Jeff Bergman’s voice has been behind many legendary characters that we all know and love.
Bergman has been doing voices from the time he was young. As he was watching animated television as a kid, Bergman thought to himself: “I can do that.”
“I started to imitate the president and celebrities. I don’t think I sounded like them but my parents got a kick out of it,” said Bergman. “I would do a Nixon impression at family gatherings and get a laugh. I stuck with it, my parents were very encouraging. It was something that took me over and I stayed with it all through college.”
Bergman landed his first paid voice acting job doing a Sylvester Stallone impression when he was 16, which was huge for him as a Philadelphia resident. Berman was heavily influenced by voice actors such as Paul Frees, Rich Little, George Kirby, and Mel Blanc, and was still doing the voices of “Looney Tunes” characters when he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, but wasn’t particularly serious about his craft yet.
While he was attending college, Bergman was able to meet Blanc, who is known for lending his voice to characters such as Bugs Bunny, Tweety, and Barney Rubble, following a lecture that the actor gave at the university.
“As a kid, I always loved cartoons. ‘Looney Tunes’ weren’t the biggest thing at the time but I loved them, and I liked Bugs Bunny. It wasn’t until I met Mel Blanc that everything changed,” said Bergman. “He was doing one of his lectures at the University of Pittsburgh. I attended the lecture and the reception after. I found out what hotel he was staying at, showed up and knocked on his door that night. He was so gracious, he let me in — he could tell that I was enamored with him — and I did voices for him. That one brief moment in time changed the trajectory of my life. I got very serious about doing voiceovers.”
Bergman has since built up quite a resume for himself in the years to follow. After Blanc passed away, Bergman took on the voices of a number of ‘Looney Tunes’ characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, and more. He was also dipped into the Hanna-Barbera universe to voice Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble for cartoons and commercials, as well as George Jetson and Sr. Spacely. Currently, Bergman voices both Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith in the HBOMax series “JellyStone.”
“I have been so fortunate to do some of my favorite voices. I think so much of it has to do with what I grew up with, when I was 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old, watching ‘The Flintstones’ in the first run. That was sort of what was feeding me,” said Bergman. “Growing up, you don’t think these will be remembered, it’s the thing of the day. It never left me. Those things have always stayed with me.”
Another recent project Bergman secured a role in is “Our Cartoon President,” a satirical animated series that is based off of a recurring segment on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Now in its third season, the show puts a comedic lens on a day in the life of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Like many people, I only knew of Donald Trump from ‘The Apprentice.’ I messed with the voice, and later around the time of 2016 election I heard about a project that Robert Smigel (creator of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) was making,” said Bergman. “They wanted to hire Trump impersonator for focus groups. We were saying the most ridiculous awful things. Eventually, it got to the point where they were holding auditions, and I didn’t think I would get it because it was being animated out of New York City and I’m based in LA. They weren’t opening to talents in LA. Still, they asked me to audition and said they have to fight for me because they weren’t sure if [the project] wanted people outside of New York. They ended up offering me the role.”
Bergman voices not only President Trump but also Joe Biden, Mayor de Blasio, John F. Kennedy and Lou Dobbs.
“I’m sort of campaigning against myself,” said Bergman. “Thank goodness we record each character separately. It was so much fun.”
While Bergman has an extensive career doing voices for content geared towards children, “Our Cartoon President” is more geared for an adult audience. Bergman enjoys the freedoms that come along with doing voices for an older audience.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d be on an adult show like that,” said Bergman. “The great thing is we can saying anything we want. There’s almost nothing we can’t get away with. There are many restrictions with a young audience, there’s so much you can’t say. Being on an adult show opens up a new vista of opportunities for exaggerated comedy.”
Bergman also says that working on “Our Cartoon President” has been particularly cathartic during this tumultuous election cycle.
“I can see it from a different perspective,” said Bergman. “I have to watch the debates, the rallies for research. I see it through a different prism, I see some sort of silliness. I think, ‘Where’s the comedy?’ I think that’s a healthier space to stay.”
“Our Cartoon President” airs on Showtime at 8:30 p.m. on Monday nights.