November 26, 2008
By Kiko Martinez
You’ve probably heard his voice before, but never the same way twice.
Meet Carlos Alazraqui. Best known for his role as Deputy James Garcia in Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!” and as a stand-up comedian, Alazraqui has also done voice work for over 70 cartoon and video-game characters in his 15-year career.
Along with working on shows such as “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” “The Fairly Odd Parents,” and “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera,” Alazraqui, 46, is most recognized for his past commercial work as the voice of the Taco Bell chihuahua.
In the animated film “Space Chimps,” his most recent role, Alazraqui, whose roots are Argentinean, lends his voice to Houston, a veteran chimpanzee astronaut who shares his experience flying to the moon with a younger team of NASA apes. “Space Chimps” was recently released on DVD.
What kind of cartoons did you watch as a kid?
I watched “The Pink Panther” on Saturday mornings. When I got home from school I would watch “Popeye,” “Bugs Bunny,” “Go-Go Gophers.” I watched a ton of cartoons.
How do you feel about seeing more diversity in cartoons these days? Back when you were a kid, there weren’t many Hispanic characters.
The diversity that has come out has been great. It’s nice that they’ve started to tap into that market.
Since you lend your voice to a number of these Hispanic characters, do you feel like you are one of the leaders of this cartoon revolution?
Actually, the Latino part of me didn’t come out until I did the voice for the Taco Bell chihuahua. Then people sort of discovered that I was Latino and I could do these voices. When someone needed a Latino character, they would say, ‘Go get Carlos. He can do that voice.’ So, yeah, I was one of the first to start capitalizing on that.
I was actually surprised that you’re the voice of one of the most popular chihuahuas in history, but you weren’t cast in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
I think what happens in this town is that studios want on-camera actors to do the voices. There’s a lack of respect for the talent of voice-over actors. What I was surprised to see was that no one was protesting this movie the way they were protesting me [when I voiced the Taco Bell chihuahua]. (Laughing) I mean, no one should protest a movie like this but back then, there was a guy at LULAC named Gabriel Cazares who called the [Taco Bell] commercials “a hate crime.” (Laughing) I guess they realized they were wrong because, ironically, it’s all okay now.
Can a racial stereotype ever be taken too far? For example, I know you’ve done voice work for the cartoon “Minoriteam,” which features a character named El Jefe who uses a leaf blower as a weapon.
It’s all satirical. You don’t see people complaining about the Lucky Charms leprechaun as Irish or Count Chocula as a Romania. I think we all should be able to laugh at ourselves no matter if we are the minority or the majority.