What a shock to come home tonight and read from animation historian Jerry Beck that voice actor Joe Alaskey has died. He was only 63. That sinister cancer strikes again.
Joe sticks in my mind as Plucky Duck on Tiny Toon Adventures and a man who girded himself for the unenviable task of trying to duplicate Mel Blanc’s Warners characters and await fans’ inevitable comparisons.
Allow me to reprint an Associated Press story and photo from 1989, the year Alaskey was in a syndicated sitcom (I’ll avoid further adjectives) about a woman who got pregnant by an alien, and her daughter. I’d forgotten he was on the show until I ran across this wire story. And I didn’t know he did half the stuff mentioned below.
For Release Monday PMs, May 29
Impressionist Joe Alaskey Is Virtually Everybody on TV
By JERRY BUCK
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Once a week Joe Alaskey is Beano on “Out of This World,” but the rest of the time he's virtually everyone else on television.
He plays Donna Pescow's annoying brother, Beano Froelich, in the syndicated sitcom. He also appears daily on the syndicated game show “Couch Potatoes,” and you never know who he's going to be.
The versatile actor-writer-impressionist does voices of characters from Dr. Zorba on “Ben Casey” to Marlin Perkins of “Wild Kingdom” to Earl Hamner, the creator-narrator of “The Waltons.” Frequently, he's in costume and makeup on “Couch Potatoes,” or he may simply appear as himself, “The Neighbor.”
He was the voice of Yosemite Sam in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and is on the CBS cartoon show “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse.”
His personal favorite is Jackie Gleason. Alaskey hopes to appear as “The Great One” in a film biography.
“I've been impersonating Gleason for years,” he said. “I even look a lot like him. I only worked with him once. When the ‘lost episodes’ of ‘The Honeymooners’ were found Viacom hired me to loop his voice on some of the bad sound tracks. I had to do it as Gleason sounded in the 1950s.
“Gleason picked me from listening to me on tape,” Alaskey said, “I also appeared as Ralph Kramden in a ‘Honeymooners’ sketch on a Suzanne Somers special.”
As Beano Froelich on “Out of This World,” Alaskey is often the butt of the jokes.
“I'm in on the secret that her daughter, Evie, has special powers because her father is a space alien,” he said. “I'm the only other member of the cast who knows, so I'm in all the ploys to keep it a secret.
“I'm generally the brunt of Evie's magic. She'll turn me into a sheep dog or a 10-year-old kid. Or I may just stay his grouchy, spoiled self.”
Maureen Flannigan stars as Evie and Doug McClure plays the mayor.
Alaskey has lost 80 pounds since starting “Out of This World” in September 1987. The 6-foot-1 actor now weighs 255 pounds. “I'm still losing,” he said. “I'll be able to play big guys instead of big fat guys. I'll be more presentable as an actor and stand up comic.”
The situation comedy was the first show Alaskey auditioned for when he moved here from Boston. He had been a comedian-impressionist on a morning show on radio station WVBF and worked in Boston as a standup comic.
“I got to L.A. when Bill Scott was on a tour for the 25th anniversary of ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’,” he said. “He came to Boston and we did some sketches on the radio show. Bill's the voice of Bullwinkle. I did Boris Badenov and William Conrad, the announcer. Bill said I did the best version of the voices he had heard.
“He said if I came to Los Angeles he'd help me find work. He was true to his word. He not only found me work but even moved me into my apartment. Then before I knew it I was on David Letterman's show. That got me all kinds of offers from agents. Then I was an actor again.”
He recently starred in the movie “Lucky Stiff” and was the voice of Dr. Ziplock in another movie, “Martians!”
Alaskey is writing two one-man shows, one an exploration of human needs called “Q & A,” and one called “An Evening with Joe Alaskey.” He's also writing and drawing a cartoon book of palindromes, which are words that are spelled the same forward and backward. Examples: “Madam, I'm Adam” and “Sir, I'm Iris.”
Cartoon producer/writer Mark Evanier always has well-thought-out memorials to his colleagues who move on after their time on Earth. Click here to read what he had to say about Joe Alaskey.