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Mr. Lawrence Interview

The following is an interview from SpongeBob Online back in 2002-2004 that was given to us by PCbob since the closing of his fansite. Thank you PCbob!

He's Plankton, he's Larry, he's...well, he's far too many characters to mention. Perhaps you've heard him singing as a live action Krabby Patty slowly comes towards you in the episode Krusty Krab Training Video. Or maybe you've heard him scare Spongebob and Patrick as a loud fish who just wants to buy some chocolate in Chocolate with Nuts. Or...maybe you've heard him as someone else. You may also have seen him as the live-action artist on the episode "Frankendoodle", or as an episode writer. Now, you see him as a guy being interviewed by another guy (I'm the other guy). Read on!

Mr. Lawrence: Hey, this is Mr. Lawrence. How are you?

PCbob: I'm doing pretty good, how 'bout you?

Mr. Lawrence: I'm not bad.

PCbob: Well, that's good.

Mr. Lawrence: I've been ok. I'm off for a little while, so I've had a little more free time lately to do other things. I've been stopped up for the last couple weeks. (chuckles) You know, congestion-wise and work-wise. Blowing my nose and working like crazy.

PCbob: Yeah, I've just been coming down with a sore throat, myself.

Mr. L: Oh, really? It's that time of year to get sick, right? So you have a website I've seen.

PCbob: Yeah, I have one. =)

Mr. L: So, how long has it been up and going?

PCbob: Since March 2nd.

Mr. L: Oh, cool, really? So actually, it's kind of new in a way.

PCbob: Yeah, it's been around longer than I've expected. I've had websites before, and they haven't been half as decent as this one. ^^;;

Mr L: Oh, great. Well, I like it.

PCbob: I'm glad. ^^

(random chit chat)

Mr. L: When you're working on a show like Spongebob, you don't know if the show's gonna actually make it. You don't know you're gonna be there for 3 years working on it. You're really kind of there for a couple months, thinking: "hopefully this'll go, and if it doesn't, then it doesn't.", so you kind of push on to the next job, so things kind of can disappear all of a sudden one day. You see people working on a show, and all of a sudden, the next day, everyone's gone. Everyone's cleaned out their desks. It can happen that quickly out here. It's a little nerve-racking sometimes.

PCbob: Yeah, I know how (insert a certain company name here) works. (Invader Zim, anyone?)

Mr. L: Yeah. I've been working for Nickelodeon for 10 years now, since Ren and Stimpy, the first show. I worked for them.

PCbob: Oh, well that's cool.

Mr. L: I don't know if you've seen that show, but...

PCbob: Oh, yeah, it's still pretty popular.

Mr. L: (chuckles) That's a good one. It was fun to work on. Spongebob was better, because Spongebob was really collaborating on the writing and what the characters' dynamics were, and I was part of that whole thing, which is a lot different from Ren and Stimpy, where I was an artist. I just drew on it. Kind of started as an artist and worked into it that way. Is there anything you want to do questions-wise, or...maybe we should do that.

PCbob: Okay. I wrote these down. I had alot of time to prepare. My first question is: What was your first love? What did you originally want to do as a career?

Mr. L: It's always been a tug of war with me. I really like peforming. I really really like being out there in front of people and being funny, but I also really like drawing. I like drawing funny things. So it's always been like this big sort of dull personality for me. I really like doing both. I pursued both. I was a stand up comic for a lot of years before I came out to Hollywood. That's what led me to doing the voices, my stand up experience, from doing scetches on stage, kind of live-type scetch humor. I used to write a lot of that. (chuckles) How does that go? How would that be?

PCbob: (chuckles) Oh, that works for me. What methods were you approached for work on Spongebob?

Mr. L: That's a good one. Steve Hillenburg, creator of Spongebob, and I worked together on Rocko's Modern Life. There were 8 people who were the court group of that show. We were all director teams, and we were all brand new. We were all people who had made short films and worked on other things. For the most part, we were all kind of green as to making a television show where we had to be funny every week. Steve and I just kind of hit it off. We were there and liked each other's work a lot, so we kind of set off each other sometimes. He'd come and look at what I was doing, and I'd get excited about what he was doing. We went back and forth. That turned into us just being buddies through that. When he was telling me about the show he wanted to do, I was telling him about the shows I wanted to do, and we were talking them out. He got a little deal going over there at Nickelodeon. He became the creative director of Rocko towards the end. It was a good situation he had, so he was able to get the pilot made, and thank goodness kids really responded to it. They really liked it. It could've gotten killed many, many times, (chuckles) but it kept surviving. Steve came to me. I had been a director for a long time, and Steve says "What would you think about writing on the show?" I've been at jobs, and I don't know if I'm known for it, but what I want to do is make character dynamics really rich, so when you're watching, you feel like you're watching a friend of yours, instead of just a cartoon character with a goofy face jumping around. You feel like you know these people when you're looking at them. I think we did a good job of that, bringing it across, so...that would be it. (laughs) That's my long-winded answer.

PCbob: *Heh* Yeah. On Spongebob, you're known as both an actor and a writer. Which one of those is your favorite to do?

Mr. L: Well, the funny thing is, they sort of go together. I auditioned for the pilot. Nobody knows about this, but I auditioned for the pilot as the voice of Plankton as Spongebob. Plankton was not in the pilot. I went in. (chuckles) Everyone was laughing hysterically all the way through it, including Tom Kenny,who eventually became Spongebob. Everybody just went wild. What a bold experiment it would be if Spongebob went (in Plankton voice) "I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready." He was going (in Plankton voice) "Hey, gary, how ya doin'?" It sounded so funny, but it was wrong. (laughs) It didn't work. Steve laughs, and he says: "Well, you're Plankton. That voice is so funny. We have to have it in the show." I just went: "Yeah, right." (laughs) "Like this pilot is ever gonna take off." Of course, the series happened. Usually they want to hire celebrities. Since I wasn't a voice actor, per se, walking around, getting voice work all the time, they were kind of like "Why are we going with this guy? What's so special about this guy's voice?". I just had to prove it to them and make them laugh. They were like "Oh, ok. He's funny.". In writing, it's really great to create character dynamics and to write dialog that you actually record in the booth as the character. Or something that I would do live-action where I would act it out. If you want to do both and they let you do both, (they rarely get a chance to do both) they kind of work off each other, and it's actually very fun to have both of those jobs. I must say, though, doing the voice with the cast on Spongebob, I can't really bottle it for you and explain how fun it is to work with all those guys. Some of them are old friends, and some of them I met on the show. I just get a big smile on my face when I see all these people. It's fun to see them, it's fun to joke with them. We joke a lot. It's always fun. Clancy Brown, who plays Mr. Krabs, we joke in front of people that we actually have some sort of a feud going on. Clancy would always walk in and pretend that I parked in his space, (laughs) and stuff like that. He's always on the attack when he comes in, but nobody gives me a bigger hug when they leave. Clancy's a great guy, a great friend. They're all great. I'm going to leave somebody out if I start listing people (laughs), but y'know, the cast from the show. All those guys. Tom and I worked on Rocko together. I was Filburt, and he was Heffer the steer. We did that for 3 years, so it was easy when we jumped in to doing Spongebob. It was like "Oh, my old buddy!". You look over at the other microphone, and there's your old friend. You're talking like you're joking around. It's a lot of fun, especially when you have old friends there. It can be really relaxing. Any kind of performance thing, if you're into that kind of thing. It's pretty exhausting, too. When I get out of there, I feel like I ran a marathon, just from keeping up with everybody. You try to be funny in the booth and keep the atmosphere light in the room. We're all doing that. We're all trying to keep each other on our toes and everybody laughing and everyone keeps everyone kind of sparking to what's funny; to keep us excited the whole time. (clears throat and chuckles) Whoa, I need to take a breath. The hot air coming out of my mouth in unbelievable. Sorry.

PCbob: That's fine. We all need to breathe sometime. =)

Mr. L: (laughs) These are good questions. I guess that's the end of that one...unless I didn't answer your question, then please, tell me.

PCbob: That works fine, thanks. ^^

Mr. L: You're probably going to edit half of that (note: I like it all, so I didn't. =b).

PCbob: Oh, don't worry, I have plenty of bandwidth.

Mr. L: (laughs) Good. You can get every time I'm sniffling here because of my allergies. You should also mention I'm wearing a Santa hat as we're talking. Just, y'know, to be festive. Go ahead.

PCbob: How do you feel about the characters you play, such as Plankton and Larry? Do you try to bring any of your own personality into the roles?

Mr. L: Yeah, in fact, I don't know if everybody does this, but I'm sure they all do it to an extent. Personally, I can't do it unless I'm doing that. I wouldn't know how to do it otherwise. When I get angry as Plankton, I am definitely getting angry. (laughs) Forgive my French here, but I'm known as the resident ***hole of Spongebob. (laughs) Whenever there's a character that needs to say "Hey, pal, I've been waitin' in line for 3 hours!", it's usually me doing that. I think Derek and Steve really laugh when I'm mad. They think it's really funny when I get agitated or when I act that way. Plus, they've seen me mad for real, so they know how close it is. (laughs) It's probably more entertaining for them. For everybody else, it's just a funny voice, but to them, there's like real pain inside there. It's about that for me. That's another very good question. I like that question, it's a good one.

PCbob: Yeah, like in Chocolate with Nuts. That'd probably be a good one to get mad about.

Mr. L: (chuckles) Especially since it ripped up my voice. All that screaming...ooh. Screaming over and over and over again. That's the guy screaming about chocolate, right? Yeah, that's me. That guy's crazy. We had to save that for the end. Sometimes you save the screaming for the end. We all do that. It's a thing you start to do after awhile. I think if I ever do an autobiography, that's what I'm going to call it: "Save the Screaming for the End". (laughs) Especially Tom. People who do any kind of gravelly voice or really hard voice when you have to go either really super high or really super low, it seems to take it's toll. On me, particularly, because I don't do as much voice work as the other guys. The other guys are out there doing stuff more often than I am, because I'm usually writing. My normal job. Not my normal job. None of these jobs are normal.

PCbob: Let's see...I have my list of questions... I'm marking them off as I talk... Are you able to watch any finished episodes of Spongebob? If so, what do you think of them?

Mr. L: Basically, I think when you go into a show, you have certain expectations, and expectations usually get lower as you go into the show. In other words, you start a job. If you're there for six months, usually your expectations of that show have lowered already. You got your job, you're working, you're having fun working, to an extent, but a lot of times you end up with something less than what you were planning on doing. It's really great when you have a show like Spongebob, where everybody at every department, and this is why it's so important to do this on shows, a lesson everyone should learn, is that when you do a television show, you should put people who understand what they're doing, first of all, but also who understands the world you're trying to build. Then you put all these people in charge of different aspects of production, and if everyone is on the same page, no one drops the ball, and the show can come out really really great. And the vision and the writing has to be good, too, and you have to pick the voices. There's a lot of things that come into it. If everyone's really thinking and has good instincts, it could be a show like Spongebob, as opposed to other shows. Spongebob has a crackle to it. There's gags that work, and the timing is always really on it. The voices are on it. All these things are really on it. Then you're getting a whole package here. No one's slouching. That's what makes a great show. I won't name names, but there are shows that come out bad. On certain shows, the magic wand comes down, and strikes your show. Spongebob had that. We had a lot of people who all really cared. I knew that when I passed along my outlines to the storyboard artists that they would not only do some of the things that I'm doing, but they were going to take what I started, and make it better. I knew that going in, so it was fun to run in with the voices. You can't have slackers. It's constant work all day. Everyone's always running around. There's so much work, and you have to get things done really quickly. There ya go. I will come down on that.

PCbob: Do you feel that Spongebob has evolved or changed since it first began back in '99?

Mr. L: Like any show, when you're working on it, things evolve. I think the characters got richer as it went. There were more things, like Mr. Krabs and Mrs. Puff getting together. That's something I was pushing since I got there. (chuckles) Mr. Krabs and Mrs. Puff have to get together. There's no question. They're the 2 older people in the town, and they probably have a lot to talk about. I just had a feeling about them.

PCbob: What are your influences in your life, job, anything?

Mr. L: Being funny and trying to be funny, it's sort of a strange business to be in. It's a constant rejection. For me, anyway. There's a whole thing to that, whether you do cartoons or whether you're a live actor or you make comic books. Everyone puts themselves into whatever they're doing as artists. As far as comedy goes, I think it has generally darker people writing jokes than others. I'm definitely there, too. My tendency a lot of times is to get physical in front of people and to be more animated myself, aside from the drawings I do and the other things that I work on. As far as what gets me going, we're all doing this out here because we have to. There's people who come out here who want to work; they'd like to be an artist. Then there's the other kind. This is the more evil kind. (chuckles) Unforunately, a lot of us suffer from it. We don't have a choice. We don't have any other way out. It's either this, or we kill someone. We have to create something or get an outline of some kind. This is what we choose to do. Choosing to write jokes is usually when you want to swat at things. You want to say "Oh, this is the way it should be. I want it to go this way.". When you write a show like Spongebob, you're kind of rebelling against everything. (laughs) It's not like doing a joke on the Daily Show, or something, which, that show I love as well. You're attacking a certain topical thing. Spongebob sort of attacks conformity head on. It's visually stunning, but hopefully the people get something out of it. We weren't trying to get a message out with that show. It's just how we feel that comes through in the show. It's not like we were sitting around, going "How can we rally all the kids behind us? We'll be independent! We'll show them that you can do anything!" We just kind of felt that Spongebob lent himself to be the character that we could do that with. I really play out how somebody feels when they're kind of naive. But he's really optimistic, and that's obviously the other great side of him. You can't get him to stop or to get discouraged. I mean, he gets discouraged sometimes, of course, but...I have NO idea if I'm way off base now with the question that you asked me. (laughs)

PCbob: Everything's going good to me. =)

Mr. L: Good. As far as influences go, I get influenced by other artists that I meet and know who do work. We admire each other back and forth. You can show your work to other artist friends, so that's an inspirational thing, too, just working and collaborating with other artists who you really like and think are really talented. That's so great. If you can get a job like that when you work with people you can walk around with, going "Wow, I can't believe how great he is!", stay there. That's a good job.

PCbob: Are there any individuals that you've never got to work with, but you'd like to work with in the future?

Mr. L: Oh, there's so many. I do a lot of short films. I make live action stuff and animated stuff. As I've been working on it for the last 6-7 years, I've definitely wanted to work with a lot of actors who I think would be great to work with. Most of the time for me, I'd like to make something with people I've met who I enjoy working with, like the people from Spongebob and some of the other people I've gained as friends over the years. There's something really good about getting your friends together, and, if your friends happen to be all really talented, you might have a great thing at the end, whether it's a TV show or a movie or a short film you're making. Just hanging around other people who are really really talented seems to be the biggest thing that gets me sparking more than anything, aside from reading Dr. Seuss or watching Monty Python, which are also 2 big sources for me. Dr. Seuss always makes me think "You can think of anything!" and so does Python. It's the same kind of feeling. I think we all came from that. I think that's why Spongebob is so kinetic and crazy. Anyway, there you go. There's that one. (chuckles)

PCbob: Well, my questions are almost done.

Mr. L: No rush, go ahead.

PCbob: What can we expect to see from you next?

Mr. L: Well, of course, the movie's coming. I'm not really at liberty to talk about it right now, so I'll just say that I will be involved in it somehow, someway.

PCbob: We hope so.

Mr. L: We don't know yet. Aww, thanks. There's a lot of things being figured out. It's right in the eartly stages right now, I can tell you that. Probably my guess is that it's going to be really great. We're hoping that when it comes out, it actually is a good companion piece to the show. I hope it's not just another episode of the show. I want people to go "Wow, that was the movie. It did things the show didn't do. It was great." So, thats coming.
I'm hoping that it goes on for awhile. I'm going to do a couple of lecture shows at some of the colleges. It's going to be sort of an unusual lecture, a little bit different than what you're used to seeing for a lecture. It should be interesting. It's going to have live music and stuff. It's something we're hoping people will come to and really think it's great and tell the other colleges to have me come out. That'll be happening in the year, probably in the Spring. That's the biggest new thing I'm doing. For now, it's called "An Evening with Mr. Lawrence". I'm going to try to make it a little less boring than a normal lecture. (chuckles) So it has a lot more entertainment value to it. We'll see what happens.

PCbob: Yeah, I'd like to go see fun stuff, but I'm in the middle of Missouri...

Mr. L: Well, that doesn't mean I won't be there! If it catches on at all, then I'll be there. If it bombs, well, we won't hear anything then, will we? (chuckles)

PCbob: Well, nothing interesting ever goes on around here. We could use something...

Mr. L: Well, I'll make a point that if it does go up and they ask me where I want to go, I'll say "Missouri, of course! The mecca!" (laughs) "I want to go to Missouri! Who doesn't want to go?" And it'll become like a boomtown.

PCbob: Our town only has like 400 people, and most of them are...yeah.

Mr. L: Right. (laughs) Well, that's cool.

PCbob: That's about the end of my questions, but just for fun... ;-)

Mr. L: Sure.

PCbob: (gets tongue tied)

Mr. L: Take your time.

PCbob: My site motto slogan thing is "Spongebob Online: Spongebob Info at it's Spongiest. I was wondering if just for fun, you could say that line in Plankton's voice?

Mr. L: *writes words down* I have to do this in 2 parts. (in Plankton voice) Spongebob Online: Spongebob Info at it's Spongiest.

PCbob: I liked that! That was good!

Mr. Lawrence: You want the angry side now? (chuckles)

PCbob: Sure, if you want. =)

Mr. L: Because Plankton has the 2 sides. He's got the sweet side and the nasty side. He's mostly nasty, but then he can kind of dip into the nice side of him. The other one would be: (in angry Plankton voice) Spongebob Online: Spongebob Info at it's Spongiest.

PCbob: That was good, too. I liked both of them!

Mr. L: Good. That's why I'm here. This was interesting and all.

PCbob: Oh yeah, I had fun. Thanks for answering all of my questions. =)

Mr. L: Oh, sure, no problem, man. I'm out there, beating my head against the wall every day, trying to make funny stuff. It's great. I'm glad you enjoy the show, and I'm glad that those tuning into your site are obviously fans of the show, too. It's great to hear that. We definitely worked hard enough on that show where it's a relief that everybody really likes it. We really put a lot of blood into that show. We're very happy about that. Again, pleasure talking to you. I'll try to answer any of your questions in the future.

PCbob: Well, on behalf of Spongebob fans everywhere, I'd like to thank you.

Mr. L: Sure, no problem, man. It sounds like you got a good head on your shoulders there. Your questions were really good. I'm not just saying that, by the way. Those questions were good questions. I wasn't sure what to expect. I hope I blathered on long enough.

PCbob: Your answers were just as good as the questions.

Mr. L: Well, thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.

PCbob: Thanks a lot, Mr. Lawrence!

Mr. L: Okay. Take care, man.

PCbob: Oh, and enjoy the rest of your year!

Another successful interview. Of course, major thanks to Mr. Lawrence for taking time to talk to the fans. If you're a college student, be on the lookout for "An Evening with Mr. Lawrence" at a college near you. And if you're not...well, keep watching him on Spongebob, and watch for him in the upcoming Spongebob movie in 2004. 'Til the next interview, aloha!