David X. Cohen has a sore throat. Blame it on the hour he just spent on stage at a theater in Hollywood, narrating a live reading of a Futurama episode with most of the original cast (Billy West, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille; the only one missing was Katey Sagal, due to a prior engagement). Today, Cohen and the crew are intimately familiar with the Futurama reunion routine. The sci-fi comedy he developed with Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening has been resurrected on several occasions: from new episodes on Comedy Central to Adult Swim syndication to Comic Con panels. The most recent gathering centered around the launch of the upcoming mobile game, Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow, with which Cohen and the original writers assisted. (It’s available today and we also have piece featuring more from Futurama cast members.)
After the reading, Cohen sat down with Uproxx to discuss the overall legacy of Futurama, its approach to math jokes and dated tech, and correctly predicting the future. But first, he had a few things to say about the difficulty of voice acting:
David X. Cohen: We just finished our table read, and I’m a little bit hoarse from reading the stage directions. It just makes you realize the range of talents of the actual voice actors, that they can each do an array of crazy amazing voices, impressions, they can sing in those voices… It just blows out your throat. Try to simulate Bender’s voice some time and see what happens to your vocal cords.
I interviewed Lauren Tom (the voice of Amy, among others) earlier, and she was saying how by working on Futurama she was able to pick up a lot of techniques to keep her voice going.
And Lauren Tom, by the way, the most petite of our cast members, is the loudest person. In Futurama we often have the occasion for screaming. So if it says Lauren Tom is about to scream they’re like, “Okay, wait.” Engineers have to turn all the mics down to zero. She will shatter glass. It’s unbelievable.
I just would have assumed John [Dimaggio, who voices Bender] was the loudest.
John’s the loudest in terms of speaking words, but when it comes to screaming, Lauren is the undisputed champion.
How did you feel overall about tonight’s reunion?
I loved it. I mean, the whole thing about doing this game is that it’s such a nice excuse to hang out with these people. Really, you become a family on a TV show, to put it in a corny way. Everyone got along pretty well on this show, which is why it’s still possible for us to do these occasional projects and comebacks. People scatter, but then they make room in their life to come back.
How close does a live reading represent an actual episode recording?
[For] each episode, we would bring the cast in on two main occasions. First for a table read; this is right after the script is done. We all sit around a table, and then the writers all get to hear the script for the first time and see if it actually is any good. So then we make changes based on the table read, or else we just blame the actors and say it was great and move on, depending on how much time we have available.
Then, for the actual recording session, we break the script into smaller portions, trying to do it in a logical way where we would schedule [actors together]… So as much as possible, yes, we tried to have the actors there together so they could have more chemistry –– and I think you can feel it.
Like what Wes Anderson did for Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Honestly, you can only do that if you have a really good cast. If they improv anything, or if they overlap, or whatever, than I’m going to be able to use that.