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Steven Banks Interview

Date Interviewed: June 24, 2013

abney317: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. The fans and I really appreciate it.
First, could you introduce yourself for those who may not be as familiar with your work?

Steven: My name is Steven Banks and I was story editor and then head writer on SpongeBob Squarepants for seasons 4, 5, 6, 7 and part of 8. I also wrote and starred in a Showtime special Home Entertainment Center, did a series for PBS called, oddly enough, The Steven Banks Show, wrote a young adult novel King of The Creeps, co-created a show with the dance company Pilobolus called Shadowland that is touring internationally (look it up on YouTube it's pretty bitchen), wrote a play with Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) called Love Tapes and another play Looking at Christmas that ran in New York and I went to Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey's Clown College.

abney317: What led to you becoming a writer, and is that what you have always been interested in doing?
Steven: I always liked to write (and read) ever since I was a kid. My handwriting was so bad I learned to use a typewriter when I was 7 years old. I wrote plays and short stories. I also acted and played music. I never thought I would write a cartoon and then I did. Life is funny.

abney317: How did you become a writer on SpongeBob?
Steven: I had worked at Nickelodeon on CatDog and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. One day, Eric Coleman, the executive on SpongeBob called me and said I was being considered to write on the show by Stephen Hillenburg and Paul Tibbitt. I got excited, I was a big SpongeBob fan. Then I went in and was interviewed by Paul Tibbitt for about five minutes. He basically told me what I would need to do if I worked on the show.

abney317: Out of all the episodes you were part of, which is your favorite?
Steven: The Two Faces of Squidward. It was fun to write the premise and outline and Aron Springer did a fantastic job storyboarding it. I also got nominated for an Emmy which was cool. I didn't win. Alas.

abney317: What were your favorite cartoons as a kid?
Steven: Tom Terrific, Mighty Mouse, Top Cat, Felix The Cat, Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Flintstones.

abney317: What are you favorite cartoons these days?
Steven: I love Adventure Time.

abney317: As Head Writer on the show, what differed in your job compared to the other writers?
Steven: I got more money and a bigger office. Just kidding. Not really. I would oversee a writer's premise and give notes. Then we would present the premise to Paul Tibbitt and he would give notes. Then the writer would do an outline based on those notes and I would give notes on that and then we would show that to Paul and he would have notes. If I wrote the premise and outline it would be the same. I would also be there for the storyboard pitch to the network and put in my two cents with notes. I also dropped by the recording sessions (mostly because it was fun to watch the actors and there was free food).

abney317: What is the process for coming up with new episodes like?
Steven: Getting an idea, making sure it is a story, with a beginning, middle and end and then writing it out. Sometimes a writer would tell a story about their real life or something that happened to their kid and we would use that. Dani Michaeli, one of the writers, had a daughter who didn't want to get her picture taken at school and I said, "That's a story!" And we made it into one where SpongeBob wants to get his picture taken and over prepares and worries he will get messed up. And of course he does. It was fun and challenging hard work to come up with stories, especially the longer I was on the show. We had done SO many stories already, in previous seasons, and we didn't have a lot of characters like in The Simpsons.

abney317: When episodes are written with guest stars, are they written with the guest stars in mind, or do the celebrities put into the roles afterwards?
Steven: Both ways. We wrote one for Matthew McConaughey (Yes, I had to look it up to spell it correctly),
but he didn't want to do it because he had a surf movie coming out. We ended up with Johnny Depp instead. We wanted David Bowie and we got him. We didn't write an episode for Christopher Guest but he ended up doing it. We did write an episode for Adam West and Burt Ward as the young Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. We got them.

abney317: In "Two Faces of Squidward," a nurse walks in and faints. Squidward says "What did she call me?" Then SpongeBob says, "Handsome. But she spelled it wrong." Did someone spell it wrong, or was that just a random joke?
Steven: I'm not 100% sure. My guess is that it was Tom Kenny making it up on the spot because it was written incorrectly on the script he was reading.

abney317: The last SpongeBob episode you wrote, "For Here or To Go," aired over a year after the previous episode you wrote. Did you come back to work on that episode, or was the episode written far in advance?
Steven: The episode was written far in advance, so I did the premise and outline, but did not come back after that. Also the shows are not aired in the order they are written.

abney317: Do you have any funny stories from your experience on the show?
Steven: Yes. But, I can't tell the really funny ones ... If I was smart I would have written a play about when the writers all went on a retreat at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. for the day ... Or maybe I did?

abney317: Any closing words for all the fans out there, and any of your work we should be on the lookout for in the near future?
Steven: I just wrote a one-hour pilot for Chuck Lorre Productions at Warner Bros, but it's for real people, not cartoon characters.

A big thank you goes out from all of us at SBM to Steven Banks for a great interview. I am very happy Steven took the time and gave us the opportunity to do this. His writing for SpongeBob is enjoyed and appreciated by all the fans out there.