A talk with Archer, Bob and H. JonWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
H. Jon Benjamin has many live action credits, but his true calling is apparently breathing life into animated characters. He has performed on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Family Guy” and the PBS children’s show “Word Girl,” and now voices two title characters, Sterling Archer on “Archer” and Bob Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers.” During a telephone interview with Toledo Free Press Star from his New York City home, Benjamin ducked some questions, took some head-on and treated all of them as part of the absurd theater of his line of work. His delivery is slow, deliberate and funny in a way cold words on the page cannot completely convey.
Star: There is a lot of adult content in “Archer,” but you have quite a few adult shows in your background.
Benjamin: I started in porn, so I’m working my way slowly toward more mainstream stuff.
Benjamin: Just you and your wife watch “Word Girl?”
Star: We have a 4-year-old who watches.
Benjamin: I was going to say, if it’s just you and your wife, you know, that’s cool, if you’re like, “I work all day, then go home to the wife and watch ‘Word Girl.’ We learn three new words a week; what do you do?”
Star: Talk about working on the tone and pace of the dialogue when you’re recording separate from the cast.
Benjamin: You make it sound hard, but it’s really in the editing and scripts. I am as surprised when I see it as you were. If you were surprised. I don’t know if you were.
Star: I was surprised that as much as the show depends on the back and forth in the delivery of lines, that none of you ever work together.
Benjamin: It is surprising. I didn’t meet the cast until the second season.
Star: I knew you weren’t together, gathered around a microphone like on “Prairie Home Companion,” but even crediting the technology, if the performances weren’t special there’d be nothing there.
Benjamin: Well, you know how terrible “Prairie Home Companion” is, but it is interesting how well it comes out.
Star: Do you have a favorite line from the first season?
Benjamin: Every time I say “mother.” It makes me feel like, oh, my mother. I love her.
Star: Are you happy with the quality of Season Two?
Benjamin: The stories are great; there are lots of surprises. I have one storyline that covers three episodes; no one’s getting lazy yet.
Star: Do you have any voice-over actors that you consider inspirations?
Benjamin: There aren’t that many famous for just voice-overs. Can you think of any?
Star: Dan Castellaneta from “The Simpsons.”
Benjamin: Yeah, but he’s my age, so I should probably resent him. Under duress, I would say Jonathan Katz is an influence. I worked with him on “Dr. Katz,” the first animated show I did. I never planned this path.
Star: You earned an Emmy nomination for best voice-over work for “Archer.”
Benjamin: I had never been nominated for anything.
Star: That had to be cool to wake up to.
Benjamin: It’s never cool waking up for me, no matter what happens, but I was excited; I’m a big fan of the show.
Star: You lost to Anne Hathaway for her guest spot on “The Simpsons.”
Benjamin: I didn’t know that.
Star: Sorry to break that news.
Benjamin: No, I knew I lost (laughing). You didn’t break that to me. That would be funny though, if I had still been waiting: “Hey, when are they going to decide on that?”
Star: Looking forward to more seasons?
Benjamin: That would be great. Great for me, great for you, great for everybody. I was just checking “The Simpsons,” they’re past 20 years. I’d like to see Archer that old.
Star: I can’t imagine they can keep him alive that long.
Benjamin: That’s true, but James Bond’s still kicking.
Star: Yeah, but they have to go through different actors. You don’t want that.
Benjamin: I would actually vote for a different actor every four seasons so Archer could directly follow the Bond reference. So after me they have to find a Roger Moore.
Star: He’s probably available.
Benjamin: (Laughing) A Roger Moore type, not Roger Moore. But that would be great if they replaced me with Roger Moore.
Star: They’d have to get George Lazenby first, for just one show.
Star: You’re also the lead voice on “Bob’s Burgers;” any difficulty in switching back and forth between Archer, Bob and the other voices you do?
Benjamin: They’re stuck with what they get, unfortunately, but it seems to be working. One day I did both on the same day, and “Bob’s Burgers” does six-hour recording sessions, with a lot of improv. I don’t want to sound like an ass—, but that was one rough day; I worked, like, seven hours. I guess I do sound like an ass—.
Michael S. Miller is Editor in Chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.