Rick and Morty is a show in which co-creator Justin Roiland puts in a lot of voice work. But according to the voice of both Rick and Morty, it was another Cartoon Network show that truly put his voice acting to the limit. Roiland has voiced a number of characters in his career, and most of Rick and Morty is actually him talking to himself. But in a video he shot for GQ he went through some of his other roles and said a memorable spot as Lemongrab from Adventure Time was the most difficult of his career.
The extremely weird character first popped up in the fifth episode of the show’s first season. The Earl of Lemongrab comes to take control of the Candy Kingdom because Princess Bubblegum reverted to a 13-year-old version of herself, leading to the episode titled “Too Young.” If you’ve never seen Adventure Time none of that makes any sense, but what you need to know is that Lemongrab is extremely annoying, and instantly memorable to fans of the show for his weird metaphors and casual punching of rats while shouting things like “UNACCEPTABLE.”
As Roiland explains it in the video above, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward appeared on his podcast and asked if he wanted to voice a character for him. He agreed because he was a huge fan of the show, but didn’t really have any ideas about what Lemongrab should sound like.
“They sent me the boards, the storyboards for the episode,” Roiland explained. “I didn’t really know what to do, so I just went in and I started screaming. And he’s like ‘That’s it. Great.’”
The result is a noisy, loud, and completely unhinged character whose voice often rises to a scream. And though the role was a hit, it definitely took its toll on Roiland.
“I learned the limits of my voice with that character for sure,” Roiland said. “I blew my voice out really bad. And Tom Kenny told me to go to this really good ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) and I had to get a cortisone shot and not talk for two weeks.”
Kenny is a legendary voice actor in his own right — he’s SpongeBob SquarePants, for starters — so he was definitely someone to listen to on matters of the voice. Roiland said he couldn’t do Morty’s voice for “a while” after the third time he recorded for Lemongrab, but it did actually inspire something from the show. While he couldn’t speak he used an application on his phone to communicate, Talk Bot, which he said had a depressing text-to-speech voice they actually used for the Butter Robot.
Thankfully, Lemongrab’s memorable voice certainly made its mark on Adventure Time fans and Roiland was able to get back to his other work without too much damage to his voice. Just don’t expect him to break out any impressions of the extremely weird citrus-based character anytime soon.