Interview with Tim Talbot
Harry Moleman has appeared in every season – including the upcoming Devil’s Playhouse – of Telltale’s Sam & Max games. He’s voiced by Tim Talbot, so it was only suitable that someone got round to interviewing this voice acting great.
I wouldn’t be as rude to suggest that Tim is a little crazy, but… well… form your own opinion and sound off in the comments below the article. Be kind though, or his ‘agent’ Reggie Van Temple-Smythe the IIIrd may be on to you.
Hey Tim. To start, please could you explain who you are and what you do.
On the advice of my esteemed ‘Director of Medication’; Mr. Gerald, I have been counselled to not answer this question; on the grounds that it may incriminate me. Nah-just kiddin- I’m a reformed Sea-Sprite and Wood-kern, Elfin man-child with a buttload of neuroses, just like the rest of my great nation. I mean, uh, I’m a Voice Over Artist and Actor from San Francisco, California, and always game for a spirited discussion on the relative merits of Wittgenstein’s outlook on life. I’m a real hoot ya might say.
How did you start your career?
I was always goofing off with the wisecracks and the sea-sprite stuff as a kid, yeah? Then I became a waiter and a Cook, after being a painter, gardener, bike messenger, cashier, barista, gas station attendant, etc. But I always wanted to be a performer/actor/ generally pompous ass who has people hold doors open for him and hangs out in Gstaad wif Mick and Keef, the mighty Pitt and wee little Jackie Depp, so I got my shizzle together about 7 years ago and got trained, got headshots, got signed, and got opportunities and started getting work. My first job was on camera, playing a wonky guy in Khakis who spills coffee on them for an apparently Germanic/American Dept. store chain called ‘Gottschalk’s’ down in heavenly Fresno, Cal. It’s a real garden spot Fresno, let me tell ya. My first voice job? I did the voice of Alfred the Butler (“ Excuse me Master Bruce, but…”) for a kids Batman video game for the fine folks up at Riverdeep, which is no longer with us I believe. DAMN THIS RECESSION!! Nah- they went belly up like 4 years ago.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Well, I never actually saw the entire point of growing up, to be perfectly honest with you. The whole thing seemed rigged, if ya ask me! OH! You ARE asking me? Right! Well, when I was about 11 or so I realized that if 18 or 21 years old was considered to be the line of demarcation for ‘childhood/adulthood’? And that that meant I had like 50 or 60 years of being responsible and grouchy and stressed out and all the rest of it? I decided; Screw that noise! I mean, that deal sucks! But, as a teensy tot, for a class project in the 1st grade, I put down that I’d like to be a Priest, a Paleontologist, and a Comedy Writer, like Dick Van Dyke. He had a show on at the time where he played one and all they seemed to do was laugh and goof around and at the end of the day he went home to Mary Tyler Moore! Seemed pretty good to me, baby! The Priest? That was for Mom, and the Paleontologist was for the Dinosaurs. Like I said, I was in the 1st grade.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
I am the worlds foremost authority on the Chilean Sea Slug, and seeing as it is an extremely slow moving creature, (taking over three weeks to move an inch), it pretty much takes up most of my spare time. But, when free, I like taking the wonder pups (my dogs Tag and Trixie) to the park, riding my bike, exercising, reading, watching movies, writing, eating out, hanging/talking with friends, and plotting to raise the Chilean Sea Slug into it’s rightful place in the world pantheon of most admired invertebrates.
How do you prepare for any role you are given?
I read the script, and try out ideas for why and how the character has the mannerisms it does according to what’s written, the clues I’m given by the words coming out of its mouth. And with voices, generally I run my choices by the guys who wrote it, and develop it from there. But that being said, I’ve more than once come up with what I think is a great choice of personality/voice for a character and been shot down by the writers/director/whoever those really mean guys in the control booth are. So whereas some characters are so obvious (i.e.; A lobsterman from Maine), that the choice is made for me, and my work will be primarily on shading and nuance, others need to be fleshed out more, with back story and biography, you know, the ‘why’ of the character and stuff like that. I try to trust my instincts and not get too nutty about it all- keeps it more fresca, more grounded in truth for me doing it that way.
Was Sam & Max your first leap into video game voice acting?
No, but it has been the most fun-everybody involved is kind, generous, brilliant, insightful, kind..oh. Did I say kind? Uh, well, uh, lets see, uh…well, they’re also very NICE! And uh…duh. There’s a lot of smoke blowing weenies in this field, (and I’m one of the biggest of them all), but the guys on Sam and Max are real guys who are funny and professional (and rarely does the twain meet!). Every time I get called in to do Sam and Max I know it’s gonna be a fun session- they allow for give and take, for banter, and to have a certain amount of input for the character, which engenders a true desire to own it completely through the personal involvement. And it comes across in the performances. It also helps that they write very silly, smart, funny stuff-it’s always easier to get into a character that isn’t a complete dumbass, ya know?
How did you get the role in the Telltale games?
I was called in by my agency (The STARS Agency of San Francisco), to audition for a few of the characters. I’ve been doing this Gilbert Gottfried meets Joe Pesci meets Wallace Shawn character for years, and when I read Harry Moleman’s lines I thought; “ AHA! Finally! All those years of wisecracks and goofing off in class are going to pay off!” And they did, cause I got the part, didn’t I. Take THAT, Mr. Cooper! HAH!
What’s the most interesting aspect about voicing for video games?
The food? It’s all interesting, but one of the strangest elements of it is probably that although it is an electronic, highly technical endeavor, in the end it’s powered by real human connection and emotion. If the writing isn’t sharp, the voices of the characters aren’t matched properly it’s just a dog, regardless of how ‘brilliant’ the tech side may be. Without that human connection that fans can identify and enjoy and appreciate, it’s a bore! Getting to a ‘real’ place in a soundproof, extremely clean (though still sometimes also quite sloppy), little booth or room, with headphones on and an insanely expensive microphone (that if you busted you’d be doing Sam and Max for free for the next 50 years to pay the sucker off) inches in front of your face puts a fella in an interesting place you might say. The letting go and doing what you were hired for as though you were alone in your room singing along to your favorite song and playing a tennis racket for a guitar type of thing, yeah? It’s also really pretty cool when you overhear somebody that ‘sounds familiar’ and then realize that it’s YOU! That’s a trip. And the best, most interesting thing about doing VO? They pay me to do something that I love and used to get sent to the Principals office for. It’s beautiful.
What input did you have into the voice and character of Harry Moleman?
Well the voice itself lends itself to driving Harry so effectively, that when we’re in a session recording, I just think and behave like him. I mean I actually bring a shovel and a pick and desperately attempt to burrow through the goddamn floor during breaks! No- the guys and I do a few reads to find his voice/inflection, and I make suggestions that are sometimes spot on, but mainly I’m told to “just read the lines, Einstein”. The writers have created him and his path to follow, I just do my best to adhere to wherever that path may go.
What do you enjoy about voicing Harry Moleman?
Harry is great because although he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, nor the toughest, he’s a pretty savvy, street-smart guy who generally makes his point and/or mark convincingly. He’s funny but doesn’t realize he is. He’s tough but kind of a sap too, but he usually winds up making out pretty well. And it’s fun to help create his personality with my voice, to make him more realized as a person. Er, Mole.
He’s a pretty weird and diverse character. Where would you like to see him headed?
You know Harry! He’s got plans baby, BIG plan! Whether the writers have big plans for him? Who knows?! Start a petition! I’d like to see Harry in a romance again, though. I think Harry in love just naturally lends itself to numerous awkward situations and difficulties. After all, for all his street smarts and savvy, he always seems to wind up getting into jams of his own making that he has to scheme his way out of, one way or another. And what greater scheme than Love? I think Shakespeare said that? It was him or that Dame Edna guy.
If you could create your own character for the Sam & Max universe, what would they be like?
They wouldn’t be straightforward, that’s for sure! WOOO-HOOO! Yeah baby, yeah! I wouldn’t mind creating a ‘Woodstock Generation’ type character who took the ‘Brown Acid’ and never came back. You know, a peace-loving nitwit who invariably presses the ‘wrong button’? Who is easily led and manipulated and possesses the psychedelic strength of ten men? A guy like that would be fun. “Oh wow, man, far out!” Right? Who DOESN’T love the stoned hippie nitwit? I ask ya! Who doesn’t love…oh yeah, I already asked that. I used to do a character like that I called ‘Natural Jason’ when I was a lad, 30+ years ago, and he’d be fun to resurrect/develop.
Are you a gamer yourself? Do you play the Sam & Max games?
I was a bit of a ‘Pinball Wizard’ back in the day, and I like playing the driving games, but to tell you the truth, I’m not a gamer. I GOT game, but not in the video sense. My nephews always want me to play and just annihilate me mercilessly, regardless of the game.
Got any funny moments from a recording session that you could share?
This is true, but I can’t use the names, cause I would be killed to death and never work in this or any town, and etc, etc. But I was working on a pretty high profile game for the fine folks over at EA, and heard about the famous Hollywood actor who apparently came into a session and behaved like a prima donna with a ‘Latte Wrangler’ and gaggle of a half dozen lackeys whose primary purpose in life was to follow the jerk around and agree with him whenever he shat on one of the ‘little people’ who got in his way-and EVERYBODY got in his way. In fact, after hearing this tale from somebody who had witnessed him behaving like a total jackass? I decided then and there to pattern the rest of my ‘career’ after him. Maybe I’ll rethink that?
You’ve done a bit of theatre, TV and film work. Would you like to do further on-screen acting?
I am eminently available. Tell a friend! I would, and hopefully will, continue to get opportunities for advancing my career in any and all fields of performance. Send yer director buddies to my website, eh Joe? Whaddya say, eh? It’s www.timothytalbot.com. I tell you, it’s simply astonishing what Photoshop and GarageBand can do to make a talent less hack like me sound and look good! GOD BLESS TECHNOLOGY!! And though I am perhaps a bit glib and Wisenheimer-ish? I am a pro, in that I don’t screw around on set, I don’t talk back, I don’t whine and complain- I take pride in being prepared and treating everybody with respect, whether they want, need, or deserve it on set, and in my life. It is truly a privilege to be considered for jobs and to have auditions for jobs and to work in this industry. And of course, it’s the only industry that would have me, but you know, whatever.
What franchise would you like to do work for?
McDonalds. I actually did work at a Mickey D’s as a ‘cook’ for a few weeks when I was like 18 or so, over in San Rafael (across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF) in Marin. I used to see Jerry Garcia all the time-the guy was a stoned hound who just loved junk food- swear to god! Look it up! I’d go “Hey Jerry!” (even though it was the ‘70’s and I was a die hard Zep head and Who fanatic and hated the Dead), and he’d sheepishly peer up at me in my dingbell paper hat and what have you, and reply “……..” with a decidedly crooked, drooling grin on his dopey mug. What a guy. Very sweet, but… He sure did love them there Big Macs and Choco Shakes! I’d like to work on GTA, Call of Duty, Warcraft, Halo, any of the big combat games- I think my natural voice texture lends itself to those types of projects, but comedy is my favorite. On mainstream TV it’d be The Simpsons, Family Guy, Spongebob, Scooby-Doo. Hell, if they’re gonna pay me? I’ll do the Ballerina and the Goalkeeper, ya know what I mean?
Thanks for the interview, Tim. What’s next for you?
I am always gratified to get opportunities to work and audition, and so I will continue to do that through The STARS Agency, but I’m branching out, and plan on being a LOT more pro-active in developing my own opportunities this year- getting back onstage with the SF Playwrights Center to be one of their readers, spouting me mad poetry at open mics here in town, and honing the craft of monologue with the goal of, at some point, getting up and performing my own material before live audiences (as opposed to a dead ones? You know what I mean). I have some friends down in LA who are very talented and know some people who know some people and you never really know! I plan on working with, and just basically having gratitude for, the chance to be paid for doing something I love. It truly is a beautiful world when I get the hell out of my own way! Thanks for having me, Joe; it’s been a blast! If yer ever in SF drop me a line!