SpongeBob SquarePants has been around for nine seasons and 17 years. Since its debuted in 1999, the show has produced 201 episodes and two movies, keeping people interested all the while. That kind of longevity means that not only have new fans been coming in, but that a lot of the audience has grown up with Bikini Bottom their entire lives.
“People come up and say, ‘Thanks for my childhood. You were the voice of my childhood,'” said Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob. “Tears are often involved.” Kenny was at this year’s Comic-Con along with Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of Patrick, to discuss the show’s newest episodes. The two talked about what it’s like to have lived with these characters for so long, as well as what it’s like to deal with fans that range from very young to all grown up.
“When you do a character that long you’re in the DNA of the character,” said Fagerbakke, “There’s a wonderful completeness to the experience.” It also helps that the Spongebob cast records the shows together, with Kenny now in the role of session producer, where they try to make each other laugh.
That experience, which both said is anything but a slog, especially since the show is still producing great stories, goes well beyond just the making of the show. It extends to those fans, and even their parents.
Kenny shared a story about recently running into a family member of the first Make-A-Wish child he ever spent the day with, requested due to her love of SpongeBob. She told him, through sobs and tears, that the family still talks about that day.
“There’s a sense of delight,” said Fagerbakke, who said his and Kenny’s love of kids keeps the experience positive. Strangely, the only real crap they ever get is from their youngest fans. “If I do Patrick for a five-year-old, he’s more than likely going to look at me like I’m a big jerk, like I’m an idiot,” he said. “‘Shut up, you’re not Patrick!'” They’ve both found tricks around these cases, like when Kenny has them close their eyes first, or Fagerbakke tells the kids he knows Patrick personally.
Adult fans are also fond of asking them to record messages for them on their phone “every day,” with the most common request being for SpongeBob to swear. Kenny said he likes his job so he’ll record a message, just without cursing, lest he breaks some deep hidden morality cause in his contract. If those people want to hear him curse they can always check out Mr. Show anyway, which Kenny said gives him some “hipness” among teenagers that stumble upon it.
Talking to them both it was obvious just how much they love working on the show (“It’s a better gig than I deserve,” said Kenny), and getting to see the impact it has had on so many lives means a lot to them.
Which might explain why, even after all these years, all these episodes, and a ninth season, they aren’t stopping anytime soon.
“I’m with Bill. If they let me, I’ll do it ’til I die,” said Kenny.
That’s good, because no more SpongeBob would probably result in lots of crying fans… and not the good kind they have now.
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Featured Image: Nickelodeon