Joe Alaskey‘s celebrity impersonations made him stand out as a stand-up in the 1980s comedy boom, then ultimately led to a fruitful career in voiceover work when that boom went bust for so many other comedians.
Alaskey took over vocal duties for the late great Mel Blanc and Jackie Gleason, with Gleason himself choosing Alaskey to re-record dialogue of Gleason’s for “the lost” episodes of The Honeymooners that finally aired in 1985.
Alaskey died Wednesday from cancer. He was 63.
He’d just unveiled a new website on Tuesday and was promoting his third book when he died. But back in the early 1980s, he was one of the first stand-up comedians to mimic the vocal acting styles of William Shatner, Jack Nicholson and other impersonations that would soon become ubiquitous. Here he was doing those voices, Gleason, Woody Allen, Don Knotts and more on the showcase series, Comedy Tonight.
That led to Alaskey making his network TV debut in 1986 on Late Night with David Letterman (he’s the final segment in this full-episode clip).
He’d make guest appearances on game shows such as Match Game and The New Hollywood Squares, and sitcoms including Night Court and Head of the Class — but those impersonation skills would provide him with much bigger, more lucrative opportunities. First he filled in for Mel Blanc to voice Yosemite Sam in the hit film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. After Blanc died, Alaskey took on the voices of Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Sylvester, Tweety Bird and even Bugs Bunny on various animated projects. Alaskey created the character of Plucky Duck for other Tiny Toons adventures. His other major voice credits include Grandpa Lou Pickles on Rugrats, and former President Richard Nixon for scenes in the movie, Forrest Gump.
Alaskey won the Daytime Emmy in 2004 for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for voicing Duck Dodgers in Duck Dodgers.
In 2014, Alaskey became the narrator for the Investigation Discovery true crime TV series, Murder Comes to Town.
But here he was, back in 2008, hitting the streets of Hollywood to speak in character to pedestrians and take requests.