A Reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” in 100 Celebrity Voices

For every august per­son­age who’s tak­en a crack Edgar Allan Poe’s ever­green poem, “The Raven,” there are thou­sands more who haven’t.

Humorist Jor­dan Mon­sell is doing what he can to close that gap, pro­vid­ing a sam­pling of 100 most­ly male, most­ly white, most­ly human celebri­ty voic­es. It’s a solo recita­tion, but vocal­ly a col­lab­o­ra­tive one, with a fair num­ber of ani­mat­ed char­ac­ters mak­ing their way into the cred­its, too.

He cer­tain­ly knows how to cast out­side the box. Tra­di­tion­al Poe inter­preters such as Vin­cent Price and John Astin bring some well estab­lished creep cred to the enter­prise. Mon­sell picks Christo­pher Walken and Christo­pher Lee already have exist­ing takes on this clas­sic, and Antho­ny Hop­kins and Willem Dafoe are wel­come addi­tions.

But what to make of Jer­ry Sein­feld, Pee-Wee Her­man, John­ny Cash… and even poet­ry lover Bill Mur­ray? Man­ic and much missed Robin Williams may offer a clue. What good is hav­ing an arse­nal of impres­sions if you’re not will­ing to roll them out in rapid suc­ces­sion?

While some of Mon­sel­l’s imper­son­ations (cough, David Bowie) fall a bit short of the mark, oth­ers will have you regret­ting that no one had the fore­thought to record Don Knotts or JFK recit­ing the poem in its entire­ty.

The titles offer a bit of a mis­nomer. In many instances, it’s not real­ly the per­form­ers but their best known char­ac­ters being aped. While there may not be too great a vocal divide between play­wright Wal­lace Shawn and Vizzi­ni in The Princess Bride, The Dude is not Jeff Bridges, any more than Cap­tain Jack Spar­row is John­ny Depp.

The project seems like­ly to play best with nerdy ado­les­cent boys… which could be good news for teach­ers look­ing to get reluc­tant read­ers onboard. Show it on the class­room Smart Board, and be pre­pared to have mini-teach-ins on Katharine Hep­burn, Wal­ter Matthau, the late great Robert Shaw, and oth­er big names whose day has passed. Shrek, Gol­lum, and Har­ry Potter’s house elf, Dob­by, are on hand to keep the ref­er­ences from feel­ing too moldy.

The specter of Poe gets the cov­et­ed final word, a balm to the ears after the triple assault of Chris­t­ian Bale’s Bat­man, Mad Max’s Tom Hardy, and Heath Ledger’s Jok­er. (It may be a mat­ter of taste. You’ll hear no com­plaint from these quar­ters with regard to Mick­ey Mouse, Bert Lahr’s Cow­ard­ly Lion, or The Simpson’s Krusty the Klown, won­der­ful­ly unc­tu­ous.)

The break­neck audio patch­work approach doesn’t do much for read­ing com­pre­hen­sion, but could lead to a live­ly mid­dle school dis­cus­sion on what con­sti­tutes a suc­cess­ful per­for­mance. Who served the text best? Read­ers?

Fur­ther­more, who’s miss­ing? What voice would you add to the Monsell’s roll call, below?

Mor­gan Free­man

Ker­mit the Frog

John­ny Cash

Ringo Starr

David Bowie

Rick Mora­nis

Gary Old­man

Peter Lorre

Adam San­dler

Don Knotts

William Shat­ner

George Takei

Michael Dorn

Daffy Duck

Ricky Ger­vais

Foghorn Leghorn

Liam Nee­son

Nicholas Cage

John Tra­vol­ta

Antho­ny Hop­kins

Rod Ser­ling

Cook­ie Mon­ster

Jay Baruchel

Jeff Bridges

John­ny Depp


Dr. Phil


Mandy Patinkin

Wal­lace Shawn

Bil­ly Crys­tal

Owen Wil­son

Dustin Hoff­man

Krusty the Klown


Chris­t­ian Bale

Michael Caine

Tom Hardy

Heath Ledger

Mick­ey Mouse

John Wayne

Jer­ry Sein­feld

Phil Hart­man


Al Paci­no

Mar­lon Bran­do

Jack Lem­mon

Wal­ter Matthau

Christo­pher Walken

Rowlf the Dog

John Cleese

Robin Williams

Katharine Hep­burn

Woody Allen

Matthew McConaugh­ey

Cow­ard­ly Lion

Jim­my Stew­art

John C. Reil­ly

James Mason

Sylvester Stal­lone

Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger


Daniel Day Lewis

Mag­gie Smith

Alan Rick­man


Jack Nichol­son

Christoph Waltz

Bill Mur­ray

Dan Aykroyd

Sean Con­nery

Bill Cos­by

Christo­pher Lloyd

Droopy Dog

Kevin Spacey

Har­ri­son Ford

Ronald Rea­gan


Bill Clin­ton

Keanu Reeves

Ian McK­ellen

Paul Gia­mat­ti


Stan Lee

Jeff Gold­blum

Hugh Grant

Ken­neth Branagh

Lar­ry the Cable Guy

Pee-Wee Her­man



Charl­ton Hes­ton

Michael Keaton

Homer Simp­son


Willem Dafoe

Bruce Willis

Robert Shaw

Christo­pher Lee

Edgar Allan Poe

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Clas­sic Read­ings of Poe’s “The Raven” by Vin­cent Price, James Earl Jones, Christo­pher Walken, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee & More

Edgar Allan Poe’s the Raven: Watch an Award-Win­ning Short Film That Mod­ern­izes Poe’s Clas­sic Tale

The Grate­ful Dead Pays Trib­ute to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” in a 1982 Con­cert: Hear “Raven Space”

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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