Hal Lublin is a very specific monster. As an actor and improviser, he’s been performing with the comedy dream team show Thrilling Adventure Hour for more than a decade. Now, he’s breaking into roles on a much larger scale, including joining the cast of Venture Brothers this season, guesting on a new Cartoon Network show Mighty Magiswords, and touring with the live production of creepy podcast Welcome To Night Vale. We sat down to discuss voice over work, unreliable narrators, and how it feels to join huge shows as a fan.
Hal, I need your notes on this character I’ve been tinkering with. His name is Pal Lublin and he’s your evil twin (as played by me) but also just a super nice dude. Where do I need to take the character from here?
I wanna see what drives him. The best bad guys don’t think that they’re bad people. Their end justifies the means. First, he has to dress better than me. I’m the rock bottom of menswear. It’s a great name, too. I’ve been called “Howe Loveland” before, and that’s a little too porn-sounding for this. So what makes Pal less human? What’s the motor? Evil is rarely evil for evil’s sake. That’s what makes them fun to play.
Thank you for the natural transition into talking about Venture Brothers. You joined the cast this season and I assume you made that connection through Thrilling Adventure Hour?
That’s how I met Jackson Publick. And through him and mutual friend Ken Plume I got to know Doc. But Jackson had been on Thrilling Adventure Hour for a few years, whenever the show is in NYC.. There’s a lot of cross-over between the two shows, with James Urbaniak as the doorway. Every time I did the show it was like a small audition.
I assume you were a fan of the show?
It’s one of those shows that’s too smart. It’s just insane at the same time. Anyone who is a fan of anything pop culture should be watching. The way they send stuff up has such a strong voice as a show. It’s more TAH than anything else, because the bends develop these genres into — not parody — but loving satire. You’re pointing out the things that are silly in a nice way, so people who enjoy it can watch and know it is being handled with care, while it invites outsiders who dislike those genres to watch too. The quality is outstanding. People don’t understand how much work Doc and Jackson put in — from editing and writing — but also all the voices. I point during episodes to tell my wife who they are. “That’s Jackson, that’s Doc, that’s Doc, that’s Doc, that’s Jackson.” They are workhorses who care about getting it right. Fans want it right away, but making them wait it always worth it.
Does it ever upset you that you are the least famous person in Thrilling Adventure Hour?
It’s a double-edged sword: I’m in Thrilling Adventure Hour. That’s my credit. I don’t think the people I’ve done this show with for eleven years think in those terms, thankfully. That being said, yes it is very weird. I meet fans of the show who don’t know who I am. It’s an audio show and I do character voices. Who is going to see the narrator on the street and say “Look who it is! Hal Lublin!” I’m just thrilled to be a part of it. I wouldn’t be famous at all without this.
We met when we were both interviewing for the same day job, and right after that I saw you on stage in TAH and was mad you stole the day gig from me, because I was young and couldn’t comprehend that a dude on stage at The Largo wasn’t financially set for life.
I moved out at 23. I thought by 30 you needed to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I had no plan. Just a giant goal. And you need to do lots of things on the side to make that happen. The reality is, you just want to work. If you like it then you will take any opportunity. You’re just trying to build on that and create momentum. Building a career is very distinct from becoming a star.
So now that you’re a star of the Venture Bros
Yes. Tell me about the characters you’re playing on the show and how you built them.
Wide Wale was based on Kingpin but was part whale, so that… I didn’t know I was going to do anything like Wandering Spider or any of the smaller roles. They needed people to fill in and I got surprised. Sometimes you just dive in. That’s the advantage of years of improv and learning how to breakdown scripts. Jackson is also the best director in the world. Wide Wale became about figuring out your version of a mafioso and what’s the different take, besides making him sound like he’s underwater. I got to create someone really sinister. Then you filter it through crazy voices. Voice acting isn’t about having a crazy voice, it is about choosing which voice and building a performance from that. Jackson knew I could do a lot of voices, but he know I could bring it from a performance perspective. The Wandering Spider was based on a co-worker of mine from Brazil because he’s the only Brazilian person I know. That sounds bad. Let’s not tell him that.
What advice would you give to young VO person?
Classes. Take ‘em. Take general acting classes and improv too. Learn mic technique. I think everyone in the world should take improv classes to learn about communication, listening, and trust. Learning to limit yourself as an actor is also an important skill.
You’ve got a podcast called We Got This with actor Mark Gagliardi. Where’d you guys get the idea to debate nonsense together?
It was born out of finding out TAH was coming to a close. I wanted to create something that would give me an outlet to fill that void. I’ve known Mark for 14 years, and we’ve always been close, so I had the idea of two guys settling un-settlable arguments and so we dove in. Over the first year, we’ve found our rhythm. Talking for 60 minutes on any topic is the easy part because we like each other and we like trying to make each other laugh. I didn’t know about all the production challenges, but as a guy with a marketing background I’m hooked on the business side of this. How do you build an audience? That’s the inside baseball of this podcast for me.
In Welcome To Night Vale you play a character that was hated long before you got that. How do you jump into being disliked?
Steve Carlsberg is the main narrator’s brother-in-law and is therefore a stepfather to Cecil’s niece. He has traditionally been reviled. All the initial mentions are throwaway lines about what a dick he is. He existed for a year before anyone had voiced him. No bad guy thinks they’re a bad guy, and that goes for disliked people as well. Then I came in to play him, and I played him as a good guy doing the best he can. That’s a more interesting choice to me. Those scripts were very open to interpretation. Early on, the writers suggest Cecil might not be the most reliable narrator. So my choices here helped change their writing, and now fans are very divided about me. In my mind he’s a really nice guy who is full of love, and if the things he does are annoying to Cecil then that’s just the nature of family.
To who in your family are you the Steve Carlsberg?
I hope not anybody. But when I was a kid my older cousins probably saw me that way. I was not cool. I just wanted to be liked, and everyone hates that.
Give me spoilers about Venture Bros.
I hope I’m coming back. I’m excited for the next chapter. Also, there will be an evil character named Pal Lublin. Sharp dresser.