National Press Club

‘Hello D.C.!’ Voice of ‘Yakko Warner’ entertains Press Club

August 4, 2013 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver |

Daytime Emmy Award-winning voice actor Rob Paulsen told the National Press Club Aug. 1 that “with all due respect to Lou Gehrig, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

“I was very fortunate. I think you are looking at a lottery winner,” Paulsen said. “I get paid to do things that used to get me in trouble in the seventh grade.”

Paulsen entered the room with a Loud “Hello D.C.!” in the voice of Yakko Warner and the enthusiastic crowd went wild. Yakko is a character on Animaniacs, the show that changed Paulsen’s life, he said.

“If (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turtles changed my career, and it certainly took off,” he said, then Animaniacs, "changed my life."

“Nothing fit better in my wheelhouse than Animaniacs," he said.

Paulsen's breakout role was as Raphael in the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is currently voicing Donatello for the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Paulsen won the Daytime Emmy for Pinky from Pinky and the Brain.

Paulsen quit the University of Michigan and went to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of acting. He made commercials and had bit parts in episodic television. He soon figured out that “there were a million average-looking white guys with [Screen Actors Guild] cards in L.A.” When his agent asked him if he was interested in voice acting, he said he jumped at the chance.

“I remember when my son was coming along and my wife said, ‘Let me get this straight, you are going to audition for Hill Street Blues junkie father with 50 other guys, but you could go do Smurfs in the morning and Johnny Quest in the afternoon and get paid and get residuals,’” Paulsen told the audience. “It was the best decision I made. “

The process for voice acting is the same as for acting in front of the camera, Paulsen said.

“Acting is acting,” Paulsen said. “It just doesn’t matter if you fit the suit.”

The freedom of not fitting a specific physical expectation has allowed Paulsen to suggest different voices for characters than what the producers were originally envisioning. Sometimes that has worked out and other times, he hasn’t gotten that job, but got another job at another time because a producer remembered that voice, he said.

Doing public appearances like the event at the National Press Club is one of the perks for Paulsen, who is known for his voices but not by his appearance. The people in the audience, he said, “love to hear the funny voices” and immediately launched into the voices of various characters.

One of the rewarding aspects of Paulsen’s job is that he gets to go to hospitals to visit with sick children and their parents.

“You can’t imagine the joy that you see on the kids’ face[s] but even more on the parents,” Paulsen said.