Bill Thompson was an American radio actor and voice actor whose career stretched from the 1930s until his death.
Born to vaudevillian parents, Thompson began his career in Chicago radio, where his early appearances included appearances as a regular on Don McNeill’s morning variety series The Breakfast Club in 1934 and a stint as a choir member on the musical variety series The Sinclair Weiner Minstrels around 1937. While on the former series, Thompson originated a meek, mush-mouthed character occasionally referred to in publicity as Mr. Wimple. Thompson soon achieved his greatest fame after he joined the cast of the radio comedy Fibber McGee and Molly around 1936 and brought back the Wimple voice in 1941.
On Fibber McGee and Molly, Thompson essayed a variety of roles, including a boisterous conman with a W. C. Fields voice, originally named Widdicomb Blotto but soon re-christened Horatio K. Boomer, and Nick Depopulis, the Greek restaurant owner. His two most famous roles on the series, however, were as the Old Timer and Wallace Wimple. The Old Timer, introduced in 1937 was a garrulous old gent who would drop in and listen to McGee’s rambling stories and jokes. He inexplicably referred to McGee as “Johnny,” as in: “That’s pretty good, Johnny, but that ain’t the way I heerd it!” This soon became a national catch phrase and surfaced in Warner Bros. cartoon shorts, notably Tortoise Wins by a Hare in which Bugs Bunny disguises himself as a bearded old man and tries to trick the tortoise into telling him “how he beat that rabbit!”)
Wallace Wimple, an expansion of Thompson’s Breakfast Club role, would prove to be his most enduring character, however. Wimple was a timid birdwatcher, appropriately nicknamed “Wimp” by McGee, who lived in constant terror of his “big old wife,” ironically named “Sweetie Face,” who was often mentioned but never heard. The character, whose greeting was a mild “Hello, folks,” became very popular, and inspired animation director Tex Avery to build a dog character around the voice. This character, eventually named Droopy Dog, was also voiced by Thompson in most of his appearances. Thompson also played the title role, an Adolf Hitler take-off, in Avery’s Academy Award nominated short The Blitz Wolf.