Carlos Alazraqui: Keeper of the Voices

Alazraqui’s voice has been a cornerstone of animated entertainment since the ‘90s, and continues on today both on screen and behind a microphone
Comedian and actor Carlos Alazraqui has portrayed iconic characters behind a recording booth as well as played them on screen. Photo Credit: Rob Flate

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

Actor and comedian Carlos Alazraqui is excited for at least one thing this month and that is being able to be part of what he calls, “this whole Latinx thing.” Although Alazraqui has Latino roots by way of Argentinian parents who immigrated to the US, he says they’re pursuit of the American life meant they gradually left the language behind while assimilating.

“I kind of grew up white. I grew up hearing Spanish in the house, but it stopped when I was young. So [now] I’m on Duolingo. I think I’m on day 244 right now so I do that, my Spanish is getting better.”

Alazraqui has voiced hundreds of animated characters, video game characters, and acted on camera as well. Most famously his face can be attributed to his portrayal of Deputy James Garcia in the original “Reno 9-1-1” show run, as well as its Emmy nominated reboot currently on the Quibi platform.

But by far his favorite and most cherished character is that of Rocko the Hawaiian shirted wallaby in the Nickelodeon classic “Rocko’s Modern Life”, which ran from 1993-1996. It also had a reboot of sorts, a movie on Netflix in 2019 called “Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling”.

For both Reno and Rocko, Alazraqui equated both projects to “bringing the band back together.”

“Reno was like 11 years, 10 years. This is 25 years! It was like, “I think I can still do Rocko? Yeah, it’s good it’s good.” [Carlos said that last quote in the Rocko voice, very accurately might I add].

Rocko’s legacy as a laid back and caring character has permeated the zeitgeist of animation for decades, and since its original run has been an inspiration to many irreverent shows.

“I think Rocko’s always going to be my favorite because he’s my first, he’s the most mellow. He’s the most complex and sweet, and Winnie the Pooh-like. So Rocko [is] definitely my favorite.

Alazraqui’s next favorite roles, are his “Fairly Odd Parents” Mr. Crocker and Deputy Garcia.

“Crocker I love because he’s crazy. On camera-wise, Garcia was so layered and twisted and fraught with self-loathing that he’s always fun to play. So yeah, those are pretty special.”

Before the iconic voice roles and wild Reno “COPS” spoof, Alazraqui was born and raised in Bay Area, specifically Concord, California. His blue-collar upbringing included playing lots of sports, working a paper route, and playing hide and seek.

“That was my blue collar, white, suburban upbringing. I actually won the ‘All-American Boy Award’ at my senior banquet, which I think is funny for a kid named Carlos Jaime Alazraqui. I used to do a joke, [in Spanish], “Gracias por el premio de ‘All-American Boy’, ¡no puedo creer este momento increíble!” [“Thank you for the ‘All-American Boy Award’, I can’t believe this incredible moment!”]

Alazraqui’s career trajectory from “All-American Sports Boy” to sketch comedy, and eventually the voice acting big leagues, began with his experience in higher learning.

Sacramento State University, where he majored in recreation Administration, was where Alazraqui yearned to do something different besides his major, an extracurricular that might even get him noticed by the opposite sex.

“I just wanted to be liked and accepted and I thought maybe a cool way to get girls and be different. I can’t say that it was some artistic journey that I was always going to take, but I loved “The Carol Burnett Show” growing up as a kid and I loved sketch comedy and all that kind of stuff.”

It was these initial steps into the world of sketch acting that would frame his appreciation for improvisation and his voice talents. Beginning in the mid 1980’s, Alazraqui says the pursuit of comedy club gigs brought him to travel to Los Angeles and beyond.

“In 1985 I had a comedy duo with a buddy, we were called The Bruhaha, [performing] at a place called the Metro Bar and Grill in downtown Sacramento. Then I started MC’ing at a place called Laughs Unlimited in Old Town Sacramento. In 1987 I moved to San Francisco and started doing comedy every night while I was working at two different health clubs and, you know, started going on the road.”

These odd jobs in comedy clubs eventually led to Alazraqui getting the opportunity to voice a wallaby in an eccentric project by San Jose native Joe Murray.

“”Rocko’s Modern Life” came around, and I was going back and forth to L.A. I won a comedy competition in 1993 and then with that and [the show], I decided “hey, time to move to L.A., baby. Let’s do this.””

From then a simple IMDB page glance will show you that Alazraqui has never stopped acting, even if he’s behind a microphone for most of it, those voices don’t just create themselves. From the Taco Bell chihuahua commercials, to Spyro the Dragon video game series, his chameleon of a voice can be found everywhere in entertainment.

When asked about whether he has a preference (although his voice work definitely eclipses his in-person acting credits) he says, “Both could be fun. But if you want to boil it down, you’d rather not be sticking around in a trailer all day to do ten minutes of work on a set. It’s much easier to go in and do voiceover from your booth or go in and hang out with friends and knock it out. I’d have to say some days on Reno were less exciting, like I said you’re in the trailer, and you’re just waiting to be called and it doesn’t happen until the end of the day. And that’s not so much fun, but you’re still around a lot of great creative people and you’re getting paid to goof around. So, there’s that. But I like them equally, I suppose.”

Both forms of acting do hit on Alazraqui’s favorite aspect of being an actor according to him, which is the act of trying to laugh or make others laugh.

“I like… the interaction part, seeing if I can keep from cracking up, especially [because] I’m always the one breaking and laughing. And that’s the fun part, seeing if I can get somebody to [laugh] or make me laugh.”

Even though much of the entertainment industry shut down in March due to the COVID pandemic, Alazraqui has been fortunate enough to continue working using his vocal cords.

“I’m working on a new Nickelodeon cartoon with one of the cast members of “Reno 9-1-1”. I don’t think I can say what it is [yet]. So that’s coming out. I’m on “The Casagrandes”, which is a big show on Nickelodeon. I play Carlos, the father.

I’m part of “Legacy Adventures”, another voiceover show. Also, I’m replacing a character that they wanted to replace because of ethnicity on “Victor and Valentino”, it’s on Cartoon Network. “Maya and the Three” [arrives] fall of 2021, with the genius Jorge Gutiérrez and [wife] Sandra Equihua, that’s their latest thing.

[Alazraqui was part of Gutiérrez’s film “Book of Life” too, voicing General Posada, Dali and Chuy.]

“Trese” is a Filipino graphic novel, animated cartoon coming out in 2021. I get to play Anton, he’s the father of the character of Alexa. So, I get to do my Filipino accent. And that’s all I could think about from the top of my head but [there’s] plenty of voice work coming.”

Speaking on a horror comedy he’s releasing this year titled “Witness Infection”, which he co-wrote with Latina actress and stand-up comedian Jill-Michele Meleán, he says, “The movie that Jill and I wrote was about an Italian mobster wanting to get out of an arranged marriage. And there’s poison sauces and there’s zombies in it, so it’s not Latino-themed. It rather shows that people of Latin culture can write about Latin stories, but they can also write about stories that are general. That’s the sort of thing I’m always trying to get across, that I’m happy to play Latino parts, but I’m also happy to play roles that are just as universal in other cultural backgrounds. I guess I like to show that.”

Lastly, looping back to the illustrious career of Carlos Alazraqui it is important to note his evolution in the scope of Latinidad-focused entertainment, and his ability to work without being pigeonholed into tropes and cliches just because he is Latino. It seems like a balancing act he’s achieving with success.

“I love being part of this sort of cultural movement where I can work with Jorge Gutierrez, and cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, and all these people, and turn around and do “Reno 9-1-1” as well. My parents… tried to assimilate very early on, but now I’m getting to swim around in the Latinx culture [and] I’ve been pretty fortunate.”

“It’s pretty cool, a guy who has Latin heritage did “Rocko’s Modern Life”.”