Not just a voice: Jon Benjamin expands beyond cartoons in new showWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After years of hiding behind cartoon characters, Emmy-nominated voice actor Jon Benjamin is putting his face on display with the debut of Comedy Central’s “Jon Benjamin Has a Van.”
“It’s humiliating,” Benjamin said. “You’re looking at me now. It’s a mess. I’m unhappy about it, but I’ll do my best to make my face look better.”
The show is a fake news magazine built around scripted segments, but it also features real interactions. Benjamin is joined by his news crew featuring Nathan Fielder, Gary Wilmes and co-writer and producer Leo Allen.
He has more than just his face to worry about with the show’s revealing logo displayed on the sides of the van.
“I don’t know what’s up with that,” he said. “It is a little stupid. I knew I wanted to take my shirt off in a photo shoot. When I saw the photo, I realized I’m really out of shape. I have to work on that.”
Benjamin earned an Emmy nomination for his voice work on FX’s “Archer” and also voices the main character on Fox’s “Bob’s Burgers.”
“It’s grueling,” he said. “I’m working about two hours a week every other week. It’s pretty bad.”
All three of Benjamin’s leading characters are egotistical and take pleasure in the suffering of others.
“It is how I am in real life,” he said. “I guess you could say the secret is out. I’m not a good actor.”
He was more comfortable exchanging acting for ad-libbing during the real interactions on “Jon Benjamin Has a Van.”
The premiere episode introduces the game show “Ca$h Stall,” which is “Cash Cab” for the men’s room. When someone occupied the stall next to his, Benjamin knocked and offered them a chance to win $100. Most “contestants” walked away or threatened violence, but one person earned the cash.
“Somebody won, but we didn’t show it,” Benjamin said. “We had ridiculously long trivia questions. They were not easy. But it was stupid because we aren’t shooting a half-hour game show.”
He has been surprised at how willing people have been to interact on camera.
“People are pretty reasonable,” Benjamin said. “I’m almost shocked I haven’t been punched in the face. I’m always pleasantly surprised. I’ve deserved it millions of times.”
Benjamin nearly received what he deserves while walking around New York City in a giant pigeon costume.
“I was in it and being mean to people,” Benjamin said. “I was walking around New York and telling people to f— off. I was being really mean. I was in this sort of pigeon tank, so I felt really powerful. I like being protected and insulting people at the same time. There was this guy where I said ‘Nice hat, a–hole,’ or some lame insult. He came right at me, but he went after the pigeon’s head way above mine.”
Each episode features one developing scripted story. Benjamin is confident in his writing, but his resolve was tested early when some balked at his bold ideas. When the sound operator was kidnapped during the main segment in the fourth episode, the show went several minutes without audio.
“I don’t think it was bold, I just thought it was funny,” Benjamin said. “I like that people think of it that way. I was just hoping it caught on. If it didn’t, I would have to write something else. It would have been time-consuming. So part of it was laziness. Don’t make me write another bit. Comedy Central was a little wary about it, but they fully supported it.”
The two-episode season premiere begins at 10:30 p.m. June 14 on Comedy Central. The 10-episode season begins its regular Wednesday slot June 15 at 10:30 p.m.