Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Michael Winslow

Perhaps best known for his role as Sgt. Larvelle "Motor Mouth" Jones in the "Police Academy" series of movies and TV shows, Michael Winslow brings his unusual style of stand-up comedy to Sioux City this weekend.

Don't think Michael Winslow is just bells and whistles.

The comedian -- best known for his role as Sgt. Larvelle "Motor Mouth" Jones in the Police Academy series of movies and TV shows -- will be producing a series of educational books that illustrate stories with sounds.

"It's all thanks to my friend Bill Cosby, who is the co-executive producer and financier of the project," Winslow said. "He encouraged me to take sounds and do classic stories. You can do this today -- mix genres and technologies -- to help kids learn."

Winslow will bring his 10,000 voices to Sioux City this weekend, but has he counted them?

"Actually, they have been documented and I've gone way past that," he said with a laugh. "They're on file with Disney and Hanna Barbera and some other studios."

Winslow learned sounds by listening to Fat Freddy's Cat, part of group of underground comics, portraying Freddy -- a kind of hippie -- and his feline friend.

"My father also gave me a record set -- it had Mel Blanc and Milton Berle on it -- four 78 rpm records, with a big coffee table book and each picture was numbered, so you could listen to the record that went with the number," he said. "That's when I got the idea I could do this. I was probably 7 years old."

Winslow confessed he used his ability to recreate voices and sounds to his advantage growing up.

"Although in school it was more of a defense mechanism against big kids who picked on little kids, like me," he said. "You'd make the noises and they'd stop picking on you."

Teachers sometimes appreciated, sometimes didn't Winslow's sounds.

"One of my most popular sounds was two rats talking in science class," he recalled. "The teacher thought they were. They had to be moved out of the room."

The Spokane, Wash., native was enamored with magazine's like Mad, National Lampoon and Sick.

"I would listen to those little tear-out, vinyl records that they would sometimes include in the magazines," he said. "There would be whole shows and routines on them."

Mimicking the voices was a learning curve for Winslow.

"What did I learn?" he asked. "I learned that you can't make animal sounds in front of the animals. They will bite you, especially a dog. So, go into another room, make the sounds and the dog will smell around and look for the sound and not bite you."

Other learning situations?

"I also learned no talking food in the Chinese restaurant, because they don't think it's funny," Winslow said. "When customers are sitting there and they hear about the fresh chicken, then they hear the chicken clucking and then (here he made a thumping noise on the phone), well, it's just wrong to do that."

In addition to performing at comedy clubs, since 2008, Winslow has hosted the motion picture television series called "Way Back Wednesday with Winslow" on the cable superstation WGN America. He's embraced technology with his own iPhone and iPod Touch apps in 2010, bringing his sound effects and comedy to a mobile platform.

Winslow dodged the question on a "favorite" sound.

"It's like asking a parent which child they love the best," he countered, then clarified. "but I do love doing people's voices."

Among Winslow's "favorites" -- Louis Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix.

"Some sounds/voices are more difficult to do then others," he admitted. "But often times, it depends on situation. Even an inanimate object can be brought to life. Things like Stevie Wonder's harmonica and a Pomeranian playing a video game, each has its own challenges."

Winslow felt most people could do sound effects.

"Pull up to Jack-in-the-Box and make your own bullhorn," he suggested. "It also comes in handy with sales calls, which I don't get anymore, because I'm the Chinese housekeeper."

But like a seasoned athlete or trained vocalist, Winslow takes care of himself.

"I'm very cognizant of vocal warm-ups," he said. "I tell young people you don't want to ruin your voice. I learned I was hurting mine with too many high-pitched tones. I recommend camomile tea with honey and Ricolla cough drops."

In addition to the books for children, the 53-year-old Winslow revealed a movie in his future.

"Police Academy 8 is coming," he announced. "We will start production in April."


Load comments