Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pheaturing Kevin Conroy From "Batman: The Animated Series"

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Thursday. How are you? It's been a crazy few days in the news. I don't know where to start. I'll start with Paul Ryan... Another one bites the dust. According to Axios, House Speaker Paul Ryan has told people in his inner circle that he will not seek re-election in November, and will be retiring from congress at the ripe old age 48. The Wisconsin Republican was first elected to the house in 1998, and has been serving as Speaker of the House since 2015. In 2012, he ran an unsuccessful bid for vice president alongside Mitt Romney. Luckily the Trump administration is full of invertebros, so your species will live on. Axios also reports that Ryan has had a noticeably harder time doing his job since President Trump was elected in 2016. This may be the reason he is deciding to stand down. According to the report, Ryan has told his "closest confidantes" or possible plans to retire following the 2018 midterm elections. A series of interviews with three dozen fellow lawmakers, conservative lobbyists, and administration aides revealed that none of Ryan's peers think he'll stay in the House following the midterm.
First Lady Melania Trump is seldom seen or heard, which is why the explicitly pro-Trump media tries to milk every public FLOTUS sighting for all it's worth. The latest installment in the Chronicles of Melania was on Monday when she hosted kids at the White House to talk about their lives, and how she wasn't a total a-hole to a kid who accidentally knocked over "a water." Fox News gave it the corny Internet video treatment, complete with cheesy royalty-free music and captions delivering the play-by-play. People thought it was hilarious. As impressive as not cursing at a kid is, many people thought this wasn't particularly something worth highlighting. Neither of them even try to clean it up.... Just how low is the bar for human decency demonstrated by a Trump these days? It's not like there's anything else going on. You heard it, folks: Melania Trump might not be a robot and Fox News is ON IT.
The omnipotent, omnipresent Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, and it was almost as awkward as Mark Zuckerberg. Asked extensive questions about what the hell he and his company are doing with 2.2 billion peoples' personal information, Zuckerberg apologized profusely for messing up a whole bunch of times during the 2016 election. A whopping 44 senators (that's 44% of the whole Senate!) got a tight five minutes to ask him anything, and here are the most bonkers moments. Zuckerberg's seat needed a little boost. You have to make due when there's no phone book available. Someone attended the hearing dressed up as a Russian troll. Senator Bill Nelson asked if he could get Facebook to stop showing him so many ads for his favorite chocolate. The geezers on the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't even know how to ask questions about the interwebs, and got comprehensively trolled. Zuck confirmed that Mueller's team has reached out to Facebook... and that they're cooperating. The 84-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch learned about ads, and Zuckerberg couldn't help but laugh. Senator Dick Durbin totally lawyered Zuckerberg with a question about his hotel to make a point about privacy. Senator Richard Blumenthal printed out quotes from all the other times Zuckerberg went on an "apology tour." Senator Ted Cruz seriously asked why Facebook took down a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day page, trying to get proof of a vast right-wing conspiracy. A simple Google search revealed that that question made no sense. Senator Brian Schatz asked Zuckerberg to explain the terms and conditions that nobody actually reads. Schatz asked Zuckerberg to explain the issues of privacy that people are worried about, and Zuckerberg played dumb. Zuckerberg kept humbly referring to the origin story of Facebook starting in his humble Harvard dorm room. "It started in my dorm room!" answers everything. Because nothing bad or irresponsible has every happened in a college dorm, eh?
Searched, seized, delivered. The "New York Times" reported... and the dude's lawyer confirmed... that the FBI has conducted a raid on both the office and the home of Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. You know, Michael Cohen of "paying off Stormy Daniels" fame. The "Times" reports, "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search 'completely inappropriate and unnecessary.' The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York." Now, the sitting president's lawyer being raided by the FBI may sound like a big deal, but that's only because IT'S A BIG DEAL. According to pundits and lawyers, this deal is big. With the way the law works, the FBI wouldn't have gone in without a search warrants, and a judge wouldn't have approved a search warrant if there wasn't probable cause to assume that a crime was committed. "Vanity Fair" adds that not only was Cohen's office raided, but his home was too. Oh, and that his home is in a hotel. "The paparazzi lingering outside the Loews Regency on Park Avenue, hoping to get a photo of U.F.C. fighter Conor McGregor, appeared not to notice the stream of FBI agents who entered the New York hotel early Monday morning, as they made their way up to the room where the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been staying," the magazine reports.  The schadenfreude is real. The jokes just keep on coming. As always, stay tuned for Trump's tweets.
Snoop Dogg appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Monday to promote his new gospel-inspired album, "Bible of Love," but it didn't take long for the conversation to shift to something a little less holy... weed. "Do you think they have pot in heaven?" asked Kimmel. "I know they do," said Snoop. Snoop Dogg and Kimmel started theorizing who would be on the Mount Rushmore of Weed, besides Snoop himself, of course, and the rapper said he would have to include the one person who has ever out-smoked him. Hint: it ain't Martha Stewart. "Willie Nelson is the only person who’s ever out-smoked Snoop Dogg," the rapper revealed. "I had to hit the timeout button." "Have you ever hit that button before?" asked Kimmel. "Never. Never," answered Snoop Dogg. Dang. Well, that is the least surprising thing I've heard all day.
So, did you see that Michael Cohen changed his LinkedIn profile?  Check it out...

Haha. I mentioned just now Mark Zuckerberg had a booster seat on his chair but there was something he was wearing that made him feel comfortable.

Hahahahaha. Seriously, when I saw this it reminded me of something...

Then it hit me...

Am I right? Okay, so, if you think you have bad luck know it could be worse...

What the hell? Hahahahaha. That picture just made me laugh. Parents, I hope your kids as smart as this kid who did this...

Okay, here's another sign from March for Our Lives...

If I had a TARDIS I would go to Paris, just real briefly, to see Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. But knowing my luck I'll get the too early...

See? So, I'm told that I can see some weird people at Walmart. I never believe it... then...

Toga? Here's another creative way Parkland students are trolling their new "safety" backpacks.

Maybe, just maybe, we're criminalizing the wrong things. Alright, it's Thursday. You know what that means...

Talk about finger food. On December 20th, 2015, Cathleen Martin of Atascadero, California visited her local Applebee's with her family and ordered a Chinese chicken salad. Midway through the meal, Martin saw something in the salad that didn't look like it came from a chicken. It was discovered to be a slice of a finger; the manager confirmed the slice was from an employee who injured himself while making it. In spite of Applebee's apologies and a retraining of its staff, the woman is suing for unspecified damages.

That's dumb. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Things Overheard At Mark Zuckerberg's Testimony
5. Mr. Zuckerberg, a magazine I recently opened came with a floppy disk offering me 30 free hours of something called America On-Line. Is that the same as Facebook?
4. Now, Mr. Zuckerberg, is the Constitution a "face book"?
3. Ooh, they have the Internet on computers now.
2. Mr. Zuckerberg, how do they cook the food so darn quick in those little cooking videos?
And the number one thing overheard at Zuckerberg's testimony was...
1. Mr. Zuckerberg, if I "like" stepmom porn on 11/23 on Twitter can everyone also see that on Facebook?

I don't get it. Can someone explain? Hahaha. Okay, so, you know I live in Florida, right? Well, there are things here in Florida that happen no where else in the universe. This one though is slightly different...

There are seriously people out there committed to cyberbullying the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived a mass shooting, and they're not just hosts on Fox News. The teens, however, are maintaining are maintaining their senses of humor, and are not afraid to call out trolls for trollery. A group of Douglas students, lead by vlogger Alexandra Robb, pulled a Jimmy Kimmel and read out some of the hateful tweets they've received, and they are nasty. You have to laugh, or else you'll cry. The teens impress me more and more every day with their ability not to stay in the fetal position all day. Check out the video here... But finish the rest of the Phile first.

The 79th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Abby will be the guest on the Phile in a few weeks.

I am still trying to get Shania on the Phile. Come on, Shania. And now for some Batman...

Phact 1: The backgrounds of "Batman: The Animated Series" were drawn on black paper instead of white to show a darker tone.

Phact 2. There was a planned sequel to the 1997 Batman & Robin, with radio talk show host Howard Stern considered to play Scarecrow.

Phact 3. Batman creator Bob Kane said in a "Cinescape" interview that of all the actors to have played Batman up to that point (before the series was rebooted in 2005), he felt Val Kilmer had given the best interpretation.

Phact 4. In 2008, the Mayor of Batman, Turkey, wanted to sue Warner Brothers and Nolan for using the city’s name without permission.

Phact 5. In Batman Begins, Christian Bale suffered from crippling headaches and severe claustrophobia due to the original Batsuit. Later, a more flexible Batsuit was constructed from 200 pieces of fiber glass, rubber, and nylon, so Bale could have more mobility.

Mitzi Shore 
July 25th, 1930 — April 11th, 2018
You’d think someone who ran a comedy store could come up with a better name for her daughter than Sandy.

Today's guest is is an actor and voice actor best known for his voice role as the DC Comics character Batman on the 1990s Warner Bros. television series "Batman: The Animated Series." It's so cool to have him here. Please welcome to the Phile... Kevin Conroy.

Me: Hey, Kevin, welcome to the Phile, It's so cool to have you here. How are you?

Kevin: I'm okay, Jason, it's good to talk to you.

Me: Kevin, you have been voicing Batman in the animated shows for twenty-five years, which I think is the longest anyone has ever plated that role. Did you think when you took on the role back then you would be doing it for so long?

Kevin: No. It was a totally unexpected to go on. When you book a job as an actor you never know, you only book that job. When I first booked it it may have only been 12 episodes then they buy 12 more episodes then they might by 20 episodes. It's always bought in increments like that. That was "Batman: The Animated Series" back in '91, when we started recording it. It started recording in '92. So all I was guaranteed was the order it's placed and then it was constantly renewed. Then "Batman: The Animated Series" turned into "Batman and Robin," and that turned into "Batman Beyond," and that turned into "The Justice League," then it turned into the Arkham games, then the direct to video movies. I mean it just snowballed and I think the reason it snowballed was the original production team of Bruce Timm, Bruce Deany, Alan Burnett, Eric Radomski...

Me: I never watched the show when it first aired but I did get the first few box sets and when my son was little we used to watch it together. It was his first foray into the Batman world which he loves so much. The show didn't seem like a kids show, did it? It was much darker than that.

Kevin: You're right. They had such high quality ambitions. They had this vision of animation not as something just for children. They saw it as an art form for everybody. The show was originally on in prime time so it was never done as a kid's show. They never wrote down to the audience. They always wrote to the audience as if they were adults. It was always done as a real art show. A lot of people don't realize they spent twice as much a half hour as previously spent on animation.

Me: The show is as popular today as it was back then... why do you think that is, Kevin?

Kevin: The art work was very lush, it was a full symphony score, they were big casts of eight to ten people, they were really interesting complicated scripts, and it was all hand painted animation. That kind of money isn't spent anymore. You see it when you see the shows now.

Me: You do a lot of comic conventions I think... I think you were at MegaCon here in Orlando last year sometime. Do you like doing those conventions?

Kevin: I love doing comic cons because I get to meet the audience. When you're a voice actor you're in a booth and you never get the interaction with the crowd.

Me: Did you start out doing voice acting, Kevin, or did you do "regular" acting first?

Kevin: I got my acting start on the New York stage. I trained at Julliard and did a lot of Broadway and Off-Broadway so half the reason I became an actor is because of the interaction with the audience. In a voice acting situation I never get that.

Me: When you meet the fans what do they say? I heard people say that you're their favorite Batman, which must be cool for you.

Kevin: The stories I hear from people is having grown-up on the show and now sharing it with their kids, like you did, and having it be just as an experience now 25 years later and get their kids excited about it now it' really so gratifying for me.

Me: Do you ever go back and watch the older episodes and think that the voice has changed over time or is still the same as it was back then?

Kevin: It's interesting, people have asked me that a lot, how it evolved over 25 years. For me the trick has been, and I may be better at it than some of the other actors because my background, the trick has been to be consistent, and keep him consistent. The thing about voice acting is I think you can hear lies much faster than you can see them. You can tell when someone is lying to you in their voice, you can hear it. If I wasn't being completely honest with the character the audience would nail me in a second. It's not the kind of voice you can phone in. I really have to invest myself in it, to breathe in it, you have to live through it. For me the trick has always been to keep him fresh. In the theater I did eight shows a week and every night has to be the first time because every time the audience walks in it's the first time they are seeing it. I did "Deathtrap" for a year on Broadway and even thought it might've been my 300th performance but it's the first performance for the audience. You always have to make each performance fresh and it's a real challenge over time, That's been the challenge with Batman, keeping it grounded to reality. Keeping yet character real.

Me: So, what's the secret or trick on doing that voice, Kevin? I joked before when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman and my son said he does a great Batman, with his voice, and I said anyone can do a Batman voice. Hahaha. All you have to do is just sound gruff.

Kevin: The thing for me is the voice is not just a gruff, husky voice the voice comes out of the tragedy of his childhood, witnessing the death of his parents. That so transformed him that is descended him to this very dark somber place. That's where the voice comes from. You gotta go there, you gotta go there emotionally each time.

Me: So, how did you get the role of Batman in the first place, Kevin? Did you have to audition? 

Kevin: That's where what's ironic. What's really ironic about the situation I am the luckiest man in the world because Batman was the first animated role I ever auditioned for. I have never been in an animation studio before. I did theater, I did television, I did film, I've done voice overs in commercials, but I've never done animation. My commercial voice over agent said, "Go over to Warner Bros., they are putting together a new show about Batman, give it a try." I said, "New show? Batman's been around forever." "No, it's never been an animated show." I didn't know it's never been an animated show, so when I walked in I was a complexly clean slate, I had no apprehensions, I had no nervousness, because I didn't know who Bruce Timm was. I didn't know who Andrea Romano was, I didn't know I was meeting some of the most talented people in the business. I was just meeting a bunch of strangers. They asked me what I knew about Batman and I said I know the Adam West show from the 60s, and I grew up on it. Bruce Timm said, "Nooo! We love Adam but that's not what we're doing. Erase your memory, that's not it at all!" He informed me that this is really a film noir, dark, tragic character. He's lost his parents, he's avenging their deaths, he's living in the shadows, he's a duel character. I was thinking they're telling the Hamlet story, I was putting it into reference what I knew from Hamlet, the Greeks, the Shakespeare characters I played. Bruce said, "No one had made that analogy before, give it a shot." So, we just improvised in the booth. People always ask me how to get into animation and I always say not the way I did. It's just not the way it happened. It was just a flukey situation where I happened to have the kind of theatrical background that was perfect foe the character they were casting. They auditioned over 700 people for the role. It's not like others couldn't do it, they could, it just they hadn't made the right choices in the audition. I just happened to make the right choices that day. So, I'm a very lucky guy.

Me: So, everyone I'm sure knows that the Joker is played by Mark Hamill... what is it like working with him?

Kevin: Isn't he amazing? He's so talented, I wish your readers can see into the booth. Everything you hear, all that insanity, all that bipolar emotional bouncing around he lives it in the booth. It's scary to be in there with him. He devours the microphone, it's so wonderful to watch him and he's such a generous actor. He gives me so much to react to and I love giving it back feeding him. We had such a great rapport working together and mutual respect between us. We just keep saying he makes my Batman and I make his Joker, we sort of define each others characters.

Me: Cool! So, what is it like working in the booth, Kevin?

Kevin: A lot of people don't understand we do the voices first. We are the first stage of the process so we get the scripts raw and we get to act them in a booth together so it's like doing a radio play. We get to react to the other actors, we get to feed each other, and they're wild recording sessions because there's a bunch of actors in a room together behaving like children. Of course a lot of crazy nutty stuff happens but that's good because it feeds us. So, unexpected things would happen. Unexpected line readings and we might burst out laughing in a very tense scene which seems ridiculous, but it's the reason it works. Then they take those recording and send them off to the artists and the artists paint to our voices in the recordings. Then it comes back six months later and there's a process called ADR, when you sync up the visual with the audio, and match the mouths with the recordings.

Me: Do you ever come across people that think it's easy to voice a character for animation?

Kevin: There's a big misconception out there that it's just making funny voices. It's creating an entire character but only being able to use the voice. It's a more delicate line than people think. Because now it's very popular to use TV actors and film actors and all kind of actors for recording, to get stars in there. It's called "stunt casting." You get a film star in there and now you have a name associated with a product and it sells it better. You have people in this bookings now who have never done recording before. I've seen some people really be wonderful at it, and I've seen some people fall on their faces. They just can't get it because it's a delicate line. You don't want to over act because it sounds too cartoony, and you don't want to under act which a lot of what film actors do, they just mumble, and it sounds dead with not a lot going on. So, it's a delicate kind of balance between goosing it enough because all you have is your voice, keeping it real so that it doesn't sound cartoony. The thing is we're creating an entire person, an entire persona, a believable persona, with all those colors to the character. We are not just doing a funny voice, or making a trance sound. I have people come up to me at cons all the time and say, "look at me do you." They're do a very convincing Batman, an imitation of me doing Batman, but they wouldn't be able to do it in Mask of the Phantasm, they wouldn't be able to do it in The Killing Joke.

Me: True. Okay, so, out of all the Batman stuff you have done do you have a favorite scene?

Kevin: Yes, it's in Mask of the Phantasm. Bruce Wayne is at his parents grave because he's finally fallen in love with Andrea Beaumont and he realizes what life has to offer and what life is really about. He has fallen in love and he wants to have a normal life, and in order to do that he has to be released from his vow that he made to his parents to avenge their deaths, to be this vigilante. He has this very emotional scene at their grave alone where he's pleading with them to release him. He breaks down and it's a completely emotional break down and at his most vulnerable, most naked emotionally, a HUGE flock of bats come screeching out of the earth snd he realizes he can't escape his destiny.  It's his destiny crawling him back down into the earth. He knows he can't have a normal life. I love the scene and we recorded it a number of times and Andrew kept pushing me to get more emotions and more raw where it go to the point of all if us being happy the way to came out.

Me: I have never seen Mask of the Phantasm. I kinda want to watch it now. I'm a huge Batman fan, Kevin, from the 60s "Batman" TV show to the Michael Keaton movies and comic books. Why do you think Batman is still a very popular character after all these years?

Kevin: There's a wonderful philosopher and sociologist named Joseph Campbell and he wrote a book called "The Hero With a Thousand Faces," they did a series on him on PBS which was very popular. What he did was he searched all through history from the Greeks to the Romans to the Egyptians to American Indians to the Chinese, and more and he found that they were certain stories that are universal regardless of when and where they happened in time. Each culture tells the same story over and over again. It's like this universal subconscious that each culture taps into so he called it the hero with a thousand faces. What it is is the arc of this hero who's challenged by life, he's burned by fire, he's transformed like a phoenix, rising from the fire as a new figure and he would use this new figure to save his people. It happened over and over again through history. To me it's like Orestes. The Greeks told these great classical stories to teach their young people the difference between right and wrong. That's all what the great myths were, all those mythological characters... they're morality stories. Our morality stories in our culture are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman... they're our Orestes and Achilles. with Batman, the reason he's so transcendent because he is our version, That hero who is charred by fire, is resurrected out of it as a new figure and avenges evil. He fights evil to help his people. It's a story that's been told over and over again and he's such a great embodiment of it in our culture, the reason he's been so popular so long.

Me: Kevin, we mentioned comic cons before, but what is your favorite thing about doing them? 

Kevin: The thing I love about doing cons actually is doing panel discussions. Each comic con has at least one or two panel discussions and they get anything from 2000 to 3000 people in these rooms and they sell these things out. You get to just talk about the process of creating the character and what the character means to people. The stories I hear from people are so amazing. I'm just the voice of the character, but they invest in me every quality of the character. It's like they say I meant so much to them growing up, I helped them through such a difficult childhood. I'm like wait a minute, Batman helped you through a difficult childhood? I'm just the voice. The stories are what got you through, I always hear these amazing stories of people having challenging lives. Especially a lot of kids have very hard lives and they come from challenging family situations and Batman is a safe place. He's a place that teaches a lot of young people the difference between right and wrong and gives them hope for the future. Someone came up to me at the Chicago Comic Con and said, "Everyone I grew up with on the southside of Chicago is either in jail or dead. I got out because you taught me the difference between right and wrong." I said, "Wait a minute. I'm sure your mother is the one who taught you the difference between night and wrong and Batman was just a good escape for you." She said, "No, your voice. I always wanted to hold you and thank you." She just wanted to be hugged. I thought wow, this woman came out of such a difficult childhood, and this animated character was this life raft for her. That's a very humbling thing to be a part of.

Me: I totally agree. That's crazy! Kevin, thanks for being here on the Phile. I hope this was fun, and I hope you'll come back here again soon. Take care.

Kevin: Thanks, Jason, I wish you a pleasant day.

That about dies it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Kevin for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Monday with young musician Jacob Cade. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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