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Jack Mercer had to re-audition for the role of Popeye for Hanna-Barbera

"I never thought of doing Popeye any other way. It's just natural to me."

© 2024 WBEI

Everyone knows the saying "If at first you don't succeed, try again." But what you might not know is that sometimes, even if you do succeed, there's still a small possibility that you will have to try again.

That was the case for Jack Mercer, who performed the voice of everyone's favorite spinach-eating sailor, Popeye, for a number of years. While not the first and last person to voice Popeye, Mercer is perhaps the voice actor most closely associated with the role, and for good reason.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mercer revealed that not only is he responsible for Popeye's voice, but he also helped come up with much of the character's speech and expressions.

"They'd give me dialogue like, 'I have to go to the store,' and I would have to change it, to transpose the thing to the way Popeye spoke: 'I has to goes to the store,' or something like that," Mercer said. 

Mercer performed as the character for over twenty years before Hanna-Barbera was given the opportunity to lease the show for their own shorts. Despite Mercer's talent and experience, the new studio actually made him reaudition for the role he had become so well known for.

"I had to audition for the part for Hanna-Barbera," Mercer said. "I was on the phone with the man from Hanna-Barbera, and my wife heard me talking about the audition. She says, 'What? He has to audition for his own voice?'"

The actor passed Hanna-Barbera's test with flying colors, which obviously wasn't surprising for a character whose portrayal was as easy as breathing for a performer like Mercer. 

"I feel the character," Mercer said of Popeye. "I never thought of doing Popeye any other way. It's just natural to me."

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