‘Animaniacs’ Voice Actor Rob Paulsen Shares His Story On Recovering From Throat Cancer
Voice actor Rob Paulsen discusses the return of ‘Animaniacs’ and being reunited with his good friend Tress MacNeille. He shares his personal story of being diagnosed with stage three throat cancer and how a woman he met at a drugstore helped him find joyfulness in his own life.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.
Talented voice actor Rob Paulsen has been making us laugh for over 40 years. Playing over 250 different animated characters and receiving a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer for his role as Pinky in Pinky and the Brain. Rob’s career not only continues to grow but he has a new perspective of how he found joy in his life after being diagnosed with stage three throat cancer.
He recently returned as the voice of Yakko Warner, Pinky, and Dr. Scratchansniff in Steven Spielberg’s Animaniacs available Friday November 20th on Hulu.
“The fact that they are coming back on Hulu with the king of Hollywood. Again! Chelsie to be able to do this with the same group of actors who are my dearest friends. I’ve known some of them longer than anybody in my life except for my siblings. We celebrated each other’s weddings, we’ve been to each other’s parents’ funerals. We know each other’s children. We’re literally family. So to be able to do something that generated so much joy and excitement 25 years ago and is now doing the same thing with a much larger audience with Mr. Spielberg again. It’s incredibly mind blowing.”
What a great feeling to be able to be reunited with some of your old friends. You all are working together and doing something you love.
“I recall my dear sweet sister Tress MacNeille who plays Dot. Her IMDb is like the Manhattan phone book. Remarkable background and remarkable actress. I remember an episode of Animaniacs during the first go around in which we had too many actors for the microphone so we had actors playing musical chairs. We’d sit behind each other. When it was time for Rob’s lines I would go up and switch with somebody else. But it was a who’s who in Hollywood. We even had celebrity talent as well. I remember saying to Tress whom I’d known by that time for 15 years and I took her hand and I sat next to her at every session I said, ‘honey take a picture of this because unless you’re on The Simpsons it does not get any better than this.’”
It doesn’t get any better and having the opportunity again to relive some of those best memories.
“You’ve got your best friends in the world all working with Steven Spielberg. Everybody’s winning Emmys. Everybody’s making a nice living. Everybody’s so joyful. We know how lucky we are. Take a picture of this, it does not get any better. Cut to the first recording session of the new Animaniacs about a year and a half ago. I sat next to Tress and I took her hand and I said, ‘honey do you remember..’ and she finished the sentence. She said, ‘when you said it doesn’t get any better.’ I said, ‘you remember that?’ She said, ‘of course I remember that.’”
What a cool moment. Even after all of these years those words made an impact on her life. It’s amazing that you all get to come back and create more episodes.
“Chelsie you know as well as all of us is that 2020 has really delivered a whole pile of nasty stinky lemons. To all of us. Those of us at Warner Brothers and Hulu are working on these shows and are in the privileged position of being able to make a big giant sweet vat of lemonade. To help people laugh, and smile, and blow off some steam.” Paulsen explains, “what a great time to release these shows.”
It’s the perfect time to release these shows. We all could use a good laugh. Especially now.
“We have this wonderful technology that wasn’t around when we first started doing Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. But that phrase we’re all in this together has never in my lifetime and I’ve been on this rock for 64 years. Never in my lifetime has that phrase been more relevant. For good and bad reasons. Covid, racial issues, and the economy. Over and over. It’s just beaten the daylights out of us. We both see our relatives struggles but we can also share joyful aspects with each other.”
That’s a great point. Not only can Rob bring joy to others through being a voice actor but he had to learn to find joy within himself when he was facing his own struggles. Four years ago Rob was diagnosed with stage three throat cancer. He had to undergo treatment and his cancer is now thankfully in remission. But his journey is something that will carry with him for the rest of his lifetime.
“When I was diagnosed I had noticed a lump on the left side of my neck and I’m a former athlete typical guy. If something isn’t hanging off or I’m bleeding profusely. I say oh well it could be cancer or it could also be a low grade infection. So let’s just say it’s that. I let it go for maybe three to four months until my normal physical in February of every year. So it was still there it was pretty prominent.” Paulsen explains, “no pain, no problem speaking, and no problem working. I said to the doctor, ‘what do you think about this?’ In five seconds Chelsie he just said, ‘not good…if this was an infection it would be soft but it’s not and you have no fever.’”
After receiving devastating news that the lump on his neck was going to make a big impact on his life. Rob was thankful that he had the best healthcare, family, and friends there for him who were ready to fight by his side.
“After several biopsies, and a little bit of waiting. It took about 10 days and it was diagnosed as stage three squamous cell carcinoma. Which meant the area that I discovered on my neck is the area to which the cancer has already spread. The primary tumor was in my throat and the base of my tongue…they said, ‘Mr. Paulsen we’re pretty sure we can cure you. We’re going to give you an 80 percent chance which is great odds. However before we do we almost have to kill you.’ They were right, the treatment for obvious reasons Chelsie is pretty brutal. Your mouth, your tongue, and your throat. But I had wonderful healthcare. My wife. My son. Everybody was all hands on deck.”
Even though Rob was facing some of the most challenging moments in his life he knew all he had to do was get through it.
“I had people who were ready to give me everything which begs the question. We’re here discussing my experience with cancer hopefully to help others. But that deep sense of empathy that I now have. What do people do when they don’t have world class healthcare? Or they don’t have a wonderful nice big bed to feel really crappy in. Or a loving family who can hold their hand while they are throwing up. Now when I drive around and I see folks living in tents under the overpass with difficult side effects for a while. If you’re lucky to get diagnosed and then you’re lucky enough to get treated but you don’t have a nice place to live and you’re on your own. Where do you go to feel like I did for six months? So I had nothing to which to be sad. I just had to get through it.”
Rob emphasizes that we all are going to leave this life a little bang up but it’s how we choose to be joyful.
“If I can’t cheez-its anymore because my tastebuds are fried and I need water 24 hours a day. I deal with it. If I can’t taste a steak. Well great that means I don’t have to drop 100 bucks on a really good steak anymore because I can’t taste it anyway. [laughs] You see my point. There are always great ways if you’re open to it and you choose to be joyful. You choose to look at how glorious your life is.”
Rob is now a spokesperson for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. He shares his journey with many others who are facing the same struggles and making it his mission to put smiles on other people’s faces. But having a positive mindset is not an easy skill to develop. When you were going through your treatment can you recall a time where someone lifted your spirits?
“What a great question, I’ve never been asked that before. Thank you..you’re right I was the one who was in the position of being cheered up..I was at the drugstore..I remembered a woman who was wearing a headscarf which is not atypical of many people who lose their hair due to chemotherapy. I did not. My chemotherapy was not that typical type of medicine. But this sweet woman could tell I guess because I was rail thin for me at 5’10 and 129 pounds. I was standing in line and kind of hunched over and she said, ‘excuse me’ and I said, ‘yes.’ She said, ‘are you undergoing cancer treatment?’ I said, ‘I am, how did you know that?’ She said, ‘I am.’ Her eyes were a little dark under here and she had lost her hair. But she had that empathy that I was talking about earlier that I had yet to develop because I was in the middle of my own stuff…she took it upon herself Chelsie to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘you’re gonna get through this.’ It was almost like I was being welcomed into a club that neither of us wanted to be a member of but we really had to help each other..we’re all in this together right?”
You’re right! This moment is the best way to explain that we’re all in this together. There are billions of people in the world and the ones that come into our life even if it’s for a brief moment can make the biggest impact on how we live.
Rob explains this moment in a book he wrote called Voice Lessons and how this experience had made a huge impact on him. Rob’s life is the true definition of paying it forward and we know his platform is helping people all around the world and bringing more joy into their life.
Thank you Rob for sharing your story with us because when we’re able to connect with each other we’re able to grow with each other.
“I think we all often find out how really strong and kind and tough we are when the rubber meets the road.”
For more life tips and laughs make sure you all follow along Rob’s journey on social media at IG @rob_paulsen, Twitter @yakkopinky, and TikTok @robpaulsen311.
Don’t miss the return of our favorite cartoon Animaniacs this Friday November 20th on Hulu.
Thank you Rob for coming on the House of Hallmark.
“Wonderful way to spend my afternoon.”
Watch the full interview here.
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Chelsie Overocker is a host for AfterBuzz TV. She grew up in Denver, Colorado and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence
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