John DiMaggio, the man behind the loutish robot Bender, gives EW Online an inside peek at Matt Groening's new animated series

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Futurama
Credit: Futurama ™ & © 1999 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.
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  • TV Show
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  • Fox
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”Simpsons” creator Matt Groening’s new animated series ”Futurama” (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.) is giving Fox a reason to yell ”Woo Hoo.” With impressively high ratings (it debuted at No. 6, with 19 million viewers) and glowing reviews (EW gave it an ”A”), ”Futurama” already has a captive audience. John DiMaggio, the voice of the obnoxious, alcohol-spewing robot Bender, tells EW Online that the comic timing onscreen reflects the actors’ off-camera humor. A former stand-up comedian from New Jersey, DiMaggio, 30, had bit parts in ”Chicago Hope,” the short-lived ”Common Law,” and dozens of prime-time commercials before scoring his ”Futurama” role last summer.

Bender is being called ”Futurama”’s Bart — the first breakout character of the show. What kind of pressure does that put on you?
People are always talking to me about how Bender’s the breakout character — ”Look out for the robot, blah blah blah” — and that’s really complimentary. But I look at it like this: Bender’s the go-to guy. When it comes to the jokes, he’s a slugger, but everyone else in the cast is just as funny. It’s just that my loudmouth character is, well, the loudest. I’m just excited about going into a Toys R Us one day with my nieces and nephews and pulling a string on a Bender doll and hearing my voice say, ”Up Yours.”

A bunch of comedians working together conjures up an image of clown school. Is that what it’s like?
Maurice LaMarche, who works for us once in a while, is the Brain from ”Pinky and the Brain,” and Billy West (the lead character, Fry) used to work on Howard Stern’s radio show. They do the funniest imitations of everybody. Maurice does a dead-on Orson Welles, and he’ll quote verbatim from this underground tape of Welles between takes of an English commercial: ”This is bull—-.” And Billy does imitations from his Stern days, like Marge Schott and Evil Jay Leno. That keeps us all laughing.

When ”The Simpsons” cast wanted raises people joked that voice casts have it easy. How hard is your job?
It’s an easy two-day week for us when things go smoothly, which they always do. For the production side it’s nightmarishly never ending. Matt Groening says it takes up to six months to make every episode. I mean, these guys have to fly stuff to Korea to have it animated there, and with our computer animation, it’s pretty unbelievable how much work goes into it beyond our voices.

Since you’re doing animation, nobody knows what you look like. What are you doing to get your face out there?
Hey, I don’t mind the anonymity. Besides, I’m out there — it’s pilot season. This May I have a TNT movie coming out (”Pirates of Silicon Valley”) with Noah Wyle where I play Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. I didn’t get to meet the rich guys, but hey, maybe after the movie comes out.

Futurama
type
  • TV Show
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genre
network
  • Fox

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