(Formerly) living legend Gary Owens passed away yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He first rose to fame as the announcer on Laugh-In, which led to countless other announcing jobs like it, as well as voice acting gigs and several different radio shows. Owens was gifted with one of the greatest voices ever bestowed upon someone. It was this unique baritone that was both authoritiative and completely goofy at the same time. Or he could read something completely serious and get you laughing just from the tone of his voice.
If you think you don’t know who this is, you’re wrong. In fact, if you watched cartoons at ALL, at any point before the late 90’s, you have at least one favorite character that Owens was the voice of. Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy. Bobby’s idol Captain Squash from Bobby’s World. Dirk Niblick (and other roles) on Square One TV. The principal on 2 Stupid Dogs. Many, many characters on Garfield and Friends. He was also the original Space Ghost (no idea why he didn’t reprise the role for SG’s 1990’s talk show). There are tons of other examples that don’t come to mind at the moment.
You might notice Owens played the part of a lot of superheroes. He even voiced Batman at one point…I suppose if you couldn’t get Adam West, Owens was the next best thing. (Speaking of which, West, you better cling to life for a few more years.)
In recent years, despite being both available and perfectly capable of reading his lines with bombast, Owens has not been hired for much cartoon work. In fact, I had to look him up on Wikipedia to confirm he was still alive. When I found out he was, I was blown away that nobody was taking advantage of that fact. If I was running a cartoon show, I would have been honored to have the ability to use Gary Owens.
But now that ability is lost. Gary’s final voice work was as the announcer for subchannel Antenna TV, and so the last words I’ll ever hear from Powdered Toast Man are “stay tuned for Doogie Howser.” Pretty sad.