Making Spongebob Laugh: A Brief Study in Self-Confidence

In terms of brushing elbows with some of my voiceover heroes, it’s been an eventful couple of months for me. In April I got an envied retweet (and likes on some of my unrelated tweets) from the incomparable Jim Cummings and I thought that was exciting! And it was- and an honor and a privilege, but it really didn’t hold a candle to what would happen in May. As it turned out, Tom Kenny (voice of Spongebob, the Ice King in Adventure Time, and, my personal favorite, Dr. Twobrains in WordGirl) would be making an appearance at Comicpalooza, a local pop-culture/scifi/fantasy/comic book convention that has really been gaining steam in the last few years. My husband and I make a point of going every year and make sort of a Mommy-Daddy weekend away with friends out of it. I was determined to meet him and so I would!


He was lovely and hilarious and warm and everything you’d want the iconic voice of Spongebob to be, really. I was immediately relaxed around him, he felt like an old friend or close Uncle. He talked with me about the industry, advised me in my work and assured me I was doing everything I needed to be to ‘get where I wanted to go’. That wasn’t the highlight of the meeting, however, because somewhere in this exchange my husband mentioned, “You know, she does a GREAT Ice King Impression!” as he warned me he would. Despite my utter embarrassment and fear and trepidation leading up to this, I knew he would do it and had encouraged him to do so. I felt like it was sort of a kick in the ass I needed. Why? I don’t know. It wouldn’t win me anything other than the ability to say I did my impression in front of Tom Kenny himself, but...I kind of wanted that.


The truth is, for a woman I do like to think my Ice King Impression is pretty good. We wouldn’t have put me in this position if we didn’t think I could pull it off, so I did it...and Tom absolutely loved it. He laughed and laughed and said “Wow, I could listen to that all day!!”. Even if he was laughing because I was terrible (he wasn’t, he’s too sweet), I made Tom Kenny laugh and that’s something I can’t help but pleased with.


And yet, despite this, I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking back to the encounter and cringing, merely because it was a ballsy, step out of my comfort zone type of thing to do and part of me was just determined to believe I made a fool of myself, even if a logical part of me knows that’s not even remotely true. After a couple times of thinking back to this encounter and making the ‘just stuck an entire half of lemon into my mouth’ face it occurred to me that...hey, you really sucks that I had this amazing encounter with one of my childhood heroes and all I can think about is how cringey I supposedly was. What if I just, instead, chose not to obsess over whether or not I was ‘good’, or whatever, at this impression and instead focus on the fact that, bad or good, I gave a hearty laugh back to the man who’d been making me laugh for over 20 years? I mean, honestly. It was the least I could do. Being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ wasn’t the damn point; I did the impression with confidence and he liked it and that’s all there is to it.


It’s a hurdle I’ve been needing to jump over for sometime -and not just for the sake of my voiceover career-, that constant, excessive fear of what other people might be thinking about me. I’ve made a lot of strides over the years to overcome this, but it’s still there in many ways and it still sort of lingers over me like the school bully, just waiting until I’m a little too confident, a little too pleased with myself and BAM, knocks me down a peg just like that. The worst part is I make the choice to have that happen, I let that bully stay there every day that I don’t reassure myself that I’m entitled to be unashamedly who I am, that I don’t owe anyone my embarrassment just because so many of us seem to live in this endless cycle of self-hate, projected into scrutiny towards other people.  


Despite what you may feel personally about Natalie Dormer (doesn’t matter, because she certainly doesn’t care) there is so much wisdom in her words, “"I wouldn't be upset about what people think of me. That's rule number one of surviving in this industry, don't care what people think. Just be true to yourself and be as pleasant and professional as you can. If you start caring what people think, you're screwed,"


Admittedly VO work takes a bit of that pressure away of being immediately in front of thousands of judgemental eyes, but the necessity of not caring what people think rings true in this field as well. You’re still an entertainer, you’re still appearing before large audiences even if it isn’t directly. Caring what people think will, in the end, negatively impact your image and performances. You have to be true to yourself, tell a character’s story honestly, and have a friggin’ good time doing it, gosh darnit. It may not work for everyone and that’s not your problem.


I look at my encounter with Tom in new perspective now. It’s waste of an amazing opportunity to focus on a self-consciousness that isn’t even warranted. I made Spongebob laugh; there’s no way I’m ever going be sorry for that.