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Comedy scene: Voice of Roger Rabbit, Charles Fleischer, unmasked on everything covid

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Howie Nave (right) with the voice of Roger Rabbit, Charles Fleischer.
Provided

Every time I have comedian, actor, musician, painter and the man of a 1,000 animated voices, Charles Fleischer, on my podcast, I’ll get comments from folks who work for Disney, Pixar and Skywalker Ranch in Marin County. He’s got a very eclectic following.

Most folks know Charles from the 1988 movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” where he voiced the lead character. He was so good in that flick that its director, Robert Zemeckis, asked Charles to voice several other characters in the film: Benny The Cab and the two sinister weasels, Greasy and Psycho. There’s even talk about a “Roger Rabbit” sequel.

Other animated movies he’s contributed his voice to include 2004’s “The Polar Express” (also directed by Zemeckis) as the voice of Elf General, 2011’s “Rango” as the voice of ‘Elbows’ and in “Tummy Trouble.” As an actor I just watched him a few nights ago in 2007’s “Zodiac” where he plays the creepy in-the-basement character of Bob Vaughn. Oh man, that was a good character.

In addition to 2010’s “Chain Letter” Charles was in “Back To The Future II” and one of my favs, “Gross Anatomy” (which starred Mathew Modine, Daphne Zuniga and Christine Lahti) where he played one of the college professors. Oh, and check him out in the apocalyptic 2013 thriller, “Dystopia.”

Of course, all movie projects as well as stand up gigs came to a screeching halt in March when all things pandemic were declared. When I called him he was at home working on more in-house projects like the one that has mini cameras out back following the migration habits of the squirrels that live at his place (and some that just visit). I asked if he had branched out to see who else he was casting for his home movie project.

“Squirrels, possums, spiders and this new mystery creature I don’t know what it is. It looks kinda like a spider but there’s no legs and it bounces all around spewing out some webby material,” he said.

I’ve seen some of his postings on social media. When I asked him if he’s done anything away from home getting out doing anything entertainment related he said, “Yeah, Howie. I’ve been out. To the supermarket.”

I walked into that one. Seriously though, when I asked what he was missing the most Charles didn’t mince words.

“I miss everything, Howie! But you know what? Because of this pandemic everybody’s now my equal. Before I couldn’t work in some clubs because no one would have me. I couldn’t work in any movies because no one would have me. Now everybody is in the same (bleep) situation. Now you know what it feels like to be me hahahahaha. Now nobody can do stand up. Welcome to my world, I’ve been preparing for it.”

When I first met Charles I wasn’t prepared to grasp how much more there was to the voice of the ‘Rabbit’ especially when it came to all things based in scientific research and things outside the realm of entertainment.

“I am unable to get outside of my work. It is intrinsically linked to all of my actions,” he told me.

Man, when you get him started on a topic he’s passionate about I found it an exercise in staying focused and keeping up. When Charles tried to explain to me the concept of the mathematical equation known as Moleeds (and its relation to all things numerical) I was worried my head would implode. Charles discovered an interesting relationship between the numbers 27 and 37, which affect everything (as he says) “from protons to neutrons to croutons.” This “blueprint for infinity” is called Moleeds.

As strange as it seems, Charles’ theories of all things molecular have found its way into his comedy which, as you can imagine is very abstract and that coupled with his use of different voices to emphasize his setups and punchlines makes for one wild but very original comedy show. He’s one of the few humans that challenges my mind which is a nice escape now living in a world that’s non-stop Covid related.

“A real pandemic is overblown by the nature of the ‘pan’ part, Howie. Pandemic as opposed to epidemic. Pandemic, pandimensional and panoramic.” My mind had to reboot for a couple of minutes (plus I needed more coffee).

We both share a common interest in all things galactic since Charles seems to spend much of his time in the cosmos and has more time now.

“I’m thinking the universe is either a dodecahedron or a cheeseburger and for me, that’s a win-win,” he said.

When he starts discussing all things galactic and his alternative theories on how the universe was created and what really happened my head (once again) considers imploding.

Going back to his stand up (when we had an audience), Charles would include the audience as part of his show and it doesn’t matter where you were seated either because you could be part of the show’s finale. That’s why we need an audience. It’s essential for any comedy show and when it’s okay to go back into clubs, or theaters it’s going to have a whole new ‘look’ to it.

“I think audience members should wear hazmat suits, maybe with a little amplifier so they can hear the laughter,” he said. “You know Howie, I think they’ll probably bring back magicians before they bring back stand up as it’s easier to make an audience disappear every night.”

One advantage Charles has over many comedic colleagues is that when movies do start up again, especially the animated ones, Charles doesn’t need to necessarily be around other people on the set. He can voice whatever character he’s doing in a studio sound booth as the cast is dubbed in later after being recorded individually.

When I asked if he had done a Zoom show he said he had done some Zooming

“I did Zoom shows for a bridal shower and for a Passover seder.”

Fleischer reminded us that we’re fortunate to have the technology that we have even if it’s a substitution for the real thing.

“That’s why we have the internet and streaming, Howie. It’s the same as like if you can’t get regular sex you go for porno. You gotta take what’s available.”

I have to go reboot my mind again.


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