Honoring Pride Month with Alumnus John Roberts
The nature of voice acting gives actors a freedom like none other. Perched behind a microphone, the performer behind the voice can be anyone. From Pamela Adlon’s work voicing male characters on “Recess” and “King of the Hill,” to Nancy Cartwright’s jaw-dropping performance as the mischievous Bart Simpson on “The Simpsons,” the truth behind voice acting stuns audiences. (Check out this video of Nancy Cartwright surprising a fan.) For our very own John Roberts (Class of 1991), that is exactly how he found his niche.
A New Yorker at heart, Roberts was born in Brooklyn and raised across the Hudson River in Edison, New Jersey. Manhattan was always on his mind. He performed in various comedy clubs in the city, learning the ropes and that all-important mantra: stick with it. During his intimidating start (Roberts was the lone queer teenager in a sea of baby boomers) he performed a caricature of a New Jersey “yenta” based, in-part, on his own mother. The character was a huge hit, but it wasn’t until the advent of YouTube that the character took off. With nearly 15 million views across several videos, Roberts’ natural “virality” was apparent. In one video titled “My Son is Gay?” his yenta character ponders her son’s sexuality: “He moved into the city, and now he’s gay.”
But his mother is one of his biggest supporters. With a flair for the dramatic, she takes part in as many press events as she can. From Comic-Con to an appearance on Good Morning America, he keeps his maternal inspiration close to home. This is especially true of his work on “Bob’s Burgers,” the hit animated sitcom centered on the fictional Belcher family. To bring the matriarch Linda Belcher, to life, Roberts tapped into the beloved yenta. “It’s very East Coast New York City, Boston, Italian Jewish woman vibe. And they’re a funny type of woman. But all moms are funny in their way,” he says. With a nasality like none other, the beloved Linda Belcher has become one of the most recognizable animated characters. But few know the man behind the voice—let alone his inspiration.
His success on “Bob’s Burgers” has led Roberts into a sort of voice acting stardom. Reporters clamor for an interview, as his practical advice and genuine love of voice acting is contagious. (Do note, the actor is no stranger to physical comedy: he has another character that involved him taping his nose up and “walking around town.”) In interviews, catch Roberts giving fans a taste of Linda just for the fun of it.
An actor with a curiosity and love of the work, catch him in interviews, performing stand-up, and, of course, on “Bob’s Burgers.”