the stories of people he’s met because of his work. “Here’s an example of this young fellow who’s no longer living but he made it to 26 when everybody told him, his parents, his doctors, he’d be gone at 11. Let me tell you his story. And, moreover, how we met because of ‘Ninja Turtles.’”
Though voice acting wasn’t a childhood dream, it came naturally to Paulsen, who has an ear for music. His heroes were Tim Conway, Red Skelton, Carol Burnett and Jonathan Winters. A Detroit native, he moved to L.A. in 1978, studied at The Groundlings and landed jobs in TV shows and commercials. “I’m an average-looking guy, and that is just fine. When I was able to audition for animation products, it didn’t take long to realize this is great.”
Paulsen’s son, Ash, now 34, grew up with his dad’s characters. “It was quite enjoyable for both of us that his daddy was Raphael when he was a 7-year-old,” says Paulsen, who knows when to dial it down. “It’s not the best way to have a conversation with your spouse.” Today, his colleagues are millennials who grew up with the cartoons being revived. “These shows have blossomed into two or three generations of audiences. They’re fun, clever and timeless cartoons,” Paulsen says. For more information, visit robpaulsenlive.com.