Rob Paulsen Offers More Than “Voice Lessons” in Autobiography

One of the greatest voice actors of modern times documents his career and his battle against throat cancer in an inspiring heart-felt autobiography

The life of a voice actor is often overlooked in the performing arts world. While there were some who became part of the zeitgeist in their time, the majority were just considered folks who couldn’t cut it in person. Today, we have a much better understanding of what these people do, as well as a higher appreciation for their skills thanks to growing up with them. As a kid, I prided myself on watching cartoons and distinguishing one actor could be the voice of so many others. One of those first voices I was able to decipher was from one person was Rob Paulsen, who I knew first as Raphael from “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (also my favorite character), and later figured out he was also in “Tiny Toons”, “Ducktales”, “Goof Troop”, and “Attack of The Killer Tomatoes”. Of course, Paulsen went on to do so many more characters, most famously Yakko and Pinky from “Animaniacs”, although my personal favorites was him Jim Carrey impersonation in every cartoon from the ’90s based on him, and Mighty Max from the show with the same name as the lead. If you look at his resume, it’s a kick in the nostalgia pants of iconic voices from when you grew up. That’s why it was an easy sell for me when I heard he wrote an autobiography, “Voice Lessons”. What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional the book would be, and how I would be a sobbing mess by the last page.

Co-written by Michael Fleeman, “Voice Lessons” covers the origins of Rob’s journey from musician living in Michigan, to moving to LA to pursue acting, to ultimately realizing his true calling was being a voice actor, and never turning back on that road. There are so many fun anecdotes along the way, like his time at Hanna-Barbera Studios, the explosive and unexpected success of being on TMNT, working with Jess Harnell, Tress Macneille and Maurice LaMarche on “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain”, and so much more. The book is filled with Rob’s trademark sense of humor, even in the most dire scenarios. One of the many enlightening things in the book was the critical moment in Rob’s life when he had to decide where the fork in the road would take him – stage and screen acting, or being a full-time voice actor. Clearly, we know what decision he made and how great it turned out for him, but knowing about the ride he took to make that choice was powerful.

Moreso, the book is about his battle against Stage 3 throat cancer, which he thankfully won after an arduous clash with it that nearly cost his life. Rob kept his diagnosis a secret for a very long time, but now the cat is out of the bag, and here he is passing on his strength to the readers. There were good days, bad days, but each day he kept pushing on. It’s a heartbreaking twist to go from all these hilarious stories to reading about him barely having the energy to eat or drink, let alone being able to do either of those while recovering from his treatments. I could relate to much of Rob’s tales, as I firsthand watched my dad struggle the same way during his fight against cancer. Not having the energy to move from his bed for days other than to go to the bathroom, collapsing face-first on the floor while trying to move, but slowly rebuilding his life to the “new normal”. It made me feel even closer to Rob, and recognizing the bravery of folks like him who didn’t give up and fought on in unwinnable circumstances.

I don’t think I made it more than 70 pages in before the first tears came, and they were far from the last. I also am an avid listener of “Talkin’ Toons”, Rob’s podcast on the Nerdist where he interviews prolific voice actors, so I had a smattering of an idea about his cancer. I can remember I was standing on the subway going from Queens into Manhattan on the crowded F train when I suddenly began fighting back tears when he mentioned it in passing on one of the first episodes I ever listened to. I had no idea, and couldn’t believe how scary that would be when your career is your voice. The book goes into so much more detail about what the process he went through just to get on the mend, to where Rob is now with the “Animaniacs” reboot coming soon. It’s not just the ups and downs of Rob that will make you weepy, it’s also his interactions with his fans and people around him, like Chad Gozzola, and the Ninja Turtles jacket that gets me teary just writing this sentence.

It’s unfair of Rob to title his book “Voice Lessons” when it’s really all about life lessons. If you were looking for pro-tips on how to boost your career as a voice actor, you may be reading the wrong book. At the end of the day, the biggest career advice you will get is to be a good person in every aspect of your life. I applaud the humility and vulnerability of Mr. Paulsen in his autobiography, and I hope he knows how powerful this book truly is. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be broken down then lifted back up, and you will walk away feeling inspired and ready to take on the world. “Voice Lessons” is an unexpected inspiring ride through the life of one of the best living voice actors out there, and I highly recommend you buckle up and take the journey with Rob Paulsen.

You can order “Voice Lessons” by Rob Paulsen and Michael Fleeman by using our Amazon Affiliate Link – it costs you nothing extra and gives us a little kick to keep making content. You can order it from Amazon using this link here!

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