Fans packed the Hyatt International South to capacity for the “Pinky and the Brain” panel on Sunday at 7PM. Tech Ops informed the crowd that a few hundred people had to be turned away due to lack of seating, but the lucky attendees spent a laugh-filled hour with Pinky, Rob Paulsen, and the Brain, Maurice LaMarche. The comedic pair began the panel with a quick give-and-take in their famous-character voices:
Brain: “What’s the secret of comedy?”
Pinky: “Good timing. Narf!”
Banter followed about the contents and consequences of the liquid refreshment on the table, with LaMarche asking Paulsen if he needed a little something to drink, Paulsen replying, “Yes I do, and it starts with a V and it’s spelled o-d-k-a…a little sip-a-dee-doo-dah.” LaMarche said, “And then we’re going to go to those meetings—you to yours and mine to Megalomaniacs Anonymous.” Their initial repartee set the tone for the rest of the panel, with Pinky and the Brain continually popping into the conversation with one wisecrack followed so swiftly by another that the crowd was howling with laughter. Paulsen and LaMarche seemed to inspire each other to greater comedic heights and were clearly used to working together as a team.
They noted how thrilled they were to be here and how thrilled they were to see such a love for Pinky and the Brain, a show that hasn’t been on the air for twenty years. “Yet look at you!” LaMarche said. “Look at us. We’re old! But we can still do the voices.” Of course, they then used other voices from their wide repertoire, including that of Paulsen’s Yakko from Animaniacs. LaMarche, using Brain’s voice, promptly said, “Let me ask you something, Wacko, if I may as a scientific genius… It’s the first question of the night. What the @*!# kind of animal are you?” When the laughter died down, Paulsen noted that the thing that people seem to love the most is when they hear their favorite cartoon characters swearing.
The two quickly opened the panel up to questions from the floor, saying they felt blessed to have such an enormous fan base, from young kids to people in their seventies, and wanted to answer everyone’s questions. Unsurprisingly, they were promptly asked how Brain would have taken over the world, if he had succeeded. “Go ahead, Brain,” Pinky (Paulsen) said, “in 35 words or less.” Brain (LaMarche) replied, “Through love. And humor. Yes. Uncle Brain’s been drinking again.” LaMarche said that if he could figure out how Brain would have taken over the world, he would have done it, instead of being a voice-over actor. The hook to the show, he noted, was that Brain couldn’t succeed. Each night, he had to start all over again. In LaMarche’s view, “The whole message of the show was, and continues to be, don’t give up on your dream. We all must go back to the lab every night…[voice shifting into Brain’s]…and prepare for tomorrow. The same thing we do every day, my friends—try to take over our world!”
When asked how they came up with jokes on the show, both panelists spoke of the world-class writers and the talent of Steven Spielberg. Apparently, Pinky and the Brain was never a hit with merchandise, like some other cartoons of the time. The show was all about the art, and it never condescended to the audience. Spielberg wanted to preserve the ‘50s style of cartooning. He spared no expense on production, including using the same piano and recording room as the original Looney Tunes. The music budget alone was staggering, but it made a big difference in the end result.
Would they ever redo Pinky and the Brain? In a heartbeat. LaMarche spoke of the show as being a natural for the big screen. “Can you imagine,” he said, “Pinky and the Brain going off on an awesome adventure to find the infindibulator battery that will work, and along the way they encounter every celebrity, Muppet Movie style… It would make a fantastic feature film.” The cheers that erupted were proof of the audience’s approval.
The next questioner wanted to know what techniques they used to get into a role. LaMarche likes to marry the visual they give him of the character. He absorbs it and tries to crawl up into it like a costume.
Brain: “I said a costume, not an animal.”
Pinky: “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”
Of course, LaMarche explained that he tries to inhabit the character. To him, Brain looked like Orson Welles. When he tried that voice, it was perfect.
To the crowd’s delight, these two talented men did several other voices during the panel, from Bullwinkle to Jack Nicholson. “Watch his face,” Paulsen said, “when he does Peter Faulk.” LaMarche promptly skewed his features into a mirror image of that actor and said in Faulk’s voice, “As you wish.”
Of their many character voices, Paulsen’s favorite was Pinky. After all, it won him an Emmy. His most underrated was Mighty Max. For LaMarche, it was “absolutely the Brain.” Paulsen and LaMarche worked closely together on Pinky and the Brain. They could always see each other while doing the voice acting, which they felt helped them to up their game. They were definitely at the top of their game during the panel, and the audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. Pinky then said it all—“Narf!”