Bergman sits at a microphone in the WPTS studio
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This man of many voices got his start at Pitt’s WPTS

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Alumni

When Bugs Bunny walked into the William Pitt Union recently, there were no apparent PhDs around for him to ask the enduring question: “What’s up, doc?”

That didn’t stop him from going down his own University of Pittsburgh rabbit hole.

You see (or hear), Jeff Bergman isn’t just Bugs Bunny. Bergman (A&S ’83) is a man of many animation voices whose career was launched four decades ago in this very student union, at WPTS-AM radio.

Bergman switches from one animated identity to another the way other people flip a light switch.

“Many of you may know me as…

“Bugs Bunny, fwom Space Jam! That’s wight, doc. Hee hee hee hee hee.

“I say, I say, pay attention,” booms the baritone of Foghorn Leghorn. “I say, nice boy, but about as sharp as a bag of wet mice.

“Hey, what about me? I’m Daffy Duck, I’m the star of the show. Woohoo woohoo woohoo.

“Or some of you may know me as the original voice of Gus the Groundhog from the Pennsylvania lottery, the second-most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania.

“Or the voice of Yogi Beaaar.

“Annnnnnnd Freeeed Fliiinstooone. Yyyyyyyyyyyyyabba dabba doooooo!”

Bergman laughs

How does a voice actor with a steady workload across Hollywood animation and video games — he is the officially licensed voice for Dumbledore in “Harry Potter: Magic Awakened” and more — reach such rarified air? The same way Bugs gets to Carnegie Hall: pwactice, pwactice, pwactice.

[The man of many voices answers questions about his career in Pitt Magazine]

Bergman visited the Pittsburgh campus on April 11 before a three-day gig where he was drawing crowds at the same event as Hollywood star reunions for “The Breakfast Club,” “Thelma and Louise” and “90210.”

“This is a really special weekend,” Bergman said, as himself. “I’m doing my first comic con, known as Steel City Con, in Monroeville. I’ve never done one of these before.”

So, he dropped by campus to relive his impersonation roots and rise to the Looney Tunes multiverse.

“It all started really here, in this building,” Bergman continued about William Pitt Union, where WPTS’ studios over time gravitated from the basement to the fourth floor. “Because I worked here, at this radio station, doing Looney Tunes voices in 1982.”

It’s also where he met the first and perhaps most memorable Looney Tunes voice star.

“About 43 years ago, I met Mel Blanc, who was the original voice of Bugs Bunny; he was lecturing at David Lawrence Hall, right across the street,” Bergman said. “And in here, in the student union, they had a reception for him. And I just happened to attend that lecture, found out he was staying at a motel that was down the street. I followed him back to the hotel and knocked on his door, and he let me in, and we talked. And he said, ‘Stay in school and look me up if you ever get out to California.’”

During his remaining time in school, Bergman kept up his voices for WPTS and blossomed during an internship at then key local talk-radio station KQV-AM and one of America’s most respected rock stations, WDVE-FM. He finished his major in communication and rhetoric, and remembers instructors like presidential rhetoric Professor Theodore Windt, who during classes would gradually launch into his Lyndon Johnson Texas drawl and John F. Kennedy Boston accent — meanwhile, Bergman was honing his own Ronald Reagan.

Blanc died (“oddly enough, on my birthday”) before Bergman got to Hollywood. Still, when Bergman arrived, he stumbled upon a Looney Tunes casting call.

His memories of Blanc were vivid as he walked into Lawrence Hall, a venue very different from the days of his Pitt epiphany, when his life’s journey went Looney.

“You just never know. You never know,” Bergman said. “So much is happening at Pitt.”

“Well, let’s see, bbbb-Porky the Pig would say, bbb-anything is bbbbbb-possible at the University of bbbbbbbbbb … oh you know, of Pittsburgh.”


— Chuck Finder