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Sam Henderson Interview

The following is an interview from SpongeBob Online back in late 2003/early 2004 that was given to us by PCbob since the closing of his fansite. Thank you PCbob!

Meet Spongebob writer Sam Henderson. Besides being a site webmaster and maintaining a strip in Nickelodeon magazine, he's also written a few episodes of Spongebob, including Just One Bite, Mermaidman and Barnacleboy IV, Can you Spare a Dime?, Squilliam Returns, Spongeguard on Duty, Rock-a-Bye Bivalve, and not-yet-aired Plankton's Last Stand, Sponge-Jaws, and the ever-mysterious Lost Episode. Behold my interview with him.

PCbob: Welcome to my nightmare (that I created), Sam! Glad you could join us. On with the questions!
PCbob: Did you have any influences to go into cartooning?

Sam: I've been cartooning professionally for print for ten years, and cartooning period for as long as I've been able to hold a pen. Early influences were Peanuts, Mad magazine, and the Warner Brothers cartoons. Those sources and about everything that was broadcast on television between 1975-1985 had an influence on my work.

PCbob: And they continue today. Anyhoo, any fond memories or funny moments at the Spongebob office?

Sam: I had a great time working there. It's the only creative day job I've ever had. As a cartoonist, I work out of my house and when I've had to have a day job, it's always been something menial and non-creative. So it was the first time I ever worked in an office where the management trusted everyone enough to get the job done, and we could walk around freely, bounce ideas off each other, etc. We were always drawing "different" pictures of the SB characters, but unfortunately we voluntarily destroyed them and nobody will ever see them.

PCbob: Sounds like fun. Speaking of never seen, were there any scenes in your episodes that never made the final cut?

Sam: Every show has more material than is eventually used. Usually it's for time, once in a while it's for content, sometimes Steve and Derek later decide they want an episode to go in a different direction. This bothered me the first couple times, until I realized that if I were the creator of a show and had writers, I would be the same way. Steve has a unique vision of the world he's created, the rest of us just swim in it.

In "MM & BB 4", when everyone enters SB's body and vandalizes it, we had to get rid of scenes where characters smashed furniture and wrote graffiti, even though they were also breaking his bones and organs, because the network can't show any actions that children might try. We were allowed to have all kinds of violence as long as it couldn't be imitated.

There's a whole sequence edited out of "Squilliam Returns" at the beginning, where Squidward is at his high school reunion and remembers all the times Squilliam one-upped him when they were kids (Squilliam walks while Squidward is learning to crawl, Squidward brings a single flower for his date only to find Squilliam has already shown up with a huge bouquet and enormous box of chocolates, etc.)

Every montage scene we ever did originally had at least twice as many gags.

PCbob: Squidward having a date is strange enough, lol. What was your favorite episode to work on?

Sam: I liked each next show after the previous one, mainly because I got to know the characters and my co-workers better over time (though sometimes it was hard to tell the difference), and was therefore more sure of myself.

PCbob: How about your favorite episode in general?

Sam: I'm never good at quantifying favorites. They're all good for their own reasons.

PCbob: Oh well. Did you ever get to guest star on the show? Like as a voice or a live action scene?

Sam: I'm in the stadium audience in "Band Geeks", though it's impossible to see me, even using the pause or advance buttons. In the shot where everyone's holding lighters, you can see my hand.

PCbob: I guess I won't try then... So who was the most fun character to write for?

Sam: Patrick. I think that's unanimous among the writers. When Jay and I were given plots to work from, we always hoped they'd revolve around Patrick. They're all great characters, but each one has its specific traits. There were much more possibilities with Patrick and more opportunities for non-sequiturs. The line "Patrick wouldn't do that" never came up.

PCbob: Patrick seems like he's fun to write for (ICE CREAM!). Which character are you most like?

Sam: While I was working on the show, I came to work like SpongeBob on Monday and left on Friday like Squidward.

PCbob: That's certainly a dramatic change... How do you feel about Steve ending Spongebob?

Sam: I'd heard he was considering ending the show after the third season when I first started there. I wish it was still going on, but I respect Steve's decision as a creator to quit while ahead. There have been different stories about who really made the decision and how Nickelodeon could have continued without him, but the whole situation is beyond my control and I'm grateful that Steve and Derek gave me the opportunity in the first place.

PCbob: Yeah, the story has gotten all jumbled up all over the net. Anyway, what kind of advice would you give to those wanting to go into cartooning/animation, etc.?

Sam: Keep doing cartoons the way you want to do them, show them to friends, get their advice. If you have the opportunity to meet a professional you admire, ask them for advice. Get as many points of view as you can. Feedback is important, don't be discouraged if you don't get attention right away. Don't wait for feedback to do more. Make copies of your work or put it on the web. Take courses in cartooning and animation, though a degree is not always necessary. And never, under any circumstances, use the phrase "talk to the hand" in your work.

PCbob: Will do, Sam, will do. I'd like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me and the other Spongebob fans throughout the world.

That's all, folks! If you want to check out Sam's other work, check out his site Magic Whistle. This site is not for young children! Also, check out the strip he does for Nickelodeon magazine, entitled "Scene but not Heard". Thanks again, Sam!