I remember the first time I watched Mrs. Doubtfire when I was maybe 8 years old; I was immediately inspired.
The opening scene where Robin Williams improvises the voice of a cigarette-smoking canary I thought “I didn’t know you could do that! I didn’t know you could be in cartoons!” And from that day on I wanted to be an Actor, especially a Voice Actor.
Not only that, but I remember watching how absolutely zany Robin was and realizing that there was a place in this world for people like me–people with so much energy they don’t even know where to put it all.
(If you do not want to read the whole blog, go ahead and watch the video this is all leading up to: Mrs. Doubtfire “I do voices” Re-Creation)
Growing up without a theatre department, I really didn’t know where to put it all! And I had a hard time finding other people like me. At times it was hard to continue being myself when it really felt like I was some theatre alien floating in farm-town space.
I tried a lot of different ventures to have some performative outlet. Two of those were joining student government and another was competing in FFA.
I loved student government: I could write and perform in the assemblies, talking during class was encouraged (unlike other classes where I had to sit still and NOT SAY the hilarious things that were coming to mind… torture), and there were so many opportunities for creativity!
A lot of people don’t know what FFA is. Remember that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where he’s drinking milk and judging potatoes? That’s FFA! Future Farmers of America. (Did I mention I grew up in a small town?)
I didn’t judge potatoes, but I did compete in various speech competitions. I remember one in particular where I wrote and memorized a 10 minute speech on over-fishing. Super fun stuff. Would I much rather have been memorizing 10 minute Shakespearean monologues? Well, actually that isn’t my favorite either, but YES! I joined FFA because they told me I would get to talk in front of people, it would look good on my college apps, and all of my friends were doing it.
SO WHEN I WOULD SEE MOVIES LIKE MRS. DOUBTFIRE and realize that there was a breed of people just like me out there, I felt so much less alone and so incredibly inspired to take up huge amounts of space just like Robin Williams.
Years later I would realize that that “breed” is Comedians. People with pain and boundless creativity. Quick, usually intelligent, jovial people who probably felt just like me as a kid–alone.
That’s the other part of Mrs. Doubtfire that struck a chord with me. I vividly remember watching it in my bedroom and crying because the family in the TV was the only other family I knew with divorced parents and again, I had never seen my experience reflected back at me. Again, I felt so much less alone. Every one of my friends at that point had parents that were married.
It didn’t matter if I would have ended up in a fully-funded theatre department or student government or FFA or that weird decision I made to join a sport (haha); what I was really looking for was community. I really wanted a stable “family” somewhere in my life.
Don’t worry. I found it! And I continue to build community everywhere I go– in the comedy scene, in my online voice over groups, in the close friends I maintain from when I FINALLY got to be a part of a theatre department in college.
My point is that Mrs. Doubtfire made me feel seen, it inspired me to continue to be myself, it opened my eyes to VO, AND it showed me that there was a whole world out there where my breed thrives. And here I am, almost 20 years after first watching this movie and I cannot tell you how much I am thriving now that I have entered parts of the world where my kind is celebrated.
And now for your enjoyment, not necessarily a Robin impression, but a re-creation of one of my favorite scenes from the movie (mostly because of the hot dog impression ) featuring my VO recording booth as the backdrop: Mrs. Doubfire “I do Voices”