Of all the recurring Simpsons characters who are not voiced by main cast members, criminal mastermind and pompous slapstick victim Sideshow Bob is a strong contender for the most beloved. Imbued with the honeyed baritone strains of Kelsey Grammer’s vocal cords, Krusty The Clown’s fallen comic foil is a continuously welcome source of bathos on the long-running animated show.
In an upcoming episode of BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, Grammer reveals the odd way in which his penchant for backstage Tony Bennett impressions circuitously led to Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon offering him the role. Even more interesting is the way that the actor explains how he came up with Bob’s grandiose manner of speaking. It started with, of all things, a job doing manual labor for the then-more-successful actor Ellis Rabb.
“When I was working for him I was painting his bathroom and hanging wallpaper … ”Ellis would regale me with stories when he came home from work always, and he’d say things like this: ‘Oooh, Kelsey. That baby should have been mine,’” Grammer explained to Norton, slipping in and out of his former boss’s distinctly flamboyant voice. “And I thought, ‘This guy—I’m gonna use him someday.’ And when I read the script for Sideshow Bob, I said, ‘This is Ellis Rabb.’”
Really, though, this is a story that can’t be done justice in text. You really need to hear Grammer deliver this anecdote, upon which he’s clearly been dining for decades: