Billy West has been in the voice acting profession for decades now, but he does not come across to people as a celebrity or a star. However, when one learns about the voice behind popular cartoon characters of Stimpy, Bugs Bunny, Philip J. Fry and Professor Hubert Farnsworth, admiration for the actor comes quite spontaneously. Belonging to the old-school of voice acting, West could not make it big in Hollywood, but he is hailed in the animation industry as a great talent who is versatile and whose voice is apt for almost any cartoon character. Through his voice, he has given life to many cartoon characters so much so that, most of them are engraved in the memory of the viewers forever. Billy had a tumultuous childhood because of his abusive father, found respite in the little acts of comedy he performed in the presence of his mother. He discovered his true love for voice acting and found recognition in the animation industry. West’s ability to develop the personalities of the characters he speaks for is beyond praise and for his virtuosity he is often referred to as the ‘voice guru’.
Childhood & Early Life
Billy West was very young when his family moved to Boston, where he was raised in the neighborhood of Roslindale.
As a child he learned to play guitar and spent most of his high school days playing for several bands.
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He began his career as a standup comedian, before lending his voice for different characters in ‘The Big Mattress show’ of the WBCN, Boston’s radio network.
In 1988, he moved to New York City where he worked at the K-Rock Radio and a little later in the puppet TV show, ‘Beany and Cecil’.
Soon, his talent caught the attention of the famous radio and TV personality Howard Stern who took him as his cast-member and performer for ‘The Howard Stern Show’.
From 1991 to 1996 he gave his voice to popular animated television series ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’.
In 1996, he offered his voice to the animated sports comedy film ‘Space Jam’ and in 1998 he starred as ‘Shaggy Rogers’, the made-for-video film ‘Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island’.
He lent his voice in the computer-animated adventure film ‘Dinosaur’ by Disney and in 2004, he gave his voice to the famous cartoon character ‘Popeye’ in the animated film ‘Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy’.
In 2004, he also made a cameo in the live-action film ‘Garfield: The Movie’. The same year, his band, ‘Billy West and The Grief Counselors’ released their debut album ‘Me-Pod’.
In 2010, he lent his voice for ‘Tom’, one of the most famous cartoon characters in the movie ‘Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes’. He reprised the role in the 2011 animated movie ‘Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz’.
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He became famous for giving his voice to ‘Stimpy’ in the famous animated series ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ which was well received and developed a cult following.
His most acclaimed roles are in the animated science fiction sitcom ‘Futurama’ in which he offered his voice for the characters ‘Philip J. Fry’, ‘Professor Farnsworth’, ‘Doctor Zoidberg’ and ‘Zapp Brannigan’.
Awards & Achievements
West received an ‘Annie for Best Achievement’ for ‘Voice Acting’ nomination for his performance in the ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’. The Annie Awards are most prestigious awards honoring outstanding artists in the field of animation.
Personal Life & Legacy
He suffered from chronic depression owing to a troubled childhood for which he resorted to drug and alcohol for a long period of time. However, he has given up drugs and is strictly a vegan.
On October 4, 2006, he revealed on ‘The Adam Carolla Show’ that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer for which he underwent a surgery.
This famous voice actor has done several celebrity impressions in ‘The Howard Stern Show’.
Apart from Joe Alaskey, this celebrated voiceover actor is known to impersonate Mel Blanc, a great comedian and voice actor, the best.