Gary Owens (middle), 1982
May 10, 1936
Mitchell, South Dakota, U.S.
|Occupation||Voice actor/Disc jockey|
Gary Owens (born May 10, 1936) is an American disc jockey and voice actor. His polished baritone speaking voice generally offers deadpan recitations of total nonsense, which he frequently demonstrated as the announcer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Owens is equally proficient in straight or silly assignments and is frequently heard in television, radio, and commercials. He is best known, aside from being the announcer on Laugh-In, for providing the voice of the titular superhero on Space Ghost. He also played himself in a cameo appearance on Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1998. Likewise, Owens provided the voice of Roger Ramjet on The Roger Ramjet Cartoons. He is currently the primary voice of the over-the-air digital network Antenna TV.
Owens started his radio career at KORN, Mitchell, South Dakota in 1952 where he served as News Director. In 1956, he left KORN for a job at KMA, Shenandoah, Iowa before moving on to KOIL, Omaha, Nebraska. He also worked in Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis and Denver where he got his first television experience. He made the move to California in 1959 working at KROY in Sacramento, and KEWB in Oakland, finally setting in Los Angeles.
Owens moved to KEWB's sister station KFWB in Los Angeles in 1961. From there, he joined the staff of KMPC in 1962, replacing previous host Johnny Grant, where he remained for the next two decades working the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. shift, Monday through Friday. A gifted punster, Owens became known for his surrealistic humor. Among his trademarks were daily appearances by The Story Lady (played by Joan Gerber); the Rumor of the Day; myriad varieties of "The Nurney Song"; and the introduction of the nonsense word "insegrevious", which was briefly included in the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary.
His regular on-air radio terms included "krenellemuffin," as in, "We'll be back in just a krenellemuffin." Gary always credited his radio engineer at the end of his broadcast: "I'd like to thank my engineer, Bob Jones, for creebling at the turntables." He also created the previously non-existent colors "veister" and "krelb".
In the early 1960s, like punster-TV star comic colleagues Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, and Jonathan Winters, Gary Owens created a few comic characters of his own, such as the gruff old man Earl C. Festoon and his wife Phoebe Festoon, the stuffy old businessman Endocrine J. Sternwallow, and the goofy good ol' boy, Merle Clyde Gumpf. Another character was crotchety old cantankerous Mergenthaler Waisleywillow.
Owens also did very funny radio promotions like sending in for "Yours," which turned out to be a postcard from him at the radio station which simply said "Yours" on it; and autographed pictures of the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles; and his famous "Moo Cow Report" in which Gary and his character Earl C. Festoon would describe where moo cows were moving inbound on the crowded freeways of Los Angeles.
During this time Owens was also known as "Superbeard," because like his contemporary radio icon Wolfman Jack, he sported a goatee-beard, wore Hawaiian shirts, baggy Bermuda shorts, and his "1941 wide necktie with a hula girl on it." Often, during these comedy sketches on the air, he would have the assistance of other radio comics, most notably Bob Arbogast (known as "Arbo" to his adoring fans), Stan Ross (of "Drowning in the Surf" fame in 1963), and Jim "Weather Eyes" Hawthorne.
Owens also did his famous "Good Evening Kiss" on KMPC when he was on from 9 p.m. to Midnight, by saying, "Now I'll just snuggle up to a nice warm microphone, and embracemoi," making a big wet kiss sound effect followed by the sound effect of a gong striking. In 1966, Owens collaborated with Bob Arbogast, June Foray, Daws Butler, Paul Frees and others on a hilarious comedy spoof record album titled "Sunday Morning With the Funnies" with the Jimmy Haskell Orchestra on Reprise Records.
During this period, Owens became more widely known as the voice of the eponymous TV cartoon characters in Roger Ramjet and Space Ghost, the excitable narrator/announcer from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and perhaps most well-known, as the hand-on-the-ear announcer in the booth on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, all the while continuing his show on KMPC. He also hosted its daily game show spin-off, Letters to Laugh-In, during its brief run in 1969. In addition, he appeared regularly as a television newscaster on The Green Hornet during the 1966–1967 season. Capitalizing on Owens' "Laugh-In" fame, Mel Blanc Audiomedia, an audio production company based in Beverly Hills, California, developed and marketed "The Gary Owens Special Report," a 260-episode package of syndicated radio comedy shows. He also appeared in the Sesame Street pilot in a sketch called "The Man from Alphabet."
During the late 1960s, when the films of 1930s comedians such as The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields and Mae West were finding a new audience, Owens narrated phonograph records containing sound clips from the films.
In 1972, he released the comedy LP "Put Your Head On My Finger" for the MGM-Pride label.
On the album Uptown Rulers, Owens can be heard on the first track introducing New Orleans funkadelic band, The Meters. The live recording took place on March 24, 1975 at Paul and Linda McCartney's release party for the Venus And Mars album held aboard the Queen Mary.
Owens did the humorous news blurbs that are interspersed throughout the 1975 film The Prisoner of Second Avenue. In 1976, he hosted the first season of the nighttime version of The Gong Show; he was replaced by the show's creator, Chuck Barris. (On at least one occasion, he was a judge on Gong's late 1980's revival.) The same year Owens became the voice of a new cartoon character, the Blue Falcon, a character who fought crime in fictional Big City with the "help" of his clumsy sidekick, Dynomutt, also known as Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. The series was a parody of Batman, specifically the live-action version starring Adam West. It was not uncommon to see the Blue Falcon use various "falcon gadgets," much like Batman used various "Bat-Equipment" items. The falcon belt was used in a similar fashion to Batman's utility belt with an endless supply of weapons and other devices. Owens would provide the voice of the Blue Falcon from 1976 through 1977 in 20 half-hour episodes. The 1977 episodes were broken into two parts that ran 11 minutes each — 16 episodes in 1976 and 4 episodes in 1977.
On the weekend of September 12–13, 1981, Owens substituted for his old KEWB station partner Casey Kasem on American Top 40; this was his only appearance on radio's first nationally syndicated countdown show. In that same year, Watermark chose Owens to replace Murray "The K" Kaufman as permanent host of Soundtrack Of The Sixties, an oldies retrospective show. It ran in syndication through 1984.
He was the voice of Walt Disney's Epcot Center ride, World of Motion, which operated between 1982 and 1996. His television special was "The Roots of Goofy" which aired from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.
Owens moved from KMPC to KPRZ (both Los Angeles) in the early 1980s, hosting mornings at the "Music Of Your Life"-formatted station. Owens in morning, and Dick Whittinghill in afternoon drive was an inversion of his KMPC years.
When Roger Barkley surprisingly walked out of the long-running "Lohman and Barkley Show" on KFI in Los Angeles, Owens briefly teamed with Al Lohman for the successful morning commute show. Jeff Gehringer was brought on as producer. The program ended after the station changed format to talk.
Owens also co-starred in a number of documentaries about dinosaurs in the 1980s alongside Chicago's Eric Boardman. These documentaries were distributed by the Midwich Entertainment group for the Disney Channel before it went from being a premium pay channel on cable to a standard channel.
In the late 1990s, Owens hosted the morning show on the Music of Your Life radio network, where he later had the evening shift and hosted a weekend afternoon show until 2006. He also announces pre-recorded station IDs for Parksville, British Columbia radio station CHPQ-FM (The Lounge), and for humorist Gary Burbank's long-running afternoon show on WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. Owens was also the announcer for America's Funniest Home Videos from 1995–1997, replacing Ernie Anderson.
In 2004, Owens co-wrote with celebrity biographer and entertainment historian Jeff Lenburg an insightful and entertaining book on how to break into and succeed in the voice business, titled "How to Make a Million Dollars With Your Voice (Or Lose Your Tonsils Trying)," for McGraw-Hill. Most recently, Owens has become the promotional announcing voice for Antenna TV, a cable channel dedicated to classic shows of the past, like The Monkees, Adam-12, and Gidget.
Owens has provided the voices for:
- The title character of Roger Ramjet.
- The Space Ghost for the original Space Ghost (1966-1968) cartoon series (credited as Gary Owen) and on Space Stars (1981-1982). He later reprised his role in a 2011 episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
- The announcer for Garfield and Friends.
- The Narrator of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, without screen credit.
- Powdered Toast Man of The Ren and Stimpy Show.
- Captain Squash on Bobby's World.
- Inspector Gadget in the pilot episode's original version.
- Dirk Niblick on PBS's Square One TV.
- A substitute announcer for Bill Nye The Science Guy.
- The announcer and the Principal in two different episodes of Two Stupid Dogs
- The Blue Falcon in Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. (He later reprised the role in both an episode of Dexter's Laboratory and an episode of Johnny Bravo .)
- Badly Animated Man in Raw Toonage.
- Commander Ulysses Feral in SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron.
- The Narrator for the pilot episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The Narrator for the US commercial of Super Mario Land 2.
- Opening narration of t.v. series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
- The voice of "Cy (Cylon)" from the Galactica 1980 episode "The Return of Starbuck." (Rex Cutter actually wore the Cylon armor; Owens received no screen credit for providing "Cy's" voice.)
- The announcer and himself for Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
- The 1950s-styled Batman in The New Batman Adventures episode "Legends of the Dark Knight."
- The announcer for Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad.
- The voice of the Antenna TV promotions (2011- ), intoning "Vintage...without the funny smell."
- Namor in the "7 Little Superheroes" episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
When appearing "in character" on camera as Gary Owens, the announcer, Owens holds his right hand up to his right ear while speaking into a gimbaled boom microphone. This is done in imitation of the announcers in the early days of radio, who had to rely upon the acoustic feedback of their cupped hand to hear how they sounded to the audience. However, on his KMPC radio show in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he claimed that this was because a piece of shrapnel took off his ear during the war; sometimes he said it would come loose and he had to hold it on; at other times he said that he was given a wooden ear, and was keeping the termites warm.
Blast From the Past
In 2001, TV Land released two computer games entitled Blast From the Past, hosted by Owens and featuring other TV celebrities including Florence Henderson, Ed Asner, Davy Jones, Bob Denver, Don Adams, Barbara Eden, and Marion Ross, and others. The games spoofed a game show and the prize for winners was an interview with the chosen celebrity the contestant selected at the start of the game.
|Actors portraying Space Ghost
|Announcer for America's Funniest Home Videos