Last weekend Boyfriend and I watched In a World, a film about a female voice artist trying to get work in an industry that functions like a boys’ club. It’s a very familiar narrative, where the underdog beats all the odds to win. (Oh, boo. I gave it away.) But it was funny and refreshing, and it was a story that needed to be told. The field of voice overs is dominated by men to the extent that it has become acceptable for otherwise respectable commentators to say completely unreasonable and vicious things about women’s voices. (Read Amanda Hess’ article about it on Slate.)
Anyway, one of the funniest parts of the film is when Lake Bell, the writer, director, and lead actor, takes one of Obi-Wan’s most famous lines from Star Wars IV – “These are not the droids you’re looking for” – and, in the middle of a very serious conversation, says it in a Russian accent.
“Thees ees not the droid you are loo-king for.”
As it turns out, Star Wars and Russian accents are among Boyfriend’s favourite things. So for the rest of the evening, he responded to everything I said with some variation of this line. Literally.
Is this where we validate our parking? “Thees ees not the droid you are loo-king for.”
Hey, do you want to try that new Laotian restaurant for dinner? “Thaat ees not the droid you are loo-king for.”
Here, your phone was in my bag. “Thees ees the droid I was loo-king for.” (Ok, in this case it was true, but whatever.)
At my fifth or sixth attempt to engage him in a conversation about voice artists, he momentarily reverted to his regular speaking voice, for this:
“Did you know Mel Blanc was in a coma for fourteen days before he started responding to doctors in the voice of Bugs Bunny?”
What’s that? You don’t know who Mel Blanc is? Oh, but you do. Believe me, you do. Mel Blanc is the voice of Bugs Bunny. And Daffy Duck. And Yosemite Sam and Tweety Bird and Porky Pig. And Foghorn Leghorn and Sylvester the Cat and Speedy Gonzales and Marvin the Martian and Barney Rubble. So yeah, you know Mel Blanc.
What a lot of people probably don’t know is that in 1961 Mel Blanc was in a car accident on the famous Dead Man’s Curve on Sunset Boulevard in LA. A young kid in a big car was speeding down the other side and collided head-on with Blanc’s car, which folded up like a neat little work of origami. Blanc ended up in hospital with multiple fractures, and in a coma from which he had a very, very slim chance of emerging alive. Cameramen and newspaper reporters camped out at the hospital. The Honolulu Herald actually went ahead and posted an obituary. (It was dessthth…picable. It’s also not the only time this kind of thing has happened.)
For fourteen days Blanc’s family talked to him, hoping he could hear them, hoping something within him would stir. For fourteen days his doctors tried to revive him, but to no avail. Eventually, the hope started to wane as his doctors found themselves out of all the options they had gathered from years of training and experience.
Until one morning when his doctor walked into the room and up to Blanc’s bed and asked, “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?”
Without opening his eyes, without moving a finger, but also without skipping a beat, Mel Blanc responded:
“Eh… What’s up, Doc?”
Now, everyone knows it’s next to impossible to get the better of Bugs Bunny, but sufferin’ succotash, if I had been the doctor in question, I most certainly would have passed out from the shock. (Actually, I probably would have come really close to pooping my pants from having freaked the hell out, but I don’t want to say that. Please. I’m a lady.) Fortunately, I was not the doctor in question, Louis Conway was. Dr. Conway continued addressing questions to the various characters Blanc had brought to life with his voice and each time, Blanc replied with the character’ punchline.
“Tweety, are you there?”
“I thought I thaw a puddy tat.”
Shortly after, Mel Blanc regained consciousness, recovered fully, and returned to doing what he did best – giving voices to hundreds of characters – until a few years before his death in 1989. The city of Los Angeles reacted to his accident by restructuring the curves along Sunset Boulevard, so that Dead Man’s Curve was a little less deadly. And though there is absolutely no proof for this, I’m pretty certain that for as long as it took for him to fully recover from the accident, there was a voice in Mel Blanc’s head that kept saying this:
Now I’d stay and continue this post, but you see, I’m not one that has to keep talkin’. Some fellas just have to keep their mouths flappin’, but not me! I was brought up right, my Pa used to tell me “shut up” and I’d shut up! I wouldn’t say nothin’!
So for today, that’s all, folks!