The Futurama Team Had Trouble Finding Morbo’s Voice, Until Maurice LaMarche Stepped In

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Written By Sedoso Feb

“Futurama” gets a lot of mileage out of its main voice cast. LaMarche also plays Kif Kroker, Lrrr (ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8!), the acting unit Calculon, the Horrible Gelatinous Blob, and more. Billy West voices Fry, The Professor, Doctor Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan, and once-and-future President Richard Nixon (Morbo’s “good friend”).

Speaking to MTV in 2012, LaMarche revealed that West was originally cast to voice Morbo too; he played the character by doing an impression of John McLaughlin, host of the weekly public affairs program “The McLaughlin Group.” McLaughlin’s moderating style was loud and belligerent, but West’s performance “wasn’t fitting the mouth of the character”, LaMarche explained. So, they brought him in. “Do a monster-y kind of voice. The humor of [Morbo] comes from a monster reading the news,” said LaMarche, recalling his voice directions. “And so they pitch shifted it down and made it even deeper.”

When LaMarche was brought back to do more of Morbo, he found he could hit the right pitch all by himself: “I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t supposed to do that, but they were surprised that I could do something that wasn’t supposed to be possible.” Morbo’s voice does sound lower in his earlier appearances, but the original electronically altered pitch also sounded slower and less enthusiastic. Morbo’s defining trait has evolved into less his evilness and more his short fuse. That’s down to LaMarche’s comic timing and fits a sensationalist TV pundit.

Take this moment in the “Futurama” movie “The Beast With A Billion Backs,” when Morbo reports on a galactic anomaly:

“Scientists believe the rip is a gateway to another universe, but do not know what mysteries lie beyond. However, in this reporter’s opinion — GRUESOME DEATH AWAITS US ALL!”

Let LaMarche’s experience as Morbo be a warning to media companies enamored with new AI software: no machine can replace a talented voice actor.

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