Note: This interview is a good five months old; I just realized I never posted it on this site after it ran in the Indpendent Weekly
Goodnight’s—On the phone, Carlos Alazraqui has about the most gentle, calm voice you can imagine. As a performer, it’s a much different story. Best known for his role as gun-crazed, ultraviolent Deputy Garcia on Comedy Central’s Reno 911!, Alazraqui brings a manic, intense physicality to his work as a comedian, whether it’s describing a bout of road rage or doing a video of his Reno character catching a crook while skydiving.
This weekend, Alazraqui brings his act to Goodnight’s for what promises to be a high-energy show. How does he find his material? “That’s stuff that comes out in therapy—good old-fashioned bottled-up rage,” Alazraqui says, speaking recently by telephone. “As a comedian, you realize you have to be stronger than the audience—you have to be in control. It’s not an absolute for being a comedian, but it helps—it’s like fighting your ghosts.”
Those who don’t know Alazraqui as an actor probably know his voice—he has an extensive list of voiceover credits that include the titular characters in Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life and Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo, effeminate boss Mr. Weed on Family Guy and, perhaps most infamously, the Chihuahua who uttered the words “Yo quiero Taco Bell” in a series of commercials.
Alazraqui cites Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, as a model for his voiceover performances. “I used to just sit there and read my lines, but I saw Tom perform—he really makes it a physical thing, doing lots of gestures and acting out his roles,” Alazraqui says. “So I do a lot of that myself—you become animated with your body to make your voice move.” His work has brought him a unique fan base—at college comedy performances, he’ll have fans quoting lines from shows he doesn’t even remember. “Voice actors live in relative anonymity in the Hollywood world,” Alazraqui says. “The best are like these really good jazz musicians who perform in these out-of-the-way speakeasies—you’ll see all these people on American Idol and then go to one of these clubs and go, ‘Oh, that’s how it’s done!'”
In his voice acting and live-action performances, Alazraqui has one rule: “Keep it real.” And where does he find things to be angry about for his act? “A lot of it comes from watching cable news.” —Zack Smith