Rob Paulsen is a name I might not have known as a child growing up, but you can bet I listened to him every Saturday morning and sometimes even after school. His voice acting career is so impressive that his IMDb listing is so long it makes a CVS receipt look short. While his story is a typical “kid leaves home to make it in Hollywood,” his determination and steps that took him from Frings to Cowabunga are what make this book worth the read.
In Voice Lessons: How a Couple of Ninja Turtles, Pinky, and an Animaniac Saved My Life, Rob starts by talking about his early years in Michigan and how and when he realized his love for performing. Once he gets to California he talks about what it took to go from broke actor to making it as a success. I could actually picture Rob doing the odds and ends things he talks about that he did while trying to break into show business all while knocking on doors and making persistent phone calls.
It gets interesting once he gets his first voice acting gig and the rest is history. I had no idea he was in Transformers and I certainly didn’t know about his few on-screen gigs. My focus as a kid was his years as a smart-ass turtle and later a geek turtle. My brother loved him as Yakko and practically worshiped the Animaniacs. To hear him talk about those years of his life was a real treat.
It’s not all fun and comedy though. In 2016, Rob was diagnosed with throat cancer and with most of Hollywood oblivious he was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He remained ever optimistic about his recovery and situation. Reading how he kept going despite the horrific pain and the wondering of when it will all be over and he could go back to a normal life hit me hard. I lost my best friend to cancer in 1999 and another friend many years later of cancer. Cancer sucks.
As a fan, had I heard at the time he had cancer I would have been devastated. Raphael, Pinky, and Yakko had cancer. Even now I feel like crying. He persevered thanks to his family and voice acting community of friends. If you look at his IMDb page, you will see that he continued to work throughout the treatments, though he admits in his book that it wasn’t easy and he worried about his abilities during that time.
Out of the 264 pages, I took away five very important lessons that I think anyone, famous voice actor or regular Joe, can relate to:
1. “I had to face one hill at a time.”
2. “My best is sometimes good enough. Is it perfect? No. Is it where you’d like it to be? No. But it’s enough.”
3. “When you’re able to give yourself the freedom to be enough, it’s pretty sweet.”
4. “Part of being human is being able to let people see the not-so-pleasant sides of yourself.”
5. “Sometimes your goals change. Sometimes you decide you don’t want to reach the same goal again.”
If you grew up in the ’80s, you likely heard Rob in at least one of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons and that alone is a reason you should pick up Voice Lessons. What makes this book a must-read is Rob’s optimism and perseverance that I think most people could take a few notes on and learn something.
Voice Lessons: How a Couple of Ninja Turtles, Pinky, and an Animaniac Saved My Life by Rob Paulsen is available now where ever books are sold. If you enjoy audiobooks, pick this up because Rob reads it himself.
Disclaimer: GeekMom was given a review copy.