It’s a tale as old as time: An “average-looking kid” from Michigan dreams of being a rock ’n’ roll god, maybe a movie star. He tries his luck in LA, finds that there are “a zillion others” just like him, and instead becomes … an Animaniac?
Well, anyway, that’s how life played out for voice actor Rob Paulsen, who tripped into the wacky world of Warner Brothers cartoons while trying to make ends meet in Hollywood some 40 years ago.
“At that point, I just wanted to work,” the 62-year-old tells The Post. So when the opportunity came to read for the “G.I. Joe” animated miniseries, he said, “Hell, yeah. I love cartoons. I’ve been creating voices my entire life.”
That’s even truer today. Paulsen got that part, then another — and ultimately wound up voicing some of the most iconic cartoon characters of the 80s and 90s, including Raphael on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Pinky on “Pinky and the Brain,” and Yakko on “Animaniacs” — which showrunner Steven Spielberg (or “Steven frickin’ Spielberg,” as Paulsen admiringly calls him) is currently planning to reboot.
Paulsen will reprise the last two characters at “Animaniacs Live!,” a live musical review running at Joe’s Pub this weekend. He’ll be joined by “Animaniacs” music man Randy Rogel, the guy to thank for the show’s famous tunes — and for ’90s kids learning their state capitals to the educational ditty “Wakko’s America.”
Excepting a throat cancer scare two years ago — he’s fine now, but “it was a bit disconcerting, as you can imagine” — voice acting has proven a pretty smooth path for the professional goof-off. And that’s especially the case now that he’s getting older.
After all, Paulsen points out, it’s the rare acting gig where “nobody cares what you look like.”
“Animaniacs Live!,” from $45. Through Sunday at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St.; 212-539-8778, AnimaniacsLive.com
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