It’s been scientifically proven that everyone, at some point in their lives, will turn on a TV show and – after hearing a hauntingly familiar voice that sounds like the equivalent of a sexy pile of garbage – ask themselves: Is that Jason Mantzoukas?
The actor has earned his unparalleled comedic reputation on-screen by honing a combustible combination of unhinged lunacy and restrained ridiculousness. With a mop of kinky curls and an unruly salt-and-pepper beard, his physical self is undeniably recognizable on TV series like Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, and The Good Place. He channels the zaddiness of an Oscar Isaac, blending it with the unkempt hygiene of a man who is on day three of an espresso bender – a potent mix of masculinity and mania that he brings to most of his iconic real-life characters on screen.
But while his corporeal form is easily distinguishable, his vocal performances are a bit harder to pin down.
Sure, Mantzoukas has a sound that Pajiba once described as “a sultry honk,” the grating, gritty sonance of a street-dwelling garbage pilferer that might melt your undergarments clean off or hold you at gunpoint for a pack of gum, depending on the day. But he does such a good job of inhabiting the strange, singular personalities of the legions of animated characters he’s now voiced, that, inevitably, you’re forced to question your auditory instincts – nay, reality itself.
These are some of Mantzoukas’ best voice performances over the years – whether you realized it was him or not.
Tommy Lee’s Penis — Pam & Tommy
Remember this moment, a time before you watched the first few episodes of Hulu’s upcoming biopic show about a rockstar and a Baywatch babe whose sex tape scandalized the masses. This moment is pure, untouched by the sight of Sebastian Stan’s prosthetic penis flailing wildly as it argues with his character, Tommy Lee, over the drummer’s decision to camp out in Pamela Anderson’s vagina instead of the Playboy mansion. The sight is just a bit nauseating, but the confusion over whose voicing this demonically-possessed appendage is even more upsetting. Unless you go in already knowing it’s Mantzoukas, whose scratchy timbre somehow perfectly fits this chode-like being. We didn’t, and we paid the price, focusing so much on why that deep-throated griping gave us a familiar pang that we couldn’t truly appreciate the demented genius on display. Don’t make the same mistake. Yes, Jason Mantzoukas voices Tommy Lee’s penis — here’s hoping Emmy voters take notice.
The Bee – Dickinson
In Apple TV+’s fever dream comedy about famed 19th American poet Emily Dickinson, Mantzoukas appears not as a literary peer to Hailee Steinfeld’s quirky imaginative outcast but as an insect. More specifically, as an animatronic talking bumblebee – an opium-induced hallucination that waltzes, chain-smokes, and makes sexual innuendos using pollen as some kind of metaphor. He pops up when Emily (Steinfeld) is feeling particularly lonesome, and though Bee only has a few credits over the course of the show’s three seasons, each of his appearances is both jarring and hilariously whimsical.
Jay Blizerian/Guy Blizerian/Ghost of Socrates – Big Mouth
No one can compete with Maya Rudolph’s vocal performance on Netflix’s animated comedy Big Mouth, but Mantzoukas has carved out his own niche amongst the show’s unfairly talented cast, playing a pubescent dirtbag whose sexual kink just happens to be inanimate household objects. As Jay Blizerian, Mantzoukas delivers a crass, promiscuous pre-teen who pillow-f*cks his way through life. Loud, attention-seeking, and yet, oddly, pitiful, Jay is a David Copperfield wannabe bisexual with layers – if you can dig through all that jizz to find them. Mantzoukas continues his douchebag streak on the show, playing Jay’s negligent father Guy, a seedy divorce lawyer with some questionable one-liners, and a Queered-up version of Socrates – the dead philosopher who probably wasn’t gay but was definitely a know-it-all. Talk about range.
Vanbo – Solar Opposites
When the dysfunctional family alien refugees on Hulu’s Solar Opposites gets saddled with an extraterrestrial interloper after a time-traveling mission gone wrong, it’s Jason Mantzoukas’ inimitable tenor that delivers Vanbo’s iconic introductory greeting, “Hey futtbuckers.” He quickly becomes the episode’s antagonist, a butterfly effect in an annoying, purple-tinted package that Korvo and Terry must incinerate on Shlorp – for everyone’s sanity. Mantzoukas as a bro-ish Martian whose chest-heavy cackle sparks physical cringes wherever he goes? Practically the (animated) role he was born to play.
Alex Dorpenberger – Close Enough
A neurotic, depressed college professor, Alex Dorpenberger on HBO Max’s Close Enough might be one of the few animated characters on this list that doesn’t make you question whether he’s voiced by Jason Mantzoukas. That’s not because the actor is phoning it in. No, Dorpenberger is just as deranged and eccentric as every other Mantzoukas creation – he like Viking erotica, he lives with his best friend and ex-wife, he has a closet for a bedroom, and he’s an avid conspiracy theorist. But gazing at the cartoonish figure in his slouchy dress pants with his disheveled hair and scruffy caveman beard, you can see just a glimmer of Mantzoukas the man staring back.
Rex Splode – Invincible
Invincible on Amazon Prime Video is one of the more graphic offerings when it comes to animated superhero series on TV so it makes sense that the show would tap Mantzoukas to voice the sassy, arrogant, and emotionally-stunted Rex Splode. A terrible childhood coupled with a preternatural ability to literally blow sh*t up whenever he feels like it means Mantzoukas gets to have fun playing the team member no one wants. Is he a hero? Eh, but he’s damn fun to watch.
Mr. Mucus – Mucinex Commercials
Is the fact that Jason Mantzoukas voiced a gelatinous glob of nasal phlegm stranger than his role voicing a rockstar’s prosthetic penis? We can’t say. But it is weird, to hear this animated lump of fluid-like excretion using cologne czar Dennis Feinstein’s voice to plague the disease-ridden masses? Absolutely. Alas, this is what happens when T.J. Miller becomes too problematic to star in cold medicine commercials.
Though we couldn’t include them all, an honorary mention is reserved for every other animated character Mantzoukas has voiced over the years. From troll-like Tellarites on Star Trek: Prodigy to mangy, one-eyed wildcats on Fox’s Housebroken, Sad Sax Guy, Tim Snodgrass, and one of America’s founding fathers, Samuel Adams — you were all weird as hell, thanks to Mantzoukas’ iconic delivery and frenzied comedic timing. If we hear you again, we’ll try to remember that.