Joe Barbera said that Barney Rubble was ''a prehistoric Art Carney''

Plus, how Barbera convinced Mel Blanc to join the cast of The Flintstones.

Warner Brothers

Some of the best television series have a lengthy and extensive origin story, and sometimes, an actor's introduction to a series can be achieved with something as simple as a phone call. 

According to Mel Blanc's memoir, That's Not All Folks!, that's what happened one day in the 1960s when he received a call from Joe Barbera, who invited him to join the cast of The Flintstones.

"I received a call from Joe Barbera about playing Barney Rubble, one of the four leads," Blanc wrote. "'What is he supposed to sound like?' I asked."

Barbera told Blanc that Rubble resembled, "A prehistoric Art Carney," referencing the comedian best known for his role as Ed Norton in The Honeymooners.

However, though he was someone who fans and fellow voice actors would spend the rest of their lives imitating, Blanc himself didn't necessarily believe that the building blocks of a new character should lie in one that already existed.

"Interesting, but I don't think so. I don't believe in impersonating others," Blanc said. Barbera, however, was persistent. "Barbera supplied some more details about Barney: that he was an easygoing kind of Cro-Magnon and the ideal counterpoint to Fred Flintstone, who had a big mouth as well as a propensity for putting his unshod foot in it." 

"The pair sounded full of comic potential. It also sounded an awful lot like Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden and Carney's Ed Norton from TV's The Honeymooners."

In the end, a sort of compromise between actor and director was achieved. Barbera said, "Listen, Mel, you don't have to copy Carney. Tell me: How do you think Barney Rubble would talk?"

Blanc responded, "Well, I dink he'd talk like dis, Joe, with a silly hiccup of a laugh." before breaking out into Barney Rubble-like laughter. Immediately, Barbera was on board, telling Blanc "Love it. The part's yours if you want it."

The rest, of course, we know to be stone-age history.

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3 Comments

justjeff 1 month ago
"...as well as a propensity for putting his unshod food in it." FOOD??? Did people eat their own feet back in prehistoric times???

"I'll have shin bone, medium-rare with some french-fried toes and an order of ankle as well..."🙄
WordsmithWorks 1 month ago
And Fred Flintstone was a prehistoric Ralph Kramden. This is well-known, including Jackie Gleason's decision not to sue.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Barney Rubble ROCKS! So do Barbera and Blanc!
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