Tom Kenny Reflects On Life As The World’s Most Celebrated Sponge-Savant

by | July 16, 2009 at 5:59 PM | Interviews, TV News

Dispatching himself to gauge the intellect of random pedestrians in one of his man-on-the-street segments, Jay Leno recently asked a female passerby if she knew who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She had no clue. But, when Jay immediately followed up with “who lives in a pineapple under the sea?,” you better believe she had the right answer.

This weekend, Nickelodeon kicks off the tenth anniversary party (50 hours of programming July 17-19 hosted by Patchy the Pirate and including 11 premieres) surrounding the much-celebrated resident of said tropical plant – one Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants. Tom Kenny, of course, provides the well-known warble behind this porous, pants-clad figure – when he’s not otherwise fulfilling duties as acting SpongeBob Fan Club President, Patchy the Pirate.

Kenny recently talked to Fancast and reflected on the past decade spent as the world’s most celebrated sponge-savant. Plus: will SpongeBob be hanging with the guy who does live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (one of his more famous fans) any time soon? And how did Kenny’s pre-Bikini Bottom stint as a killer clown prepare him for life as a more “benign psycho”? Read on:

First off, congratulations on the tenth anniversary of the show!

TK: Thanks! Thanks so much. I can’t believe it’s been this long. It’s like your kids grow up without you noticing. “How’d you get so tall? Wow, you’ve got boobs! You have armpit hair – when did that happen?”

So, do you have any favorite episodes or moments from the entire SpongeBob oeuvre that really jump out at you as being most memorable?

TK: Yeah, I have a couple of episodes, or moments, that I tend to enjoy when they’re on. I love ‘Band Geeks’. That’s a great Squidward episode. I love most episodes where Squidward is being just water-tortured and driven crazy by the slow drip, drip, drip of SpongeBob and Patrick being enthusiastic and child-like in a way that makes him insane. I like those episodes. I love ‘Chocolate With Nuts’. I just had to do my top 15 or 20 for iTunes, and I really had to sit down and pour over all the episode descriptions….it was hard to pick favorites.

What era or situation has SpongeBob not yet found himself in? What would you yet like to see happen?

TK: Wow. What situation has SpongeBob not found himself in? Sometimes if you talk to the writers, there aren’t any. There are days they are tearing their hair out. But they always find a little loophole. For me, some of the places I’ve found myself because of SpongeBob are even stranger. Like today, ringing the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange. It’s so weird. The only reason I’m banging on [it] is because of this thing that Steve Hillenburg drew on a napkin twelve years ago.

And now you have a direct bearing on the stock exchange.

TK: Yeah. It was up 200 points, by the way. I was going to say, “I’m not going to take credit.” But I am. I definitely think it was me, and something that I did. It was kind of the way I hit the bell. You know. So just things like that. In the last couple of days, they unveiled a statue….. they don’t like to say “statue,” sorry…..a “wax figure” of SpongeBob at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in New York City. It’s the first animated personage that Madame Tussaud’s has ever done. And it’s just weird stuff you find yourself doing….or the places that SpongeBob turns up. You read an interview with Obama, and he says he loves SpongeBob. You just go, “Wow, that’s cool.” Not cool enough to get me a ticket to the inaugural ball, but…..maybe I’ll just show up on the White House lawn. [Doing SpongeBob voice:] “Barack! Barack! I hear you like my show! Let me in! Let’s hang out! You and me, dude!”

Film at eleven…..

TK: Yeah! ‘Moron SpongeBob Gets Full Cavity Search By Secret Service Agents’, at eleven………. SpongeBob is full of holes, so that’s a lot of cavities to search.

Patchy the Pirate obviously has some mad pirating skills. What could Patchy have brought to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that Johnny Depp failed to deliver?

TK: Well, one thing that Johnny Depp doesn’t have, that Patchy does have: smoldering, sexy good looks. Patchy has more sex appeal than Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp put together. And the girl. Keira Knightley. Yeah, it’s fun being Patchy too, because it harkens back to the kiddie show hosts that Steve and I remembered from our local TV stations when we were kids. Every station had that cheap kind of weatherman or whatever who would host the monster movies. It was kind of fun.

So, who’s your dream guest star? Who would you most like to have on the show who hasn’t appeared yet?

TK: That’s a good question. Most people that I would want to guest on the show are dead. So I don’t think Elvis is gonna make it onto the show. I don’t think Muddy Waters is going to guest spot on the show. Who else? I would really enjoy it if Albert Einstein would do a guest-voice on our show. He’s dead, too. Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla would be really great. Dead. Again, dead. Which is inconvenient.

Offer enough money, you never know…..

TK: That’s true. Now that it’s been on for ten years and SpongeBob is making pretty good coin, maybe we can put bigger offers out to them. But one guy that I really wish would do the show is Jerry Lewis. He has such a profound influence on SpongeBob as the character. And the voice, too. He’s somebody who is alive that I would…..if I could wave a magic wand and make him appear on the show, that would be really meaningful.

When you’re working with guest stars, do you record your part separately, or do you perform the scene together? Does it depend?

TK: You know, sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on their schedule. Sometimes it’s so tight – or they live in another place. If you’re Johnny Depp, you’re in France most of the year. If you’re David Bowie, you’re in New York or London or whatever. Much as you might want to fly to Burbank and spend four hours with a bunch of knucklehead cartoon actors, you just can’t.

So, what would you like to do after SpongeBob?

TK: You know, I like the voiceover animation job so much. The great thing about it is you can do so many different shows at once. For all of us on the show, SpongeBob isn’t such a gigantic time commitment that you get sick of it. And also, since it’s a cartoon, the characters don’t have our faces. So you don’t have that hatred of your character, like [doing] Gilligan, or Marsha Marsha Marsha! It’s great. We still love our characters after ten years. It doesn’t feel confining. You go in one day a week and you’re SpongeBob, and the other four days a week you’re free to be a bazillion other people on other animated shows. That’s really great. We’re always out there, trying to keep the plates spinning. We all are very grateful for it, because it doesn’t come along very often. It doesn’t come along for most people at all.

After playing SpongeBob for so long, do you have an itch to maybe play an unrepentant psycho killer?

TK: I actually have done that, pre-SpongeBob! There’s a movie called Shakes the Clown where I play a murderous clown. I kill Paul Dooley, amongst other actors. It’s a pretty twisted, weird movie from 1992 featuring a much younger me. And after ten years playing SpongeBob, do I have an urge to play a psycho killer? SpongeBob is pretty psycho, just without the killing. He just doesn’t do the killing part. He’s pretty psychotic. He doesn’t get to be as insane as Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but it’s a benign kind of insanity.

SpongeBob in The Shining – are we going to get to see that episode?

TK: Yes! The Shining II: The Sponging. A Bikini Bottom version of The Shining. [In SpongeBob voice]: “All work and no play makes SpongeBob a dull boy……heeeeeeeeeeeere’s SpongeBob!” And Patrick will be going: “Redrum! Redrum!” Squidward will be playing the Scatman Crothers role.

Of course. Squidward’s bald. Scatman was bald…..

TK: That’s right. Because they’re both bald.

OK. Any final thing you’d like people to know about SpongeBob that they don’t already know?

TK: You make it sound like I’m going to the electric chair! “Anything you want to get off your conscience, Tommy, before we strap in?” “Tell my mother I’m sorry about my life of crime, and I love her……” No, the only parting words I have about SpongeBob are…..on behalf of the whole cast and crew, we’re so glad people have made the show a part of their lives. We want to keep doing it.

Tune in as Nickelodeon commemorates SpongeBob SquarePants’ 10th anniversary with the “Ultimate SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend”, featuring 50 hours of SpongeBob Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19!