Friday, May 15, 2020

Tom Kenny Talks 'SpongeBob', 'Sponge on the Run' Movie, 'A Moment for Kids PSA Series and More

Recently, 411mania had the opportunity to sit down and speak the legendary Tom Kenny. A longtime actor and comedian, Kenny is best known for his voice-over work as the iconic SpongeBob SquarePants, which first hit the Nickelodeon airwaves back in 1999. The show's third theatrical movie, The SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run, will hopefully arrive later this year. It’s current scheduled release date of August 7 might be affected by the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Speaking of which, Kenny and a team of other fantastic voice-over talents are collaborating with with Splash Entertainment, in partnership with CurtCo Media, to create a series of kid-focused public service announcements (PSAs) for the podcast, A Moment for Kids.

As part of the new PSA effort, Kenny and other veteran VA talents, including Eric Bauza (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Looney Tunes Cartoons, Woody Woodpecker), Tara Strong (Fairly OddParents, Rugrats, My Little Pony, Harley Quinn), Jess Harnell (ChalkZone, Big Time Rush, TMNT, My Life as a Teenage Robot, The Wild Thornberrys, Transformers; Animaniacs), Jeff Bennett (El Tigre, Fanboy and Chum Chum, Robot and Monster, Rugrats, SpongeBob SquarePants, Tak and the Power of Juju, Jimmy Neutron, The Penguins of Madagascar, Johnny Bravo), and other star voice talent of the children’s entertainment world have teamed up to record humorous and informational messages that are designed to answer questions for children to allay their concerns during the COVID-19 crisis. The PSAs are already live on multiple platforms, such as Apple, Deezer, Omny, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. More PSAs will be released shortly. Kenny voices longtime Walter Lantz Productions cartoon character, Wally Walrus, for the podcast.

Kenny has had a long and illustrious career going back decades in film and TV. He was part of the cast of the sketch comedy series, Mr. Show With Bob and David, which ran on HBO back in the 1990s. His animation credits are almost too numerous to mention. Besides SpongeBob, Kenny's voice acting credits also include: Heffer Wolfe on Rocko's Modern Life, Mr. Meeseeks on Rick & Morty, AI robot HUE on Final Space, Chief Randall Crawford and Woody Johnson on Netflix’s Paradise PD, and a number of the top animated shows and cartoons on TV both past and present.

Below is a selection of 411mania's sponge-tastic interview with Tom Kenny, in which he talks about his work on SpongeBob SquarePants. You can read the interview in full at

411mania: [One] industry that’s been impacted by the pandemic is theatrical movie business. A movie with one of your most iconic characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, was about to be released in theaters with SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run.

Tom Kenny: Yeah, I heard about that. *Laughs*

411mania: Do you have an update on what might happen with the film? Do you know if it might get delayed, or if the studio is mulling it over, or are they keeping you in the dark?

Tom Kenny: Well, you know, us dumb actors are generally kept in the dark to some degree anyway. In some ways, that’s how I like it. I always say, “Don’t tell me how the sausage gets made. I just wanna go in and do my thing and have fun and go home.” But I know that the SpongeBob movie was supposed to come out I believe this past weekend. And so it got delayed right then already once. And that’s like everybody, this coronavirus pandemic has really changed what we thought our spring and summer was going to be when I look at my calendar. It was like, “Oh, wow. I was supposed to be at the Tribeca Film Festival at the SpongeBob premiere this week,” or “I was supposed to be in New York,” or “I was supposed to be at Calgary at the big Comic-Con this week.” You just look at that stuff, and it’s just all erased or postponed.

And so the SpongeBob movie then got moved to the end of July. And then they did it again, and I believe it is now the first week of August? I could be wrong. I know I’m still, from my house, recording promotional materials and commercials and trailers for it. So, I’d look for it in August.

411mania: Hopefully, it’s not quite as long as the break between the first SpongeBob movie and the second, but the second movie was fantastic.

Tom Kenny: Yes, and I’m proud to say the SpongeBob movie franchise would be the second longest break between sequels. I think the first one was Dumb and Dumber. Only Dumb and Dumber went longer between having a first movie and a second movie.

411mania: A great film you did back in the early 1990s was Shakes the Clown with Bobcat Goldthwait [Police Academy]. So, how does it feel that you did a movie with him that beat Joaquin Phoenix in Joker by about 28 years?

Tom Kenny: You know, Bob has been ahead of the curve all over the place in many ways. I think people don’t connect his dots, but when you kind of do a deep dive on the type of stuff that he’s been involved in, or where his head was at at various times, you kind of go, ‘This guy was hip. He was ahead of the curve.’ And I don’t know if you know this, but I knew Bob when were about six years old. Bobcat and I met in first grade, and we’ve been friends ever since. Him and I just talked yesterday, so 52 years I’ve known this guy.

And yes, Shakes was a movie — it was a big bomb when it came out. There was barely a script. A lot of it was just improvised. You would look at the script, and it would just say, ‘Tom ad-libs a psychotic monologue as Binky.’ I’d go, ‘OK. I guess I’m on my own here.’ And we just had a ball filming it. Adam Sandler had just gotten the word that he was on Saturday Night Live. And Robin Williams had a scene in it, and it was really shot low budget. Like nobody made any money, including Robin. You know, he just did it because he thought it was a fun idea, and he liked being around all these comedians. And we had a ball. Yeah, the psychotic clown thing. Bob was definitely ahead of his time. And like I said, it wasn’t real successful it came out at the time it came out in 1992 or 1993 or whatever. But it has really gotten this cult following since. And yeah, I went to a screening of it at a film festival in Vegas a couple of years ago, and people went nuts. Adam Sandler and I just looked at each other like, “What the heck?! This is amazing! People actually caught up to this movie!” It’s always fun when something that you worked on and had a good time on, and it didn’t get a huge reaction when it was released gets a posthumous — kind of rises from the grave like a phoenix from the ashes and is able to grab an audience in the here and now.

My IMDB is full of stuff like that, and in a way, I kind of like that better than being in something that’s really, really popular for a minute and then dies out. You know what I mean? Especially nowadays, stuff gets so hugely popular and just burns up the internet and pop-culture and everything for a minute, and just kind of utterly disappears because people say, “OK. We’re done with that,” and they move on. So, I like stuff that kind of bubbles under the surface for a while, and then years later, people go, “Wow. This has a lot of cool people in it. This is amazing!” And I’ve got so much of that kind of stuff on my resume. Mr. Show was like that. Yeah, in a way, to me that’s cooler than being in something that’s gigantic for like a second. And SpongeBob, I was very lucky that has remained relevant for 20 some odd years, and people still like it. And the late-night comedians still make affectionate jokes about it. It’s still in the mix.

You can read 411mania's spongeriffic interview with Tom Kenny, in which he talks more about his career, the PSA project, A Moment for Kids, and more in full at

You can check out his work on the PSA project, A Moment for Kids, at the above mentioned platforms. The SpongeBob< Movie: Sponge of the Run is currently due out for release this year, though that could potentially change. Paradise PD is streaming now on Netflix, and the third season of Final Space is currently in the works.

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