Tom Kenny

Tom Kenny

Kenny at the Florida SuperCon in June 2015
Born Thomas James Kenny
(1962-07-13) July 13, 1962
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1981–present
Known for SpongeBob SquarePants
Spouse(s) Jill Talley (m. 1995)
Children Mack Kenny
Nora Kenny
Parent(s) Paul Austin Kenny
Theresa Bridget Donigan

Thomas James "Tom" Kenny (born July 13, 1962) is an American actor and comedian. He is known for his long-running role as the title character in the SpongeBob SquarePants TV series and films.

Kenny has voiced many other characters including Heffer Wolfe in Rocko's Modern Life (1993-1996), the Ice King in Adventure Time (2010–present), the Mayor in The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005), Dog in CatDog (1998-2005), and Spyro from the Spyro the Dragon franchise (1999-2002). His live-action work includes comedies The Edge (1992-1993) and Mr. Show (1995-1998).

Kenny has won two Annie Awards for his voice work.

Early life

Kenny was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, the son of Theresa Bridget (Donigan) and Paul Austin Kenny.[1][2] As a young child, he loved drawing and collecting record albums in the late 1960s and 1970s. He went to Bishop Grimes High School, a Catholic high school,[3] in Syracuse. He became lifelong friends with comedian Bobcat Goldthwait after a teacher, who was displeased with Goldthwait, dragged him into Kenny's class. After college, Kenny appeared in films that Bobcat directed and starred in such as Shakes the Clown and World's Greatest Dad.


Stand-up comedy

Kenny's professional entertainment vocation began as a teenager, when he and his friend Bobcat Goldthwaite started to work as stand-up comedians.[4] Describing Kenny's stand-up routines, Goldthwaite says, "Tom would get up there and talk about his therapist and he didn't even have a therapist, he just loved Woody Allen."[5] Kenny performed stand-up comedy around the country for about eight years before he moved on to other venues.[4]

Television and film career

Kenny has acted in many films and TV shows, debuting in How I Got Into College (1989) and later appeared in films such as Shakes The Clown and Comic Book: The Movie. He appeared in sketch comedies The Edge and Mr. Show. He appears in the live-action segments of SpongeBob SquarePants as Patchy the Pirate, and appeared on R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour on the season four episode, "Uncle Howee" as Uncle Howee, a high-energy kids' show host with strange powers.

Voice acting

Kenny said that he voices "a lot of sweet yellow characters for some reason."[6] He described his perspective on SpongeBob's voice in an interview: "He's not quite an adult, he's not quite a kid. Think a Stan Laurel, Jerry Lewis kind of child-man. Kind of like a Munchkin but not quite, kind of like a kid, but not in a Charlie Brown child's voice on the TV shows."[7]

Joe Murray auditioned Kenny for voice acting roles for the series in a casting call in Los Angeles, California.[8] On one occasion, the producers required Kenny to fill the role of Charlie Adler, who was absent. He voices Cupid for the Nickelodeon show The Fairly OddParents.[9]

Joe Murray chose Kenny for several roles on another one of his projects, Camp Lazlo as Scoutmaster Lumpus and Slinkman, because Murray, after seeing Kenny's previous work for Rocko's Modern Life, felt that Kenny "adds writing to his roles" and "brings so much".[10]

He voiced Dog in CatDog, as well as the voice of Cliff. He voices many characters in The Powerpuff Girls, including the Mayor, the Narrator, Mitch Mitchelson, Snake, and Little Arturo from the Gangrene Gang, Rainbow the Clown, etc. He voiced Eduardo, and various other characters in Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Dr. Two-Brains in the PBS Kids show, WordGirl and the villains Knightbrace, The Common Cold and Mr. Wink in Codename Kids Next Door.

Kenny is The Penguin in 2004 TV series The Batman.

Kenny at New York Comic Con in 2014

He plays a number of roles in the Transformers Animated TV show. A few of the characters he voices in this series are Starscream and his clones, Isaac Sumdac and Waspinator. Kenny also voiced several characters on the animated show Xiaolin Showdown, as well as the Autobots Skids and Wheelie in the live-action Transformers film series. On Dilbert, Kenny voiced Ratbert, Asok and other one-time characters. He played Mr. Hal Gibson in the animated kids show Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force GO!.

In 2009, Kenny became a regular cast voice in the Fox comedy series Sit Down, Shut Up. He voices Muhammad Sabeeh "Happy" Fa-ach Nuabar, the secretive custodian who is plotting a terrorist attack, as well as Happy's interpreter. The series premiered on April 19, 2009. Kenan Thompson, Kristin Chenoweth, Jason Bateman, Nick Kroll, Cheri Oteri, Henry Winkler, Will Arnett, and Will Forte are the other main cast members.[11]

He plays The Ice King and Magic Man on Adventure Time. In 2011, Kenny took over the role of Rabbit from Ken Sansom in Winnie the Pooh. From 2012–2014, Kenny voiced Woody Johnson on Comedy Central's Brickleberry. He voices Flain, Seismo, and Teslo in Mixels, Sumo in the Cartoon Network show Clarence, Daddo in Henry Hugglemonster, Dr. Otto Octavius on The Ultimate Spider-Man, and Leo Callisto in Miles from Tomorrowland.

He has also provided voices in television advertisements for Best Buy (as an elf for a Christmas spot).[12] and Experian (as a talking modem alongside DC Douglas)[13]

SpongeBob SquarePants

Main article: SpongeBob SquarePants
Kenny in 2010 at San Diego Comic Con

While working on the animated series Rocko's Modern Life, Kenny met marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, who was also the creative director in the show's fourth season. Hillenburg drew a square sponge that he thought was funny and decided that he had found his character. After the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996, Hillenburg began developing the concept and hired former Rocko crew members. To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Kenny. Hillenburg chose the name SpongeBob and used the name SquarePants as a family name that "had a nice ring to it".

The series premiered on May 1, 1999, on Nickelodeon and became a commercial success in 2000, during its second season. Kenny voices other characters on the show including Gary the Snail, the French narrator (a parody of Jacques Cousteau), SpongeBob's father Harold SquarePants, and his live-action portrayal of Patchy the Pirate. In 2010, Kenny received the Annie Award for "Voice Acting in a Television Production" for his role as SpongeBob in SpongeBob's Truth or Square (season 6, episode 23-24). He also voiced SpongeBob in the sequel film released on February 6, 2015.

Personal life

Kenny first met his wife Jill Talley in 1992 while working on The Edge. The two have also collaborated on HBO's Mr. Show and SpongeBob SquarePants. They have two children, Mack (born c. 1997) and Nora (born August 2003).[1][14]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film/TV Show Result
2001 Annie Award Best Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Television Production SpongeBob SquarePants Nominated
2008 Best Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production Nominated
2010 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Screen Couple (shared with Shia LaBeouf and either Megan Fox or any "Transformer") Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Nominated
Annie Award Best Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production SpongeBob SquarePants Won
2011 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Screen Ensemble (shared with the entire cast) Transformers: Dark of the Moon Nominated
2014 Annie Award Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production Adventure Time Won
2015 Annie Award Voice Acting in an Animated Feature The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water Nominated


Main article: Tom Kenny filmography


  1. 1 2 "Tom Kenny: Biography". T.V Guide. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  2. "Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, talks of local ties, life in Bikini Bottom". Times Leader. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  3. "Tom Kenny—Sit Down Shut Up, The Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants—02/27/09". Groucho Reviews. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  4. 1 2 Wojciechowski, Michele (April 21, 2015). "Voice Artist Tom Kenny on Being SpongeBob SquarePants". Parade. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  5. Nieratko, Chris (September 3, 2015). "Bobcat Goldthwait's Latest Documentary Examines Child Sexual Abuse". Vice. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  6. Miller, Emily; Macchione, Elizabeth (June 14, 2003). "A discussion with Tom Kenny of 'SpongeBob Squarepants'". St. Augustine Record.
  7. The Oral History of SpongeBob SquarePants, Hogan's Alley #17
  8. "Lisa (Kiczuk) Trainor interviews Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life", The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  9. Lawson, Tim and Alisa Persons. The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors. p.192.
  10. Q & A with Joe Murray", Cartoon Network Pressroom
  11. "Sit Down, Shut Up". Fox. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  12. Silver, Stephen. "Best Buy Elf Debuts in Christmas Support Ad". Dealerscope. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  13. Douglas, DC. "Experian (w/ Tom Kenny)". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  14. Edwards, Ellen (November 30, 2004). "As the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny knows it's hip to be square". Chicago Tribune.
  15. Francis, Preston (10 June 2015). "(Exclusive) Interview with Voice Actor Tom Kenny". The Comic Book Cast. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  16. Sharp, Tyler (10 June 2015). "Original Powerpuff Girls voice actresses upset they were never asked to return for new series". Alternative Press. Retrieved 10 June 2015.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tom Kenny.
Preceded by
Carlos Alazraqui
Voice of Spyro the Dragon
Succeeded by
Jess Harnell
Preceded by
Charlie Adler
Voice of Starscream
Succeeded by
Sam Riegel
Preceded by
Frank Welker
Voice of Wheelie
Succeeded by
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