If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you know the laugh.
It’s the laugh of Springfield’s local medical professional, Dr. Hibbert, who always has the propensity to make a warm-hearted pun in the midst of chaos. For over 30 years, that chuckle has come from the voice of actor Harry Shearer. Just in case you didn’t know, Shearer was a whole white man voicing a Black animated character.
Now, that’s changing. On Monday, Deadline reported Shearer will be replaced by veteran voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson.
Richardson will take over starting on Sunday, Feb. 28—the last day of Black History Month, mind you! Shearer’s last episode as Dr. Hibbert was this past Sunday, titled “Dairy Queen,” and he will move forward with the show, continuing to voice characters such as Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and Mr. Burns.
The conversation surrounding the significance of Black animated characters being voiced by Black people has been especially amplified in the past year, with substantial changes happening in the industry such as Kristen Bell (Central Park) and Jenny Slate (Big Mouth) stepping down from their voiceover roles so that their characters could be voiced by Black women (Emmy Raver-Lampman and Ayo Edebiri, respectively). The Simpsons had this reckoning as well, with Hank Azaria stepping down last January as the original voice behind Indian-American character Apu.
On Richardson’s voice acting background, Deadline adds:
Richardson received a 2019 Primetime Emmy nomination for voicing the character Rosie on Netflix’s F Is For Family. He also worked on Family Guy, American Dad!, Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bless The Harts, among others.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—seriously, scroll through his IMDb page—this man’s voice is likely a part of your childhood if you grew up in the 1990s and 2000s.
“Sometimes, from what I’ve done, people want similar sounds relative to those characters,” Richardson said in a 2013 interview with GeekMom. “What I admire are people who cast me for range. Knowing that I can do highs and lows and stuff like that, like when I was Cleveland Jr. and Barney Rubble, that’s pretty cool. To not be set in one specific area is nice. It’s nice to know that people are aware of what I can do.”
Congrats to Kevin Michael Richardson! With his background, we’re sure he’ll do Dr. Hibbert justice.