Wednesday, May 7, 2014

INTERVIEW: Voice Actor Greg Berg on his days pre Muppet Babies



Voice Actor Greg Berg (The Muppet Babies, The Simpsons, American Dad) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his early days in Akron, Ohio, his love of radio and meeting Jim Henson and Frank Oz

TV STORE ONLINE:  You were born and raised in Akron, Ohio?

BERG:  Well, actually I was born in Brooklyn, New York.   My parents moved us first to Cleveland then to the Akron area later on.

TV STORE ONLINE:
   I know you're a fan of radio....The great radio disc jockeys all got their start in the Akron/Cleveland area...

BERG:  That's right.  Alan Freed got his start in  Akron before moving onto Cleveland.  Growing up I was a paperboy and I ran into a disc jockey one day.  I was delivering papers in the area and he invited into the station to check it out and I got to watch him do all of these different voices on the air.  That gave me an interest in radio, and  from there I started studying it in high school. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was that the catalyst for you eventually joining The Rick Dees Show in Los Angeles years later?

BERG:  That was strange how it worked out.   I think it was destiny or just a matter of luck.  I loved radio so much that  I was working at three different radio stations in the Akron area.    One day, I decided that I wanted to do more and I had to decide whether I should go to New York or Los Angeles.  I decided on Los Angeles because that was where all of the animation was done.    So I went out to Los Angeles and started working at The Comedy Store and I got into an improv group and out of that I decided that I wanted to work in film and television, so I started studying with Harvey Lembeck, who had trained people like Robin Williams and John Ritter.   I could do all of these different voices and I wanted to get into animation so I started scouting all of these different workshops that you could take part in so that you could get into animation.  It was through one of those that I first met Rick Dees.   He told me that he was going on the air in Los Angeles and that he was looking for someone who could do a bunch of funny voices.  So I laid a couple different voices on him, and a couple days later he invited me to do voices on his radio show.

TV STORE ONLINE:    All of that must have tied itself into you getting the job of voicing some of the characters on The Muppet Babies [1984-91] animated series didn't it?    Were you influenced by someone like Mel Blanc for example?

BERG:  Of course.  I listened to a lot of comedy albums when I was working at the radio stations in Akron.  I had the album The Golden Age Of Comedy and I would listen to that over and over.    I used to like to listen to Mel and what he did with all of his voices on The Jack Benny radio show.    I never wanted to have my own radio show.  I never wanted to pursue that.  I liked the players on the shows in the Old Time Radio era. I wanted to be one of those guys.  When I moved to Los Angeles I was lucky to meet some of those guys and that was what sent me on my way.

The Muppet Babies started in 1984.  Prior to that, I went and saw THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN [1984].  In that film we see a scene where The Muppets are children.   Jim Henson was involved with the creation of the animated series.  All of the original Muppet puppeteers were from New York City and they really wanted to hire actors that were in Los Angeles because they didn't want to bring all of these actors out to Los Angeles from New York every week for work.   So I went in to audition and got the job and I worked on The Muppet Babies for nine years.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have much interaction with either Jim Henson or Frank Oz?

BERG:  I met Jim Henson at the time that I was first hired.   He came in to watch us record one of the episodes early on and then I met him again at a party that was thrown to celebrate the success of the show.   Coincidentally, I met Frank Oz before I started working on the show.  I was out running errands one day in Beverly Hills and I was walking down the street and I saw a man that I thought looked like Frank Oz.  I said, "Frank Oz?"  He said, "Hey, Yes."  I went on to tell him how I was just about to start work on the show voicing "Baby Fozzie" and "Baby Scooter".   I just told him that it was a pleasure to meet him and how much of an honor it was for me to be carrying on the legacy of the characters that he created.