‘Futurama’s’ Billy West on Donald Trump as Zapp Brannigan: Trump ‘Almost as Absurd’
The voice of Futurama’s vain, misogynistic, and clueless warmonger has transformed his iconic character into Trump.
The internet asked for the voice actor behind Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan to recite a bunch of Donald Trump quotes in the voice of Captain Brannigan, and that’s exactly what the internet got during this chaotic election.
In recent months, politically astute fans of the animated sci-fi sitcom started noticing similarities between the 2016 Republican presidential candidate and one of their favorite Futurama characters.
For the uninitiated, Zapp Brannigan has been described by Futurama executive producer David X. Cohen as “half-Captain Kirk, half-actual William Shatner.” Zapp is selfish, vain, misogynistic, often clueless, and wages war recklessly.
And so, the Trump-Brannigan memes were enthusiastically generated.
Quickly enough, people began asking voice actor and comedian Billy West (who voiced multiple characters on the TV series, including Philip J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, and Zapp) on Twitter if he could record himself, in character, reading various Trump one-liners.
West heard their calls, and obliged them: He has been tweeting out his newly recorded sound clips over the past few days to his 40,000-plus Twitter followers, and has no plans to stop yet. The designated hashtag is, of course, “#MakeAmericaBrannigan.”
Here are some of the most recent examples, which feature actual Trump quotes from sources such as Larry King’s show and a deposition.
“We got a lot of requests on my Twitter to pair Trump with Zapp, sort of, like, super-collide them [because] people noticed that many things Trump said are almost as absurd as things Zapp Brannigan said on the Futurama show,” West told The Daily Beast this week, calling in from Los Angeles. “I have a partner, Jim Gomez, [and] he's been putting up the selected pictures of Futurama with the selected Trump quotes… It was a great idea and it sort of formulated on the internet and we sort of just ran with it.”
West says he plans to keep this “going for a while,” and could potentially continue posting these past Election Day in November. He has been picking which Trump sound bites to read based on which are “the silliest and most superficial” quotes. (“I think the issues are for everybody else to think about,” he conceded. “I’m not going to use a character to start getting into that.”)
“People were saying Zapp and Trump are almost alike: the blond hair, the bragging, the posturing,” West continued. “Having Brannigan do [Trump quotes], this is a way for some people to process him, I think. They’re dying to get their arms around what this election is about. And nobody seems to know.”
West—who emphasizes that he, as an actor and comic, is “not endorsing any candidate, by the way”—says that he has watched the rise of Trumpism in 2016 with the same level of understanding that he’d have if he were “an alien from another planet, just watching this, studying how to be silly or absurd.” In its own small, goofy way, his Trumpified revival of the Zapp Brannigan character is his means to cope with this year’s great national melodrama.
“My thoughts from Day 1 were that he doesn’t want to do this—he’s a businessman, what does he think a president makes a year?” West said. “I thought he’d just take it as far as he could, and have a hoot … I’m like everybody else, I think: I can’t process it…the ideology, the [offensive] remarks, it’s very hard to figure out what is going on [with him]. I mean, he’s not very presidential. I can’t figure out what the end game is, it’s very hard to process … Maybe we’re getting into Italian territory…or something. Where it’s like, ‘Look, everything’s a joke!’”
West isn’t particularly excited about either major-party candidate running for president this cycle. He thinks Hillary Clinton “seems to have a lot of baggage” and was “very interested in what Bernie Sanders had to say” before the self-described democratic socialist dropped out of the race.
But the biggest kick that the 64-year-old actor is getting out of the presidential election is the new onrush of laudatory tweets and messages regarding the Trump/Brannigan mash-ups.
“There were people who said they were really depressed [over the election, and other things], saying this was the best thing they had ever heard, and that they were listening to it over and over again,” he recalled. “I’ve always been in the business of making people laugh. And hopefully they do … That’s what I love doing more than anything.”