Monday, August 18, 2008

A Brief Clowning Interlude

[lotta filler lately]

I'm up for a little frivolity. I'm watching (by which I mean hearing and glimpsing between beers and picking, and, reluctantly, sniffing up the usual online pissing posts) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai on the on-demand dealie my cable service offers. People looked young and sort of funny in 1984, a bit scarecrow-like with thin bodies and too-big clothes and hair. Peter Weller looked like a stiff in his upturned collars, and he'd go on to do RoboCop later in the decade, where his immoble jaw was a feature not a bug, and then fade from leading roles anywhere. John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd remain, so far as I know, first-rate clowns, which I mean in the most complimentary way. They recognize the comedy that comes out of exaggerating your emotions on camera, and they can't keep it out of their role. I not only respect that, I can hardly trust anyone that didn't see the humor in the effort.

I love watching the careers of bit actors. I'm half-watching the flick, and I think, Holy crap, is that the Kurgan? Oh my god, it is!

Clancy Brown is an imposing giant of a man, and Buckaroo Banzai has him cast as a sort of affable, gently-spoken southern fella, and it's convincing. I mean, he's not glowering or threatening at all, he doesn't take up too much space, and I take it all to mean the dude can actually act. Either way, whether he's a naturally menacing or a naturally comforting presence, I'm liking the guy. I think his last live role was as a guard in the Shawshank Redemption. He must have already been typecast by then, as a great big badass, and it's funny that he did, because it's not like Hollywood has an issue with tall people, and in his still shots, he looks about as threatening as Al Gore. It's a kind of magic. Or something.

Clancy Brown went on to do voice acting, and looking at his IMDB bio, he has, like most voice actors, shown up in almost every animated production you can think of. Notably, Clancy Brown has been the voice of Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob Squarepants for the last ten years or so.

Dig it: the Kurgan is also the skinflint proprietor of the Krusty Krab.

This knowledge warms my heart. It's like there's some cosmic connection of the arts or something. As a character, the big, sword-wielding, skull-wearing maniac was evil, but he wasn't a complicated evil, nor quite a humorless one, and the writers and casting directors realized he needed some good lines. Somehow, there's a connection between that goofy movie and the only cartoon I can giggle at with my children. Clancy Brown is a clown too. You'd have to be to put on skeleton-shaped underwear and wave a broadsword around, and how can you voice Mr. Krabs with no joy in your soul? I am happy to report that the universe is once again in tune.


twiffer said...

i think he's also lex luthor, on justice league. did an episode of "enterprise" too.

as far as being typecast, it's the voice, not his size. he's got a big, booming baritone, which, by hollywood standards, is too deep to be a good guy voice, especially with a white actor. there is a bit more leeway with black actors, but look at james earl jones, and he looks about as threatening and evil as a fluffy kitten. yet he is the voice of darth vader, and thus nigh as evil as you can get.

it's a conspiracy on the behalf of tenors, to make them feel better about their masculinity. [grin]

Keifus said...

Great, now I'm trying to think of deep-voiced good guys (I got Kojak and Chef so far), but can't get James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom out of my head.

twiffer said...

heh. forgot about the whole "evil snake wizard" thing. still, the only scary look about him in that role is the bulgy eyes. and the snake arrows.

Keifus said...

So I'm half-watching The Lord of the Rings on a marathon schedule yesterday. (It's almost enough to get me smoking weed--that flick would only be improved. It sure used to help Star Wars.) Anyway, it went pretty far toward verifying your theory. Sure, Ian McKellan can still get some breathy old-man intonation going, but he's set against Christopher Lee, who is just awesome at half an ocatave lower.

twiffer said...

i think brits get a bit of a pass too (think patrick stewart...ever been a bad guy? other than ahab?). mckellan gets a double pass for being flamboyantly gay. but hey, he was magneto and richard the third too.

of course, the only reason i think about this stuff is because i'm a baritone as well, and far more comfortable in the lower register.