If you haven't heard of SpongeBob SquarePants, you've likely been living under a rock. However, most folks don't know Tom Kenny, the voice behind the cartoon pop-culture phenom. While Kenny's completely absorbed in his character — a walking, talking yellow sea sponge — he's grateful that his normal voice helps keep him anonymous, even as he hits the big screen today in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
"It would be a drag to really be Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock," Kenny says. "I think that would probably make your life fairly irritating. The fact that I don't look like [my] character, hopefully, is a nice level of separation. Because I'm not famous, the character is. It is a comfortable level of fame. I can be Clark Kent when I want to be or I can play the Superman card when I want to be the big man at the kids' birthday party.
"Being SpongeBob seems to be a little more pleasant than being Pauly Shore or Carrot Top, where people just hate you," he continues. "Most people genuinely seem to like the show. There is no one throwing things at me when I walk down the street saying, 'I hate the show!' Even the most Squidward-y of people can usually dig SpongeBob on some level. That is a nice by-product of the job."
(Just an FYI for you surface dwellers: Squidward is SpongeBob's constantly cranky neighbor.)
Although the SpongeBob flick has earned a PG rating for "mild crude humor," Kenny assures us that it's just lighthearted fun without evil intent toward young minds. "If there is anything subversive about SpongeBob, it is that it really makes an effort to not be like other shows," he insists. "[The producers] have no desire to make it Care Bears or Clifford the Big Red Dog or educational or condescending. I watch that stuff with my kid and it's 22 minutes about how it is nice to share. Give me a f----n' break. My kid knows that it is nice to share. Let's have somebody get hit in the head with a mallet."
As for box-office competition, Kenny isn't worried about the hand-drawn SpongeBob
going up against those fancier, CGI-heavy films. "It doesn't look like those creepy Stepford children in The Polar Express
," he laughs. "I thought SpongeBob was a weird-looking character until I saw those kids saying, 'Merry Christmas!'" Letting out a fake scream, Kenny declares, "I would drive a stake through those kids' hearts!"