From 'Rocko' to 'Reno'

Comedian Carlos Alazraqui's portfolio bursts with unexpected voice roles

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he sixth annual Brew Ha-Ha is upon us. Thousands will descend on Sawyer Point this Friday and Saturday to sample and enjoy more than 100 brands of beer, all while enjoying the humorous stylings of 50 comedians on three stages. 

In addition to several top locally based headlining comics like Alex Stone, Geoff Tate (The Late, Late, Show with Craig Ferguson) and Josh Sneed (Comedy Central Presents), comedians from around the U.S. will perform. That list includes Shane Mauss, Vic Henley, Tommy Johnagin, Tom Simmons, Sean Patton and many more. Friday night’s main headliner is Tom Green (of MTV-fame), while Carlos Alazraqui will close the show Saturday night.

Alazraqui is probably best known as Officer James Garcia on Comedy Central’s Reno 911!, but fans of animated films and television programs might know him as the voice of many cartoon characters. 

His first big voice gig (after portraying the title character in Rocko’s Modern Life) was as the voice of the non-animated Taco Bell spokes-Chihuahua back in the ’90s.

After winning the San Francisco Comedy Competition, he moved to Los Angeles, where a friend suggested he put together a voice demo reel. He submitted the finished tape to an agent, and after the previously cast voice of the Taco Bell dog dropped out, Carlos got the gig. 

“I thought, ‘This is going to go nowhere,’ ” he says. 

Since then he’s done for voice work for Fairly Odd Parents, CatDog, Family Guy, Handy Manny, Happy Feet and many other films and TV programs. Have you been to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at Disney World? That’s not Billy Crystal voicing Mike Wazowski: It’s Alazraqui. 

“I’ve never been on that ride,” the comedian confesses. “It’s a vacation I want to take.” 

Alazraqui is currently working on a new Pixar film called Planes, which will star Jon Cryer.

Though Alazraqui started in show business as a stand-up, he always had an interest in doing voices, both impressions and original characters. His repertoire even includes a hilarious take on fellow comedian Chris Rock. 

“I do that in a bit about world peace. Little bit of a visual number,” he adds. 

His attraction to unique voices came not from watching cartoons as a kid, which he did, but more from his family and friends. His parents are Argentine. His father was educated in English schools, while his mom maintained what Alzraqui describes as a “fake” accent. To further add to the source material, his best friend’s parents were from Glasgow, Scotland.  

“All kinds of characters would come over and I would imitate them,” Alzraqui says. “I came into this odd world by osmosis — just kind of absorbed it.”

Alazraqui says the voices come about in a variety of ways. Sometimes the producers know what they want; other times it’s left to Alazraqui. 

“It depends on what the role is,” he says. “If they don’t want you to be too cartoony then maybe you pull (a voice) from someone you know.” But for the animated series he created for Mondo Media called Off The Curb, Alazraqui has complete creative control. 

“It’s basically a bunch of voice-over heavyweights,” he explains. “It’s an improv-based cartoon about four guys on a street corner. I play a Filipino baker. We interact for a while then edit it down to a three-minute piece.”

On stage, Alazraqui doesn’t just throw out voice impersonations, but rather weaves them in and out of his jokes and stories. (“I like to make it seamless,” he says.) Fans who only know him as Garcia are often surprised. 

“People are like ‘I didn’t know you could do all those voices,’ ” he says. “They know me as Garcia from Reno 911. That’s generally the reaction I get if they just know me from (that show).”

Alazraqui’s personal life has been a recent influence. He’s the father of a 15-month-old baby girl. He says, “That’s given me some bits to write about and it kind of forces you to be all grown up in an instant, you know?” 

In one bit he tells the story of his daughter rolling off the bed. 

“I call it my 9/11,” he says. “I was changing her bath water, making sure it was the right temperature. I put her on the bed, which I did the day before and she didn’t move. But babies change quickly. She decided to crawl to the edge of the bed.” (He saved her with a rescue move that would have made Officer Garcia proud … or perhaps more envious.)

Performing at an outdoor festival like Brew Ha Ha brings some challenges; Alazraqui is used to performing his act in a comedy club or theatre. 

“You’re not going to be able to do the subtle stuff in your act,” he explains of the less-intimate shows. “The facial expressions will be lost. You take some of the product, get animated a bit and decide you’re going to have fun.” 

“It’s not going to be your regular comedy show,” he adds. “I might have to do some improv, maybe (have) a heckler to deal with, but as long as I know that going in, it kind of softens the blow. It’s not going to be a perfectly attentive audience. 

“They’re going to be a little ‘happy,’ ” Alazraqui jokes, referencing the “Brew” part of the event’s moniker. 

Alazraqui is even thinking of using the beer festival setting to his advantage. 

“Some people may get mean,” he says, laughing. “If they do, I may bring a beer on stage and say ‘Every time you get mean, I take a swig of beer.’ ” 

If that doesn’t work, perhaps Sgt. Garcia can do some crowd control? 

“I think I can do a little Officer Garcia,” he says, “that may be the way to go. Put the mustache on and the sunglasses and let them know who’s boss.”

CARLOS ALAZRAQUI performs Saturday at BREW HA HA, which runs 5 p.m.-midnight Friday and 4 p.m.-midnight Saturday at Sawyer Point. Comedy is free; beer tickets available for purchase. Full lineup:

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