'Simpsons' Actor Azaria Sues Craig Bierko Over Voice Rights

Hank Azaria.
Hank Azaria.

NEW YORK — Hank Azaria, an actor on Fox television's “The Simpsons,” is suing a fellow actor, Craig Bierko, over the rights to the voice of a fictional baseball announcer in an Internet comedy program.

Azaria said his character, named Jim Brockmire, appeared in a video for the Web show “Funny or Die.” He also said his plans to develop a movie based on the announcer have been “significantly impeded” by Bierko's claim to rights, according to a filing dated Nov. 14 in federal court in Los Angeles.

Bierko, who appeared in the 2012 movie “The Three Stooges,” also created the voice of an announcer, Azaria said in the complaint. After the “Funny or Die” video appeared, Bierko demanded that Azaria stop using the announcer's voice, according to the complaint.

“Bierko's claim has created a cloud over the rightful ownership of the Azaria voice,” the complaint states. “Would- be financiers and possible licensees of the asset would have valid doubts as to who is the proper copyright holder of the Jim Brockmire character.”

Jill Littman, Bierko's manager, didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Azaria seeks a judicial declaration that he has the copyright to the Brockmire character, “which incorporates the Azaria voice.” He also wants a declaration that no contract between him and Bierko was ever made.

The complaint states that Azaria created the announcer voice as early as 1983 and performed with it at his college. Someone who knew that Bierko also did an announcer voice put the two men in touch in 1990, according to the court filing. For several years, each used his own announcer voice in phone messages to the other, Azaria states.

After the “Funny or Die” video appeared, Bierko claimed that he had created the voice, according to the complaint.

The Brockmire character in the video has “a penchant for making obscure and off-the-wall cultural references when commenting on a baseball game,” according to the complaint.

Azaria, whose movies include “The Birdcage” and “Godzilla,” is also the voice of Moe the bartender on “The Simpsons.”