Tom Kenny: SpongeBob 'Tougher Than Sarah Palin'
By Stacy Jenel Smith Posted Jan 12th 2011 10:30PM
"I look forward to those cathartic hours of screaming. It's the best day job in the world," declares Kenny, who seems to share a streak of anarchic zaniness with his beloved character, in a chat with PopEater. "It's a landmark, but we still have a lot of catching up to do to get to 'The Simpsons.'"
Bob is holding up remarkably well considering all the trouble he's been in over the years, and his popularity endures, as Kenny acknowledges. "Yeah, I mean, 'cause now after 10 years, the kids that were 8 when it started are 18 or 19, and they're looking to reconnect with the halcyon days of their youth.
"I'm always amazed by the ratings it gets when they put a new episode on," he continues. "When the last special premiered, it was the same week as the premiere of 'Sarah Palin's Alaska,' and we came in ahead of her show. That gave me a twinge of elation. SpongeBob is tougher than Sarah Palin, and SpongeBob doesn't shoot jellyfish from a helicopter."
SpongeBob has another special coming up Jan. 28, the first TV airing of the 'Legends of Bikini Bottom' anthology, which is already out on DVD.
"At one point, the intent was to do segments in different animation styles you've never seen SpongeBob in -- a segment in CGI, one in stop motion or whatever different stylistic changes," he notes. However, that's not how it turned out.
"The only people that change their minds more than my kids are the networks," observes Kenny, who has a son and a daughter with his wife, fellow voice artist/comedic actor Jill Talley. "It's hard to keep track. My whole life is just around running here and there making strange sounds."
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His assignments go from straightforward announcing -- as in Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards -- to cartoons for preschoolers ('Word Girl' for PBS), to edgy Adult Swim fare, and Cartoon Network's Adventure Time, "which is not quite as scatological as Adult Swim." Then there's the 'Transformers' animated series and big-screen 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' feature, which is due July 1.
Kenny, who also did robot voice work for the previous 'Transformers,' acts as if he is afraid of famously fiery director Michael Bay. Sort of.
"He's been known to make grown men cry, and I don't want to be the next one," Kenny told us recently, when he had to hurry off the phone to resume 'Transformers 3' recording sessions with Bay.
Now, he says, "He's really great to me, but you know, people are like, 'What magic charm do you have that he's nice to you? What voodoo curse breaker?' My experiences of him have been uniformly positive."
Perhaps Bay is another celebrity SpongeBob fan (along with the likes of Johnny Depp, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Robin Williams, Pink, Will Ferrell and Victoria Beckham, all of whom have guested with the sponge). "Oh, I'm sure a guy like him doesn't have time to watch cartoons on cable. He's sure busy," Kenny says.
Kenny's busyness of late also includes a surprising turn, as the new voice of Rabbit in Disney's upcoming 'Winnie the Pooh' feature.
"It was one of those things, I just auditioned for it," he says. "I'm always surprised when I book something. They had to have been listening to a ton of people for it. It's an honor to be part of the Winnie the Pooh world, one I haven't really trafficked in before. Although having kids, I've read the books many times."
Kenny says the new 'Pooh' will hearken back to the original stories and the first movies by Disney. It comes out in the summer.
Meanwhile, there's Kenny's ridiculous live action character, Patchy the Pirate. "Patchy just did an episode of 'Big Time Rush,'" reports Kenny, speaking of the Nickelodeon series about a boy band. "Patchy still does a lot of the promos and commercials for 'SpongeBob.'" He segues: "I'm speaking about myself in the third person which is weird. That's a character totally meant to be a one shot, one time only, and 10 years later he's like a bad penny that just keeps reappearing."
This is one eclectic career.
"I'm definitely working on a lot of different projects concurrently, all of which have different sensibilities intended for different audiences," Kenny says. "Eclectic is a good word for it."
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