Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld Front Emmy Icons 2013 Portfolio
Hank Azaria (10 noms, 4 wins)
After 24 years of voicing characters in 523 episodes of The Simpsons, Azaria has a few things he'd like to clear up about his art form. "People think you're just sitting there talking, but it really is acting," says Azaria, 49. "Your whole body has to get into it, or it's not going to make the proper sounds. No, we don't have to memorize lines or have hair and wardrobe or be on location. But after two or three hours of recording, you can't do much more! It's really exhausting."
Since the day he first read for Simpsons creator Matt Groening and producer Sam Simon, Azaria has created -- and received three outstanding voiceover Emmys for -- some of the most absurdly lovable characters on the Fox series, television's longest-running scripted program. From Moe the bartender to Apu the convenience-store clerk to Comic Book Guy to Chief Wiggum, Azaria's creations have prompted him to protect his most crucial asset. "I had my voice insured after I blew it out at a Knicks game," he says. "I was really scared because it didn't come back for more than a week. Now I really try not to scream or lose my temper."
Azaria, a Queens native who's based in New York and records at a local studio, estimates he's performed more than 100 voices during the series' run, 30 to 40 semiregularly. Can he choose a favorite? "That's like Sophie's Choice, but I love Moe as a character, and I love performing Professor Frink. I really enjoy myself when I'm doing him," he says.
Although he's logged numerous film and nominated TV live-action roles over the years -- guest spots on Mad About You and Friends, the Emmy-winning role in Tuesdays With Morrie opposite the late Jack Lemmon -- Azaria says little can compete with the longevity of his favorite job. "The Simpsons has been one big ball of joy, and my Emmy wins are icing on an incredible cake."
Photographed by Emily Shur on Aug. 28 at Bar Marmont in West Hollywood, Illustration by Julius Preite
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