The great Harvey Korman once explained how he created the voice of the Great Gazoo
"Humor him. He might be dangerous."
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"Hey, look up in the sky, Fred!" Barney Rubble says from the passenger seat of Fred Flintstone’s ride. Fred answers, "What is it?" Barney doesn’t know the answer, but TV audiences were absolutely delighted when the alien spacecraft overhead suddenly crash-landed. After a little bit of caveman fumbling with buttons and latches, out popped the Great Gazoo.
The Great Gazoo only appeared in 13 episodes of The Flintstones. Voiced by the wonderful Harvey Korman, the snobby alien, who saw himself in another universe from Barney and Fred intellectually, became a fan favorite. Today, if you tried to purchase one of the animated cels from The Flintstones featuring the Great Gazoo, especially if it’s signed, the cost can run to about $1,500.
The little green alien’s a prized piece of TV history and in an interview with the Archive of American Television, Korman explained how out of his league he felt trying to create the Great Gazoo’s voice.
"I really didn’t know what to do," Korman said. "I’m really not a very good voiceover actor. That’s a special, special talent these people have. Like the people on The Simpsons are so brilliant. There’s only six actors and they do about 50 characters. So I’m not at all in that league.”
Of course, The Flintstones main cast featured voice actors with the same kind of range. Mel Blanc performed Barney Rubble, of course, but also Dino, a hillbilly, a judge, a garbage man and many others, including something called a "mop bird."
To create the Great Gazoo, Korman humbly recalled how he conjured that snooty voice, while imitating the alien in the interview, "I just made him sort of: 'Hello, dum dum.' Very superior and arrogant, elite."
From the main cast, only Alan Reed, who voiced Fred Flintstone, stuck to his one character. But Korman didn’t consider himself a voice actor, so he went into The Flintstones with a plan that probably looked like it came from another planet to anyone who caught a glimpse of his curiously marked-up script.
"I would like to get the script beforehand," Korman said. "Because I like to be prepared. I make notes for myself about where I’d like to go, where the accent should be, where the transitions are. And my script looks like, I dunno what. I have different colors for different symbols that only I understand."
From this cryptic code came the Great Gazoo.
"It was a very popular character, the Great Gazoo," Korman admitted, still seeming baffled. Later in his career, Korman traveled for Hanna-Barbera, attending conferences where collectors would vie for animated cels of his famous character. If they got him to sign, he said, they became worth that much more. "I never realized," Korman said, admitting he still felt self-conscious about the voice work, saying, "I know it’s not my milieu."
Luckily, Hanna-Barbera was there to help the sketch actor who cracked everyone up on The Carol Burnett Show become the type of cartoon character that attracts collectors for decades.
"Wonderful guys," Korman said of the famous animation duo.