We interviewed Tom Kenny, the voice of our favorite cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants when he was in Manhattan recently.
Did you audition for the role of SpongeBob?
I did. It was the easiest audition I had in my whole career. Auditioning can be kind of nerve-wracking. There could be other people there vying for the same job and it is kind of competitive. You hope you are good and you hope that you get it. Most of the time, you don't get it. With SpongeBob I had worked with the creator of SpongeBob, Steve Hillenburg, on another cartoon and he remembered me. He said bring in that guy Tom Kenny. He can do a lot of voices. I did a voice on the show called "Rocco's Modern Life," a show in the early 1990s, last century. It was my first voice-over job and he and I just clicked. A couple of years later he was getting ready to work on a show about a sponge that wears pants and tie and works at a fast-food restaurant and he showed it to me and what did I think. He wanted to bring it into Nickelodeon and do I want to do the voice.
Do you like your job?
I really do. I think I have the best job in the world. I don't want anybody else's job.
Do you sometimes make mistakes when recording your voice?
Never! I have never made a mistake ever!
What would be the funniest mistake on your blooper reel?
That's good! It happens a lot. A lot of shows in animated movies they record one actor at a time. I have talked to people about animated movies they have done where they have never met. Like Dori the fish [Ellen DeGeneres] in "Finding Nemo" and Nemo's dad Albert Brooks, they never met. They never worked together. I guess you could do it that way and then Frankenstein it together. I love being in the room with all the other characters and doing it like a scene. Like a radio play. We have fun and there are mistakes or something weird will happen. Did you speak to Bill? He has been known to fart in the middle of a take. How do you not laugh when Patrick has just farted? Farts are always funny. We start laughing and we just can't get the line out. The thing I like about voice overs and animations, it is OK to make mistakes. You can just do it again.
Do you always follow the scripts that you are given?
We are also free on the show to add things to the script. We will do a few that are as written -- as it is written on the paper. And then they will say, let's do a crazy pass, anything that you guys were thinking. Any different directions you might want to go in or any jokes you might want to add to things. We do that a lot and that is fun. When you have played a character for so long you, can almost think like that character. You can laugh like that character, sing like that character, cry like that character.
Do you have a cat in real life that inspired your voice of Gary?
I did. He has gone on to cat heaven but his name was Bela Lugosi. He was 15 years old. We have had cats since then. We have Tess who is named after a character in a comic strip called Dick Tracy. Our other cat was a rescue cat and has one eye. So he has one eye that is sewn shut so, of course, we call him Popeye because that cartoon character has one eye and he is one of my favorite cartoon characters ever. You know, Tess and Popeye were never quite as good as Bela Lugosi. He was like a dog. He would come up and play with you and rough house with you. It was a riot, I will probably never have a cat that cool. He was our cat when we started SpongeBob. He was very talkative so he inspired Gary. He lives on in Gary's voice.
What is your favorite episode of SpongeBob and why?
I like "Band Geeks" where Squidward tries to get the marching band going in Bikini Bottom. He is just trying to get everyone to pay attention to him and it is just not happening. I think that one has the line from Patrick "Is mayonnaise an instrument?" Patrick is playing mayonnaise and it has the "Sweet Sweet Victory" song in it. This goofy rock and roll song in it. Such a dumb song in a good way. There are a lot of them that I like. I like the ones with music in them because I like to sing as SpongeBob. It is fun to write the songs as SpongeBob. I wrote "The Best Day Ever" and "Don't Be a Jerk, It's Christmas." Those are songs I wrote just to have fun.
Do you ever pull tricks on kids?
Sometimes Bill and I will see a kid or a person wearing a SpongeBob tie or backpack and they walk past us and we will say "Nice backpack, dude." And then you just keep walking and they will turn around and say where did that voice come from? You walk down the street and the kid is still staring at you. It is fun to blow people's minds like that a little bit.
What makes your show so special?
People like SpongeBob. It's nice to be a character that people like. Kids like it, parents like to watch it with their kids. It has been on for so long that I hear from people whose kids don't live at home anymore and the parents are still sitting around watching SpongeBob. It is really nice. People come up to me and since SpongeBob has been on for 15 years. So if you were 10 years old then you are 25 now. Some of those people are having kids of their own and those people are coming up to me saying you were the voice in my head in my childhood and now me and my kid are watching SpongeBob together. It is really gratifying to be able to be a part of people's lives like that. Cartoons that I loved as a child, I still have a real love for those cartoons and characters. They have a special place for me and think SpongeBob will be like that for these people, hopefully.