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Gary Owens

Gary Owens (middle), 1982
Born Gary Altman
May 10, 1936 (1936-05-10) (age 73)
Mitchell, South Dakota, U.S.
Occupation Voice actor/Disc jockey
Years active 1959–present

Gary Owens (born May 10, 1936) is an American disc jockey and voice actor. His polished baritone speaking voice generally offers deadpan recitations of total nonsense, which he frequently demonstrated as the announcer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Owens is equally proficient in straight or silly assignments and is frequently heard in television, radio, and commercials. He's best known as the voice of Space Ghost on Space Ghost. He also was himself on Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1998.




Early life

Owens was born Gary Altman in Mitchell, South Dakota, the son of Venetta (née Clark), an educator and county auditor, and Bernard Joseph Altman, a county treasurer and sheriff.[1]



Jack Haley and Gary Owens, 1979.

Owens was a journeyman DJ/announcer throughout the midwest and southern U.S. in the late 1950s, finally ending up at radio station KEWB, Oakland, California in 1959.


Owens moved to KEWB's sister station KFWB in Los Angeles in 1961. From there, he joined the staff of KMPC in 1962 , (replacing previous host Johnny Grant), where he remained for the next two decades working the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. shift, Monday through Friday. A gifted punster, Owens became known for his surrealistic humor. Among his trademarks were daily appearances by The Story Lady (played by Joan Gerber), the Rumor of the Day, myriad varieties of "The Nurney Song", and the introduction of the nonsense word "insegrevious", which was briefly included in the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary.

His regular on-air radio terms included "krenellemuffin", as in "We'll be back in just a krenellemuffin". Gary always credited his radio engineer at the end of his broadcast: "I'd like to thank my engineer, Bob Jones, for creebling at the turntables." He also created the heretofore non-existent colors "veister" and "krelb".

In the early 1960s, like punster-TV star comic colleagues Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, and Jonathan Winters, Gary Owens created a few comic characters of his own, such as the gruff old man Earl C. Festoon and his wife Phoebe Festoon, the stuffy old businessman Endocrine J. Sternwallow, and the goofy good ol' boy, Merle Clyde Gumpf. Another character was crotchety old cantankerous Mergenthaler Waisleywillow.

Owens also did very funny radio promotions like sending in for "Yours", which turned out to be a postcard from him at the radio station which simply said "Yours" on it; and autographed pictures of the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles; and his famous "Moo Cow Report" in which Gary and his character Earl C. Festoon would describe where moo cows were moving inbound on the crowded freeways of L.A.

During this time Owens was also known as "Superbeard", because like his contemporary radio icon Wolfman Jack, he sported a goatee-beard, wore Hawaiian shirts, baggy Bermuda shorts, and his "1941 wide necktie with a hula girl on it". Often during these comedy skits on the air he would have the assistance of other radio comics, most notably Bob Arbogast (known as "Arbo" to his adoring fans), Stan Ross (of "Drowning in the Surf" fame in 1963), and Jim "Weather Eyes" Hawthorne.

Owens also did his famous "Good Evening Kiss" on KMPC when he was on from 9PM to Midnight, by saying "Now I'll just snuggle up to a nice warm microphone, and embracemoi," making a big wet kiss sound effect followed by the sound effect of a gong striking. In 1966, Owens collaborated with Bob Arbogast, June Foray, Daws Butler, Paul Frees and others on a hilarious comedy spoof record album titled "Sunday Morning With the Funnies" with the Jimmy Haskell Orchestra on Reprise Records.

During this period, Owens became more widely known as the voice of the eponymous TV cartoon characters in Roger Ramjet and Space Ghost, the excitable narrator/announcer from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and perhaps most well-known, as the announcer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, all the while continuing his show on KMPC. He appeared regularly as a television newscaster on The Green Hornet during the 1966-67 season. He also hosted its daily game show spin-off, Letters to Laugh-In, during its brief run in 1969. Capitalizing on Owens' "Laugh-In" fame, Mel Blanc Audiomedia, an audio production company based in Beverly Hills, CA, developed and marketed "The Gary Owens Special Report," a 260-episode package of syndicated radio comedy shows. He also appeared in the Sesame Street pilot in a skit called The Man from Alphabet.

He was a scriptwriter for Jay Ward Productions, has appeared in many series for Walt Disney, and has done over 30,000 commercials. He was also a guest star on The Munsters and McHale's Navy.

During the late 1960s, when the films of 1930s comedians such as The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields and Mae West were finding a new audience, Owens narrated phonograph records containing sound clips from the films.


In 1973, Owens wrote The (What to Do While You're Holding the) Phone Book (ISBN 0-87477-015-7), a comedic look at the history of the telephone.

Owens did the humorous news blurbs that are interspersed throughout the 1975 film The Prisoner of Second Avenue. In 1976, he hosted the first season of the nighttime version of The Gong Show; he was replaced by the show's creator, Chuck Barris.


Owens received a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in 1980, between Walt Disney and Betty White.

In the 1980s, he announced on jazz radio station KKJZ (then KKGO-FM) in Westwood, California.

On August 8, 1981, Gary announced the Corps at the Drum Corps International Midwestern Championship. It was held at Warhawk Stadium UW Whitewater

On the weekend of September 12-13, 1981, Owens substituted for his old KEWB station partner Casey Kasem on American Top 40; it was Gary's only appearance on radio's first nationally syndicated countdown show. That same year Watermark chose Owens to replace Murray the K as permanent host of "Soundtrack of the '60s", an oldies retrospective show. It ran in syndication through 1984.

He was the voice of Walt Disney's Epcot Center ride, World of Motion, which operated between 1982 and 1996.

When Roger Barkley surprisingly walked out of the long-running "Lohman and Barkley Show" on KFI in Los Angeles, Owens briefly teamed with Al Lohman for the successful morning commute show, which soon after flopped.

Owens also co-starred in a number of documentaries about dinosaurs in the 80s along side Eric Boardman. These documentaries were distributed by the Midwich Entertainment group for the Disney Channel before it went from being a premium pay channel on cable to a standard channel.


In the late 1990s, Owens hosted the morning show on the Music of Your Life radio network, where he later had the evening shift and hosted a weekend afternoon show until 2006. He also announces pre-recorded station IDs for Parksville, British Columbia radio station CHPQ-FM (The Lounge), and for humorist Gary Burbank's long-running afternoon show on WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Voice acting

Owens has provided the voices for

He has narrated or announced dozens of other cartoons, as well as the fourth and sixth installments of the Space Quest PC game series.


When appearing "in character" on camera as Gary Owens, the announcer, Owens holds his right hand up to his right ear while speaking into a gimbaled boom microphone. This is done in imitation of the announcers in the early days of radio, who had to rely upon the acoustic feedback of their cupped hand to hear how they sounded to the audience. However, on his KMPC radio show in the late 60s and early 70s, he claimed that this was because a piece of shrapnel took off his ear during the war; sometimes he said it would come loose and he had to hold it on; at other times he said that he was given a wooden ear, and was keeping the termites warm.

Owens coined the phrase "Beautiful downtown Burbank" which was later used on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show.


Owens would often paraphrase his boyhood hero Boston Blackie, who said "Friend of those who have no friends"; Gary's version was "Friend of those who want no friends"!

Gary also said things like:

  • "And now here he is, Gary Owens. Thank you very much, me!"
  • "Not much change in the weather, or my wallet till next payday!"
  • "It's been downright insegrevious, folks!"
  • "See your doctor before it's too late. And if it's too late, come back in the morning, when he's open."
  • "If you are a Taurean, it is better to be a South Taurean than a North Taurean."
  • "Gosh-a-roony!"
  • "The technical difficulty originally scheduled for this time has been postponed - due to technical difficulties."
  • "That's easy for you to say!"
  • "This is the Zupmeister Broadcasting System." (followed by a parody of NBC's three-tone tag line, with the third "tone" being anything from a wobbly board to a loud explosion.)
  • "Thank you, Reverend. And I like your new clown outfit."
  • This is Gary Owens. Stay tuned for the news, followed by more of Goof Edwards [ Geoff Edwards ]."

Gary Owens, Los Angeles, K- -les -M- -les -les -les C-K!"

  • Version #2:

"I wanna listen to: Ga-ry O-wens, Los An-ge-lope!"

  • "KMPC--the radio station open to the opinions of everyone."

"I think Gary Owens is a idiot."
"Who asked him?"

  • Sung to the tune of The Association song "Cherish:" "Garish is the word we use to inscribe... on the lavatory walls at.. K-M-P-C, Los Angle-Less"
  • "It's a Gary Owens double krellman....nurni, nurni, nurni, nurni....."
  • "And now here's ____ ____ (insert any name) and his (or her) band of Ren____ (rhymes with last name, a take-off from Les Brown and his Band of Renown)"
  • "Nurni, nurni, nurni,...nurni, nurni, nurni,...nurni, nurni, nurni, nurn,..fnork" (sung to an old vaudeville song)
  • "The Gary Owens Show in the Gary Owens suite in the Gary Ownens building on Gary Owens Boulevard in beautiful downtown Burbank".


External links


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