For the man behind the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, Halloween is a pleasantly confusing holiday where kids ring his doorbell...dressed like him.
I grew up in Syracuse, New York, in a very Leave it to Beaver suburban neighborhood. Halloween in other parts of the country is celebrated in relatively warm -- maybe brisk -- weather. But in central New York, winter has already begun by October 31. So a lot of times, as I kid, I was trekking from house-to-house, trick-or-treating in snow.
Of course, that also dictated the types of costumes you could wear -- Tarzan was out, a caveman was out and Marc Spitz, the Olympic swimmer, was definitely out.
I've been a procrastinator my whole life, so it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me that I usually picked my costume on Halloween Day. That means I usually went for the default and dressed up as a hobo. All you had to do was burn a cork with your dad’s cigarette lighter and give yourself an Emmett Kelly five o’clock shadow.
It’s always fascinating to me to see what kids are dressing up as for Halloween. It's an interesting barometer of what has heat, pop culturally. I always get a trip out of seeing the SpongeBobs, or other characters I voice, come to my door -- it’s like seeing my resume paraded in front of me.
I’d probably be a little more ambivalent about it if the characters looked like me or had my face, but the fact that it’s a costume representation of a drawing for which I provide the voice gives it enough degrees of separation that it’s not too creepy. And we are talking about Halloween, here, so you don’t want things to get too creepy.
A few years ago, my daughter suggested a whole Halloween family theme from the Wizard of Oz. My son was a flying monkey, my wife was the Wicked Witch of the West and my daughter was Dorothy. So that means I got stuck with being Glenda. Now, imagine a forty-something guy with a five o’clock shadow (not the Emmett Kelly kind) and horn-rimmed glasses walking around in a pink ball gown. And believe me, it's not easy to find a pink ball gown in an adult-male size. (Thank goodness for drag queens.)
Dad, What's A "Leaf?"
Syracuse is a very autumnal part of the country, unlike where I live now, in Los Angeles, California. Syracuse is apple country, so every October my family would pile in the car and drive to one of the local apple farms to get some fresh apple cider and pick some apples. There were actually leaves and cold and frost. All that stuff that’s become Halloween iconography -- scarecrows and such -- they were really there. There were actual scarecrows -- not just cheesy fake ones, like the ones sitting between the aisles in CVS.
Not to knock Halloween in L.A., but I would love for my son and daughter to go back and experience a central-New York Halloween. Autumn and Halloween just go hand-in-hand. In L.A., you have to get on an airplane to find autumn. It’s just not practical to yank your kids out of school and fly across the country so they can see a leaf.
Fortunately, my family and I are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood in L.A. that -- except for the fact that it’s often 88 degrees on Halloween night -- is actually very much like Syracuse. The only real difference between the two is the climate. Here, in L.A., the pumpkins get fuzzy and moldy the day after you carve them, so you can’t do it too soon. But, in terms of the experience, L.A. trick-or-treating is remarkably like what I grew up with.
We live in a very old-fashioned neighborhood that’s very un-LA. I assure you, it’s by choice. We moved here so our kids could walk to school. So many people live up in the hills up in L.A. -- houses are on the top of a mountain or teetering off a cliff in Malibu. They’re just not trick-or-treater friendly. We’re down in the flatlands in a neighborhood that looks like a traditional neighborhood in Anytown, USA. It’s so conducive to trick-or-treating that there’s actually a giant influx of trick-or-treaters from those other, hilly neighborhoods. I kid you not -- there are literally swarms of trick-or-treaters. Just before sunset, it starts to look like Occupy Wall Street.
It gets so crowded that we have to make an emergency run for candy every year -- even when we think we’re overestimating, we later realize we’ve underestimated, yet again. Maybe that's because our house is kind of Halloween central: our doors open at 4 p.m. and it’s just a constant flow of people in and out -- whether it’s my kids’ friends or their parents. I usually man the front door and pass out candy to the kids, and wine, for the parents -- an idea I stole from one of my neighbors. We usually prepare a spread of food from our favorite local restaurant. Then the unruly mob leaves the house and starts attacking the neighborhood.
Tom Kenny is the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants, one of the planet's most recognized characters. Tom’s voice talents can also be heard as various robots in Transformers-Revenge of the Fallen and as Rabbit in the feature film Winnie the Pooh. He also creeped out audiences as the evil “Binky the Clown” in the cult film Shakes the Clown.
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