How Hank Azaria created the voice of Moe during his Simpsons audition

Actor described being hired on the spot after improvising the character’s voice during casting

Louis Chilton
Thursday 18 June 2020 14:40 BST
Hank Azaria describes auditioning for The Simpsons

Hank Azaria has described creating the voice for Moe Szyslak midway through his audition for The Simpsons.

The actor voices many characters in the long-running cartoon, including Chief Wiggum, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Comic Book Guy, as well as Moe, the bartender who owns Moe’s Tavern.

Speaking on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Azaria described being cast in the series, back in the late 1980s.

“I was 22 or 23 years old,” he said. It was an audition like any other. I strolled in, and Matt Groening and the late, great Sam Simon were sitting there.”

“The first voice I auditioned was Moe, and I was doing a sort of a Pacino impression, a young, Dog Day Afternoon Al Pacino impression I thought might be good for it. And they were like, ‘can you make that gravelly?’ And so I made it gravelly. And they said, ‘cool – can you come record?’”

Azaria says that they then walked across the Fox production lot to record his lines immediately.

The animation star also revealed that he was not shown any art of the characters before coming up with the now-famous voices.

“They were very meticulous”, he said of the Simpsons creators. “I didn’t know then, because I had nothing to compare it to, but they were very painstaking about takes.”

While all of the voices of The Simpsons changed over time – Dan Castellaneta’s Homer, for instance, began as an impression of Walter Matthau before evolving into its current sound – Azaria’s voice for Moe has retained its distinctive “gravelly” quality throughout the series’ run.

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