Justin Roiland's Adventure Time Role Took A Major Toll On His Voice

Voice actors are some of the most underappreciated performers in show business. They're all over our media and they have a very unique skill set, yet they rarely get the recognition or the compensation that they deserve. With a few exceptions, most voice actors never become household names, even if their work is extremely prolific. Justin Roiland, the voice behind both Rick and Morty on "Rick and Morty," is one of the most prominent voice actors around, even if he admits his actual range is somewhat limited.

Roiland, who also writes and executive produces "Rick and Morty," has been around the block a few times when it comes to voice-over acting. He's lent his talents from family-friendly shows like "Gravity Falls" to late-night adult animation like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." One of his funniest roles, however, was as The Earl of Lemongrab on "Adventure Time."

Lemongrab is an obnoxious, shrieking, paranoid character whom everybody hates. To breathe life into a character so intensely annoying, a voice of the proper annoying magnitude was needed. Anyone aware of Roiland's work knows he is very capable of being irritating, and according to Roiland in a 2020 Vanity Fair interview, that tactic worked well for him:

"I went and recorded and I was just like 'How about this?' And I screamed. I just did the screamy voice. And [Pendleton Ward, 'Adventure Time' creator] was like, 'That'll do.'"

And so Lemongrab was born. The irritating character was a hit, and he began appearing in more and more episodes of the show. While this was great for Roiland, it was a nightmare for Roiland's voice, as the screechy tones of the Earl were doing some serious damage to his vocal cords.

Too much Lemongrab

As Lemongrab became more prominent on the show, things got worse for Justin Roiland's pipes to the point where it began affecting his other work, as he spoke about in the Vanity Fair interview:

"By the third episode there was so much of Lemongrab, there were a bunch of clones of him, and I was doing all of them and they all screamed. And I was in the booth for about three hours. And after that I went back to the 'Rick and Morty' writers' room and I remember that we were talking about something and I tried to do Morty's voice and I couldn't do his voice. It just wouldn't happen."

For a voice actor with multiple jobs, having one of your characters render you unable to voice the rest of them just isn't good business. Luckily, Roiland received some sage medical advice from veteran voice actor Tom Kenny, known for his work on "SpongeBob SquarePants" and basically every other cartoon you could think of. If anybody had experienced this issue before, it was Kenny.

"And then Tom Kenny told me [...] 'You need to go to this doctor.' I went to see this doctor and he was like 'Okay, yeah. You don't have any vocal nodules but your vocal cords are super, super swollen. You need to not talk for like two weeks. And here's a cortisone shot."

Obviously, not being able to speak is a big obstacle for a voice actor, but it's still not quite as bad as permanently damaging your vocal cords. So Roiland, a man known for being loud, was forced to take a vow of silence for two weeks.

The wrath of Lemongrab

Justin Roiland continued to tell his tale in the Vanity Fair interview, putting an expectedly humorous spin on the story of his two-week recovery period:

"I couldn't talk and so I had to download this app, this text-to-speech app called, like, Talkbot. It sounds really depressed ... if you type out what you want or what you need to say and you hit play, the voice sounds really sad. And so people thought I was sad the whole time and I wasn't."

While many people apparently assumed a voice actor would be upset about not being able to use his voice for two weeks, I guess I'm at least glad that Roiland wasn't actually miserable through his recovery. If the damage Lemongrab did to his voice amounted to anything good, it was the voice of the butter robot on "Rick and Morty," which Roiland based on this melancholy text-to-speech app voice.

Sadly for audiences and luckily for Roiland's vocal cords, "Adventure Time" ended in 2018. For a man who does so many voices, one wouldn't assume retiring a single character would have any major impact on his well-being. But if you just take a second to listen to this Lemongrab guy, you can understand why Roiland is better off never having to scream "UNACCEPTABLE!" ever again.