As Nickelodeon’s longest running series, practically everyone in the world knows about SpongeBob SquarePants. The show, following the exploits of the sponge living in a pineapple under the sea and his friends, is wildly popular all over the globe, and practically everyone has seen at least one episode (while many people have seen all 239, an impressive feat).
Still, while you think you may know all there is to know about SpongeBob, a show that has been on television for that long racks up quite the history, and you might be surprised to hear what facts about the popular show you have never actually heard. There are the obvious ones that everyone knows, like how the show was embroiled in controversy after Christian groups called it gay propaganda, or how series star Tom Kenny injured his voice while recording SpongeBob’s signature laugh, but there’s even more to this show’s under the sea history. Here are 15 Sponge-tastic Facts About SpongeBob That You Didn’t Know.
15. Spongebob was an 80s kid, and Mr. Krabs is way older than you think.
Although it may seem like a squishy yellow sponge would be of indeterminate age, SpongeBob’s age actually has been revealed on the series through a picture of his hard earned license. According to the document, SpongeBob was born on July 14th, 1986, making everyone’s favorite character an 80s kid. Do you think he liked Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Was he into John Hughes movies? Did he prefer Duckie or Blane? (He definitely preferred Duckie.) Do you think he ever played with a Rubik’s Cube? Do they even have Rubik’s Cubes under the sea? These are the important questions that we need answered as soon as possible, SpongeBob.
His boss Mr. Krabs, meanwhile, was born on November 30, 1942, making the crab almost 75 years old and yet still kicking at the Krusty Krab as one of the toughest bosses on TV. Happy three quarters of a century Mr. Krabs; never change.
14. Patrick and Gary are first cousins.
SpongeBob’s not so smart neighbor and best friend, Patrick, may not appear to have much in common with the precocious pet snail, Gary, but, if you delve deep into their family trees, you will find out that they are actually cousins. Their relationship comes courtesy of Patrick’s grandparents, Maw Tucket and Billy Bob Star. The pair had three children: Herb Star, Sluggo Star and an as yet unnamed third child who parented Patrick’s mustachioed cousin Ed. Herb married Margie star and had Patrick and his sister Sam, while Sluggo had Gary, full name Gerard Wilson Jr., with a Miss Wilson. Patrick and Gary’s family history is explored in the season four episode “Rule of Dumb,” where it’s also revealed that the two are descended from royalty. It’s pretty easy to believe that Gary, being the hyper-intelligent snail that he is, would have some kingly blood in him, but with Patrick, his leadership qualities make us question that a bit.
13. The “My Leg” guy actually has a pretty storied history on the show.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of SpongeBob, you’ve probably heard someone screaming “my leg!” in the background of one the chaotic scenes. This “my leg” fish has come to be known by many due to his signature catch phrase, but most people don’t realize that he not only has a name, he has a full backstory for his perpetual injury as well. Fred, as his friends call him, has had a few jobs. He worked as a janitor for Shady Shoals, where Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy reside, and has also worked as a camera man for the Bikini Bottom News Station. He is married with kids and is even a flag twirler in a band. In addition to his signature “my leg” quote, the very prolific Fred is also responsible for popular Spongebob catch phrases “arghhhh” and “rev up those fryers.” The most interesting fact about Fred, though, is that he is voiced by Doug Lawrence, who is also responsible for the voice of the power hungry Plankton.
12. The creator of the show was a marine biologist.
Stephen Hillenburg, who started developing SpongeBob in 1996, originally started his career pursuing marine biology. Hillenburg graduated from Humboldt State University with his bachelor’s degree in marine resource planning and interpretation in 1984 and then took his knowledge to teaching marine biology at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. However, in 1992, he decided to change his career path and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts looking to learn more about animation. After graduating, he joined the writing, producing and art staff of Rocko’s Modern Life, the popular Nickelodeon series. In 1996, he came up with the idea for SpongeBob in collaboration with some of his coworkers and started working on a pilot, which he successfully pitched to Nickelodeon in 1999. Apparently, they immediately knew they had a hit on their hands when he presented the finished episode “Help Wanted” since two of the executives had to leave the room from laughing so hard.
11. SpongeBob was originally named SpongeBoy.
When creator Stephen Hillenburg initially came up with the idea of SpongeBob, he was a bit different. First off, the first version SpongeBob was actually an amorphous shape, like a real sponge, but Hillenburg was inspired by looking at a kitchen sponge to give the character his signature square shape. The squarer version of SpongeBob still wasn’t exactly like the character’s final iteration though; initially, Hillenburg was calling him SpongeBoy. SpongeBoy was quite similar to the SpongeBob that we have all come to know and love, although he accessorized a bit more, wearing a green baseball cap, which Hillenburg eventually decided to toss before the series started filming. However, Hillenburg was forced to also ditch the original name when he found out that it was copyrighted by a mop company, which seems to have since gone defunct since there isn’t a trace of it on the Internet. Something tells us Hillenburg isn’t looking to change back the ultra-recognizable name now, though.
10. Patrick was originally thought of as the angry owner of a roadside bar.
SpongeBob’s best friend also went through a number of iterations before becoming everyone’s favorite not so bright neighbor. Initially, Hillenburg came up with the idea of a pink starfish who was not so happy about his coloring. In Hillenburg’s original thoughts, Patrick was the owner of a roadside bar who felt the need to bully other due to his own pastel coloring. In this version, Patrick meets SpongeBob and Squidward while they are on a road trip together and take a stop at his bar, a part of Hillenburg’s initial pilot concept, bringing the angry tyrant into their lives. However, according to SpongeBob executive producer Derek Drymon, that idea didn’t last very long and, after six months of storyboarding with the team that he had put together from friends who had worked with him on Rocko’s Modern Life, Hillenburg was eventually able to come up with the versions of the characters that we know and love today.
9. The Krusty Krab is actually modeled after a lobster trap.
Everyone’s favorite fast food restaurant may not be a real thing, but it is modeled after one. Like many of the objects in Bikini Bottom, the Krusty Krab is modeled after a real-world counterpart that can frequently be found in the ocean due to human pollution—in this case, a lobster trap. The signature shape becomes pretty obvious when you compare the two when you look at pictures of the two side by side; take out the lobster trap netting and replace it with the Krusty Krab’s glass sidings and you can totally see the resemblance between the restaurant and the device used to trap Mr. Krab’s lobster cousins. Another fun fact about SpongeBob’s place of employment? It was originally named the Crusty Crab, but, like the Kardashians, Hillenburg eventually decided to go with all K’s for the name. Now, if only the real world had something anywhere near as delicious as the Krabby Patty seems to be…
8. SpongeBob’s bubbly personality was modeled on Jerry Lewis, Stan Laurel and Pee-Wee Herman.
When creator Stephen Hillenburg first described SpongeBob to voice actor Tom Kenny, he brought up the names of some pretty famous comedians along with it. “Steve described SpongeBob to me as childlike and naïve,” Kenny told Cartoonician. “He’s not quite an adult, he’s not quite a kid.” He said that Jerry Lewis, Stan Laurel and Pee-Wee Herman were “go-to’s” for the pair when discussing the character, especially when coming up with his signature voice. However, that ended up not being too difficult a task for the very talented Kenny, who was able to lock in on what he wanted the character to sound like within seconds. “It was amazing to see him capture the character immediately,” said Erik Wiese, a SpongeBob writer and storyboard artist. Kenny and Hillenburg also talked about bringing in elements of the Wizard of Oz munchkins and Charlie Brown into the character, although Lewis, Laurel and Herman were their main inspirations.
7. Tom Kenny is a multi-talented voice actor who also voices Gary and the narrator of the show, among other characters.
Tom Kenny is best known for lending his voice to SpongeBob SquarePants, but the actor has some other pretty impressive credits to his name, including a few other characters on the hit show. Kenny started his career in stand-up comedy, performing in clubs all across the country for eight years. After some experience acting in shows and movies like How I Got Into College and sketch comedy The Edge with a young Jennifer Aniston, he decided to get into voice acting, voicing Weenie on the Dumb and Dumber TV series and Heffer Wolfe and other characters on Rocko’s Modern Life, his first collaboration with SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg. When he was cast on SpongeBob in 1999, Kenny still didn’t slow down, lending his voice not only to the title character but to his pet snail Gary and the French narrator as well. Kenny has also notably voiced the narrator and the mayor on Powerpuff Girls and Dog on CatDog.
6. Tom Kenny was in an ~interesting~ place when he got the call saying that SpongeBob was moving forward.
We all remember where we were when we heard the news that would change our lives forever. Maybe it was at school, or at work or sitting in the car on the way to work or school (I should probably get a life). For Tom Kenny, comedian and actor, the news that would change his life came while he was outside in 100 degree weather in a bad smelling stable wearing a fake beard (pretty LA, if you ask me). The actor was filming a sketch for Mr. Show with Bob and David, working with Breaking Bad‘s Bob Odenkirk and Arrested Development‘s David Cross (guess we know where he got his comedy chops from). Kenny, who was dressed up like a wizard for the shoot, said that the fake outfit and crappy conditions (get it?) just added to his desire to move more into voiceover work. “A recording studio sounded real good to me,” he told Cartoonician.
5. Spongebob and Karen are married IRL.
Yet another reason for Plankton to hate SpongeBob— in real life, Tom Kenny, who voices the yellow sponge, is married to Jill Talley, who voices Plankton’s computer wife Karen. Kenny and Talley both have sketch comedy roots, with Talley performing improv at the Improv Institute and the famed Second City troupe in Chicago before getting cast on The Edge, the FOX sketch show that spawned the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Paul Feig and Alan Ruck, as well as the decades long relationship between Kenny and Talley. Although the sketch show only lasted for one season, the relationship lasted longer, with the two getting married in 1995. They then went on to collaborate on Mr. Show with Bob and David, with both appearing as main cast members alongside David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. Like her husband, Talley has also had a successful voice acting career in addition to SpongeBob, appearing on American Dad and Camp Lazlo. The two have two children: Mark, born in 1997, and Nora, born in 2003.
4. Even though Hillenburg was initially against big names appearing on the show, there have been some pretty famous guest stars.
Hillenburg was a purist when it came to SpongeBob, and he wanted the show to stick to its roots as opposed to shilling out for big celebrity cameos, part of the reason why so many of the show’s characters are voiced by the same core set of voice actors. Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne told MTV News in 2004 that Hillenburg said he didn’t want any “of those sort of commercial weirdos” on the soundtrack for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, instead opting to stick mainly with indie music from bands like Coyne’s in order to stay truer to the show’s style. However, despite Hillenburg’s initial objetions, the show has racked up some pretty famous guest stars over the years, with Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, multi-talented actor Johnny Depp and comedians Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig, among many, many more, taking time to stop by and record a voice or two for the popular cartoon.
3. Avril Lavigne once covered the Spongebob theme song for the 2004 movie, but Hillenberg turned down a Justin Timberlake collaboration.
It seems odd that Avril Lavigne would have recorded a version of the SpongeBob theme song for the same film that Hillenburg opposed excessive commercial involvement in, but the popstar, at the height of her early-2000’s popularity, did just that. Her version of the theme is as bubbly and pop punk as you would expect, and re-watching it on YouTube is probably the best #tbt you’ll see all week. Apparently, though, we’re missing out another great #tbt, because Hillenburg turned down a Justin Timberlake/Flaming Lips collaboration for the movie. “I actually suggested that maybe I could try to get Justin Timerlake to do a duet with us, as an off-the-cuff idea,” Coyne told MTV. Unfortunately Hillenburg had to crush our dreams and Spongebob/Timberlake loving hearts, though, and, because of him, we will never know what a smooth talking, sexy, Justin Timerlake-fied version of the SpongeBob theme song would sound like.
2. The show has inspired some pretty odd product placement deals, including a 2014 SpongeBob themed Toyota Highlander.
With a show as long-running and popular as SpongeBob, it makes sense that there would be a plethora of product sponsorship deals that have come out over the years. However, SpongeBob has definitely had some stranger products associated with it than other shows, including a 2014 SpongeBob-themed Toyota Highlander complete with the yellow headrests, an under the sea themed trunk and the character’s signature smile splashed along the side. That wasn’t the oddest piece of SpongeBob merchandise that has surfaced over the years, though: there have also been reports of SpongeBob tampons (I mean, I guess he is super absorbent), high heeled SpongeBob Nikes, for the fashionable cartoon fan, and a SpongeBob fishing rod for those who see the message of SpongeBob as yes, please, kill and eat as many fish as possible. You’ve got to wonder how many of those deals actually worked for the show since, I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a bright yellow SpongeBob car driving around my neighborhood (unfortunately).
1. Barack Obama once said that SpongeBob is his favorite TV character.
Two-term president of the United States, father of two and… huge SpongeBob fan? That’s right, current president Barack Obama told TV Guide in 2008 that the optimistic yellow sponge is his favorite TV character who he loves to watch with his daughters Sasha and Malia. In fact, the president loves it so much that he’s talked about it numerous times, mentioning it to a few different outlets during his 2008 campaign, during the heyday of his daughters’ love of the show. Although his favorite TV shows that he has discussed at points are a little more high class (M*A*S*H and The Wire), the president still said that SpongeBob had earned a spot high up on his list, later telling Entertainment Weekly, “I have to say, SpongeBob is pretty funny.” Pretty funny, POTUS? You don’t have to play down your love for us, we all know that SpongeBob is the best show on television.