Sunday, June 16, 2024

Commentary: Tom Kenny’s visit to the university

MosaicCampus LifeCommentary: Tom Kenny's visit to the university

BY CAROLINE POWELL
Staff Writer




BY DANNY TULL
Staff Writer




Danny: As someone who grew up both watching and loving cartoons, when I saw on a Geek Week poster in Perkins Student Center that one of the most recognizable voice actors, Tom Kenny, was coming to the university to do a Q&A session, I was ecstatic. His voice can be heard in a variety of animated media such as “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Hoodwinked!,” “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” and the “Transformers” movie franchise. He also voices this little sponge on this old show called, “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? I’m amazed by his ability to capture his audience’s attention with his iconic laugh in “SpongeBob Squarepants” along with playing goofy sidekicks and villains, such as Eduardo in “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” and Ice King in “Adventure Time,” respectively.

Tom Kenny was invited to the university in celebration of Geek Week, which is a new event that the Division of Student Life puts on for students of the “geek” variety to express themselves. Throughout the week, there were many activities tailored to various fandoms. These activities came in the form of food, free themed giveaways, retro video game cabinets set up in the Esports Arena and (of course) a guest appearance from Tom Kenny. The co-hosts, Melissa Wood and James Kelly, are both active members of 91.3 WVUD.

Let’s set the scene of the event. It was a brisk spring afternoon. I know this because I had my jacket on, which I accidentally stained with red icing from the cupcakes the event provided. All the food provided was inspired by the imaginative world of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” They had mini burgers made to look like Krabby Patties, a delicacy from the show sought after on a daily basis by the show’s villain, Plankton. 

The audience was entirely students from the university due to all guests having to check in with their student ID’s. With that said, there were students from all types of majors and career paths. Most of those in attendance were fans of the show from a young age, although one individual confessed during the Q&A that they were banned from watching SpongeBob as a child, yet still was a fan of the show at a young age.

Kenny, much like his yellow sponge animated counterpart, was an incredibly energetic individual. He made an entrance by running from the back of the audience onto the stage and then ran off and around the entire Multipurpose room. He did this all while high-fiving as many students in aisle seats as possible.

Caroline: The moderators displayed an intro video before bringing Kenny out onto stage showing all of his infamous characters, starting from the beginning of his career to his most recent. Kenny did a good job of sharing personal stories. Despite going a little off-topic at times, he always circled back to the questions asked. A particular point stood out to me – Kenny said he didn’t book a voice acting gig until he was 30 years old. 

There were a select few guests with yellow wristbands who got to do a meet-and-greet after the show, which included taking pictures, talking with Kenny one-on-one and receiving autographs.

Danny: Kenny shared that he voiced the Transformers Starscream in “Transformers: Animated.” In 1994, Kenny was a cast member on the TV sketch show, “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” He was on the show through its first three seasons. After that, his voice acting career picked up when he voiced the lead characters on two classic Nickelodeon shows in 1998, “CatDog”and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” 

Caroline: Throughout his discussion with the audience, Kenny sarcastically (and briefly) went on tangents about how artificial intelligence was going to take over his career of voice acting. He even slipped in the notion that the takeover is already on its way.

Overall, the Q&A was pretty funny. Tom Kenny threw in some of his voices and even impressions of other people like Brian Wilson, a former member of the Beach Boys. Kenny shared that Wilson had once joked that Kenny found a way to make a living out of having split personalities. The funniest portion was definitely when the audience asked questions. A memorable question was about what SpongeBob’s performance song would be if he was a drag queen. Kenny responded to this in SpongeBob’s voice, saying “Anything Beyoncé.”

The co-hosts of the event had well thought-out questions and even went on to discuss topics unrelated to Kenny’s career, such as music. It was very interesting to see how versatile Kenny is as an entertainer outside acting. 

Despite these few shortcomings, this event was an amazing opportunity for students. Being able to connect a face to the voice that many of us were raised on was a surreal experience. It was a pleasure to be a part of such a positive memorable university moment.

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