It may only happen once out of every few thousand or million tries, but never let anyone tell you that goofing around on YouTube can’t lead to the impossibly big break of your dreams—again, it probably won’t, and assuming that it will is childishly naive, but it still could happen. Just ask Arif Zahir, a YouTube impressionist who makes videos where he pretends to be famous people/fictional characters in Omegle chats or while playing video games. One of his specialties happens to be imitating the voice Mike Henry used to use for Cleveland Brown on Family Guy, and now that Henry has stepped down from the role as part of an industry-wide trend of moving away from having white people provide the voice of Black characters, the Family Guy people have actually decided to hire Zahir as the new voice of Cleveland.
Family Guy’s next season premieres tonight, and while it was produced before Henry stepped down (and therefore still features him doing the voice), the episodes that are currently in production will feature Zahir taking over as Rhode Island’s giggliest mustache-wearer. Zahir released an appropriately enthusiastic statement (via TVLine), saying he was “shocked and saddened” when Henry announced that he would no longer voice Cleveland because he thought that meant the character would never be seen again, but he feels “overabundant gratitude” at now having the opportunity to play his “favorite cartoon character of all time.”
Henry released a statement of his own, saying that Zahir not only has “obvious” talent, but that his “understanding of Cleveland and his respect for the character” made it clear that he’s the right choice for this gig. It also sounds like Henry will be working with Zahir as some kind of Ceveland advisor, so it seems like there should be no reason to be concerned about any dramatic changes coming to Family Guy. As for Zahir’s aforementioned obvious talent, it really is pretty damn obvious that he really is good at this: