Worried about the new SpongeBob Squarepants movie? Vexed about the 3D redesign? The superhero gimmick? That whole Out of the Water thing?
Relax—SpongeBob is so delightful in his newest big screen outing that even the Straight’s bitterest film cricket turned in an embarrassingly sloppy rave.
“I think Patrick and SpongeBob and the other characters are like classic comedy archetypes and they don’t change, the way that Stan is always Stan, and Ollie is always Ollie, and the Little Tramp is always the Little Tramp,” offers Tom Kenny, calling the Straight from a pineapple under the sea, or more accurately the Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan.
The voice of SpongeBob himself, not to mention Adventure Time’s Ice King among other kiddie-grownup crossover favourites, is in New York for SpongeBob’s big premier.
“You don’t want your characters to change,” Kenny continues. “It’s not like Mad Men where SpongeBob’s a way different guy in season five than he was in season one.”
But joining forces with Plankton and going 3D, I press on—isn’t that like hearing Harpo speak? Kenny just laughs.
“It’s kinda like Midnight Run,” he says, “where Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro have to be chained together while they get chased across the country. That’s kind of what this movie is. It’s like if you drop SpongeBob in the middle of Midnight Run and The Road Warrior.”
Right, or maybe like Pam Grier and Margaret Markov in Black Mama, White Mama—a suggestion that wins Kenny’s approval. Know why? Cause he’s a 52-year-old man with bitchin’ taste. Among the folk he personally invited to SpongeBob’s red carpet New York premier is Marky Ramone.
“I’m inviting all my old New York City rock ‘n’ roll idols to the SpongeBob screening tomorrow,” he says, with audible giddiness. “Peter Zaremba from the Fleshtones is going to be in attendance, Handsome Dick Manitoba from the Dictators… For me, these guys are bigger than movie stars.”
Lest we forget, Kenny also collaborated on the first SpongeBob movie with the great Andy Paley, himself a sort of honorary Ramone (per Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) and bona fide American power-pop cult item.
“We did a whole album called Best Day Ever,” says Kenny, getting even giddier. “We hired all these guys from the Wrecking Crew. James Burton plays guitar on it. Half the people from Pet Sounds are on Best Day Ever, just because we wanted to! But they wanted to, more importantly, because we probably couldn’t have afforded them if they were charging what they’re worth.”
Presumably, they did it for the same reasons that Robin Williams elected to appear with Kenny in a number of Patchy the Pirate promos for Nickelodeon.
“Robin dug SpongeBob,” Kenny reports, before flipping into a fairly great impression of the late actor-comedian. “He’d be, like, ‘Hey, SpongeBob still going? Oh, that’s a great gig, man. Great fuckin’ gig. Good for you.’”
Kenny, who has managed to become one of the most ubiquitous actors on the planet, even if you wouldn’t recognize him in a police lineup—not being chased by TMZ makes it a “win-win,” he says—describes SpongeBob as his “Big Kahuna.”
“I owe him forever," he states. "SpongeBob’s been berry, berry good to me.”
So Robin Williams was right?
“It’s an Ed Wynn-Ed Wynn, don’t ya know?” he replies, going all Mork again.