Robert Paulsen is sitting at a table, in a smart, all black suit, signing autographs on posters for the Animaniacs Live patrons who eagerly await them downstairs. But he never shows tiredness, or a lack of enthusiasm, and likes to remind me of his appreciation for his fame. As he signs, he muses, “All I have to do is say ‘NARF!’ and you do that!” He points at me as I start giggling. “And it happens everywhere, it is the most genuinely, happy, joyful experience. It is not about money, it’s not about ratings, it’s just this incredible connection.”
At first glance, Paulsen doesn’t look like the man of 1000 voices. He doesn’t come across like he’s in his sixties, either. Night after night, he gets up onstage with his piano playing partner Randy Rogel, and belts out the greatest hits from the classic 90’s animated television program ‘Animaniacs’ like he’s still a man in his thirties.
“I like good performance,” Paulsen explains, “and I’m really inspired by people who continue to perform at a high level well into their seventies.”
Paulsen’s name might not be familiar to the average pop culture consumer, but start listing off the animated characters he’s voiced, and your jaw will drop. The list reads like a tome of the best animated shows in television history; Yakko from ‘Animaniacs’, Pinky from ‘Pinky and the Brain’, Raphael from ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and Donatello from the reboot, Carl Wheezer from ‘Jimmy Neutron’, dozens of voices on ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’, ‘Fairly OddParents,’ and ‘Danny Phantom,’ and over a thousand commercials, just to name a few of his credits.
But now, he’s celebrating perhaps his most famous role, Yakko Warner of the Warner Brothers from ‘Animaniacs,’ perhaps the greatest animated television show of all time. ‘Animaniacs’ was not only a fabulous source of consistently great comedic writing and outstanding animation, but also some of the best songs and music of any television program, animated or live action.
That high bar for excellence is the inspiration for this touring show, where Rob, along with the help of songwriter and pianist Randy Rogel, replay all those memorable tunes from the cartoon.
Well known classics like ‘Noel,’ ‘I’m Cute,’ ‘Yakko’s Universe,’ and of course, ‘Yakko’s World’ are all lovingly recreated live on stage, some of which are done with the original animation projected behind them as they perform. There’s even alternate versions of those numbers included that never made it into animation, yet are high enough quality to sound like they could have been.
Anybody who believes ‘Animaniacs’ was a kids show, or this tour is just for fans, think again.
With the audience members, you’ll see eight-year-olds and seventy-year-olds, and they’re really ardent fans, and Randy’s music is just timeless.”
Along with the songs, Rob and Randy engage the audience with humorous anecdotes about the making of the series, and what led to the alternate numbers being tossed out and rewritten. Rob as the singer is able to lead into these great stories, but Randy is an equally funny and witty entertainer, making for a well balanced double act.
The Portland’5 Center for the Arts offered a beautiful venue packed with people of all ages. The Newmark echoed as laughter filled the theater.
You’re sure to have a night to remember when you see Animaniacs Live. The joy of the audience is palpable all the way through, and it’s clear Rob and Randy are just as into it as they are.
I think the only person in the world who enjoys it more than the audience is Randy and me.”
Rob’s warm and welcoming presence in our one-on-one conversation was equally evident onstage as he played to a packed theater. It’s a perfect mix of great music and comedy, and you’re sure to be laughing from beginning to end.
Find out where the Warner brothers are off to next, and catch them at the next event. Up next: February 8 at The Lincoln Center in Colorado!
Huge thanks to Rob Paulsen and the Portland’5 team for an epic evening and a wonderful evening!