Interview with SpongeBob SquarePants Tom Kenny and Ethan Slater

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Tom Kenny and Ethan Slater sit down to talk all things SpongeBob (an break into song) to celebrate SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage coming to DVD on November 3rd. Tom Kenny is the voice on SpongeBob SquarePants in the animated series, and he also plays Patchy the pirate in the musical. Ethan Slater plays SpongeBob on stage! 

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the FULL 30-minute interview. It was a great one. 

Video transcript below. 

Today I’m sitting down with Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, and Ethan Slater, who plays SpongeBob in The SpongeBob Musical.

In each of your SpongeBob voices, can you tell us or sing us why people are going to love SpongeBob the musical on DVD?

Tom Kenny: Oh my gosh singing, I better leave that to Ethan no

Ethan Slater: How am I gonna sing this? Well, I think that everyone is gonna love the SpongeBob musical on DVD because it’s the best day ever and you can watch it over and over and over.

TK: Just in case you didn’t get a chance to see it on Broadway. Just in case the touring company was canceled by pandemic before it came to your town, this is a way to watch SpongeBob Broadway musical over and over and over and over and over and over and over in the privacy of your (take it Gary) right home!

That was amazing.

TK: Too much?

ES: No, never

Ethan Slater as SpongeBob in The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage
(Far Right) Ethan Slater as SpongeBob in The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage

Meghan Cooper: Yes, that was fantastic. That just made my day that little mini performance right there. So going right into that, aside from an amazing musical like SpongeBob, what are some other great ways to get kids excited about theater and the arts like this?

ES: Yes, oh, you know, I think that’s a really good question. I think for from my point of view the best way to get kids excited about theater in the arts is a combination of accessibility to see it um you know, it’s not easy to fly from anywhere in the world to new york, especially nowadays when the theater is harder and harder to um make live so accessibility in terms of access on tv and streamers and all that um but then also arts education in schools for me getting to be in a theater class or getting having theater be part of my curriculum in elementary school is what started the line of really loving it and being passionate about it and using it as a way to explore not just my love of performing but my love of writing and reading and applying math in set building as I as the arts education in high school grew, so I think that um yeah, in short, it’s the combination of accessibility and arts funding yeah.

TK: great great point ethan and you’re right like uh you know it has to be there for kids to find and then you know i love what you said about how uh you know one thing leads to another it’s not you know it sounds like whatever draws somebody into something initially uh it’s not you know for you it went way beyond look at me look at me where you said it was you know where it was like writing and which you do and and and math and set building and like there’s so many uh ways uh uh for to be involved in that world even if you’re not an out front kind of person you know like like being a voice over person is kind of like for me the perfect combination of of being out there but not out there you know like i call it the shy show off you know like if i had a personality it would be it’d be the guy who wants to show up but he’s like a little uh cowardly about it so so it’s uh you know it has to it has to be there and of course with what’s going on now and zoom and everything uh it probably it’s probably a little harder to do but also takes on even greater importance i know i have a 17 year old daughter that’s doing zoom high school in the room right next door to me right now and her playpro class drama class is the bright spot in her day like those kids and that tribe that she found in that world which you know we did too is it really is life-changing i mean it kind of changes your whole life no matter what you go on to do even if you don’t go on to do anything in show business or whatever but you know it’s just really useful no matter what you wind up doing

Tom Kenny as Patchy the Pirate in The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage
Tom Kenny as Patchy the Pirate in The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage

MC: Yes, so Ethan, I’m dying to know was there a learning curve to get SpongeBob’s laugh down, and Tom, did you offer some direction?

TK: Well, you know, like Ethan was saying like you know the cartoon and Broadway SpongeBob were necessarily different from each other and the way that I do the laugh, which is that’s sort of not an option when you got to be doing all the choreography and stuff that Ethan was doing so so Ethan yeah pretty much put his own spin on all things SpongeBob including the laugh.

ES: Yeah, I feel like the first thing that I realized was I couldn’t do this thing, so I had to like figure out how to like use vibrato or something, you know. It’s just like a little tighter one, but I can’t learning curve. There was a learning curve. When I auditioned for the part originally, I was way too intimidated to try and do this thing that was so iconic and recognizable. So I just showed up, and I did a, haha, you know, some version of it was terrible.

TK: I’ll deal with the laughing later. After I booked the part, I’ll deal with the laugh later.

ES: And the director was like, ‘um okay, great work on most of the audition. Why don’t you come back and do the laugh better? It’s important!”

So I started then, and it was like, it was just sort of years of… also I mean just to speak to the thing that we were talking about before, it was just years of like, ‘okay like this sounds like the laugh but it doesn’t seem like I’m laughing,’ you know like let’s figure out how to make it feel like natural for me and whatever. And all of that sort of actory stuff, yeah but with the laugh.

TK: I know there’s definitely a science behind all this stuff. What I mean, like people oftentimes don’t realize that there’s actually like all this kind of math and kind of figure, test tubes and you know mental test tubes, you know figuring things out. Like how do I make this noise or put forth this physicality you know on stage? How do you do that? And I think the Broadway show did such a great job with overcoming physics.

ES: I mean, Tina would even say, ‘like 10 percent more or like 30 percent less.’ It really was like we were trying to like dial in, you know

MC: Thank you!

TM: That’s 28.8, I said 30!

ES: Would you please do your job?!

*Laughs

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Meghan Cooper is a writer, content creator, movie critic, and geek living in Atlanta, Ga. She loves movies, traveling, and lots of coffee. Member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, Georgia Film Critics Association, and Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Buy me a coffee

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