For over twenty years, the voice cast of Spongebob Squarepants have been among the most beloved performers in animation. But how well do you know their live-action roles?!
They have become iconic for the vocal stylings they give to the denizens of Bikini Bottom, but before Spongebob and pals became a television institution, the folks in its cast performed many other roles… some of the best known of them in front of the camera. Let’s take a look at just a few of those in our Friday Five!…
Tom Kenny in Mr. Show (1995-1997)
The voice of Spongebob himself has definitely crafted his best-known work in the sound booth (He’s also the Ice King on Adventure Time, he was the narrator and mayor in Powerpuff Girls, and so many more); however, he did do quite a lot of comedy turns, including standup, in the 90s. The stars of Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, would of course also go on to bigger and brighter things themselves, but among their supporting cast of regulars in the HBO sketch series was good ol’ Tom Kenny. His penchant for goofy voices really paid off in certain sketches, too. (Note: The ending of this sketch is a bit NSFW!)
Bill Fagerbakke in The Stand (1994)
He who voices everyone’s favorite lovable, dim-bulb starfish Patrick Star was actually a bit of a familiar face to sitcom fans in the 90’s; Bill Fagerbakke played assistant coach Dauber on the Craig T. Nelson-led sports sitcom Coach for seven seasons. However, if we had to choose his most memorable live-action role, it’s definitely in the eight-hour TV adaptation of Stephen King’s most monumental work, the apocalyptic fable The Stand; Fagerbakke turns that slow-witted persona into something poignant as Tom Cullen, the gentle giant who eventually has a huge role to play in the future of mankind.
Clancy Brown in Highlander (1985)
Across the entire Spongebob cast, the gravelly growl of Mr. Krabs belongs to probably the actor with the most impressive film CV; Clancy Brown is a genuine icon amongst American character actors, having appeared in films including The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, Bad Boys, Cowboys & Aliens… it’s a long list, with lots of television work, too. Undoubtedly his flashiest and most fun film role, of course, was as the Kurgan, the barbaric antagonist to Christopher Lambert’s immortal in the first Highlander flick. Enjoy Kurgan’s finest work: the shocking defeat of Sean Connery halfway through the film. (Not a spoiler, it’s over 30 years old!)
Mary Jo Catlett in Diff’rent Strokes (1982-1986)
If you’re of a certain age and the gentle schoolmarmish voice of Spongebob’s boating instructor, Mrs. Puff, sounded familiar… you probably spent some time watching Diff’rent Strokes as a kid. Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) was the best-known housekeeper in the Drummond household, before leaving to head up The Facts of Life cast. Still, by the mid 80’s Mary Jo Catlett became a steady presence in the show; she played Pearl, who kept that penthouse spic and span for the last four years of its run before Strokes was cancelled in 1986. Catlett was also nominated for a daytime Emmy for her soap role in General Hospital, and if you really watched a lot of tv, you probably saw Catlett pop up even more, as she did a slew of commercials back in the day, too.
John O’Hurley in Seinfeld (1995-1998)
There have been a number of memorable repeat guest voices in Spongebob over the years, including the late Ernest Borgnine (Mermaid Man), Michael McKean (Captain Frostymug) and Marion Ross (Grandma Squarepants), but few voices resonate with such an ear-catching timbre as that of John O’Hurley, who has been sonorously giving life to underwater ruler King Neptune since he debuted on the show in 2000. To sitcom fans, O’Hurley’s smooth and dapper demeanor were iconic in a very different role; he played globe-hopping catalog magnate J. Peterman (an eccentric version of an actual catalog CEO), aka Elaine’s boss, on the final three seasons of Seinfeld. Also, not to let that golden voice go to waste, O’Hurley spent four years doing MC duties as the fifth host of Family Feud up through the start of the 2010’s.