“OK, raise your hands: Who else here has parents that think you’re going to hell for being on a cartoon? Oh, just me? Cool.”
With that, actor and voiceover artist Patrick Warburton kicked off his panel last weekend at Emerald City Comicon. Joined by moderator Grant Imahara (“Mythbusters”), he discussed his role on “Seinfeld” and “The Tick,” and shared stories about his experiences on “Family Guy” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” But before Warburton got to those, he explained why his folks believe he’s headed for eternal damnation.
“My parents actually do believe that my soul is in peril, and that I’m really going to hell for being in ‘Family Guy,’” he said. “My father was in a monastery with monks for a short period of time, and my mother went to school with the nuns, so I get tearful messages from them on the phone. They don’t watch the show, but they know about it from the fundamentalist Christian organizations.
“My mother has tried to get the show off the air for years,” Warburton continued. “She’s filed formal complaints to the FCC – Seth MacFarlane even has one on his wall. He wants to interview my mother, but I can’t throw her under the bus like that. I know she’s crazy, but the rest of the world should not know this. I love my parents dearly.”
On the subject of “Family Guy,” Warburton said it’s a fun environment, and it’s clear he enjoys his boss. “If you’ve never been to a Seth MacFarlane party – that’s really something special,” he said. “I went to his birthday party last year, and … have you ever been to a party where they pour the vodka through an actual iceberg harvested from the South Pole? I’ll tell you how it happened – it was a joint venture between Beverly Hills Wine & Cheese and the U.S. Icebreaker the Polar Star. It was amazing.”
The actor then delved into his own family life, talking about his wife, four kids, and his very full home in Ventura County, California. “One of the unique things about my home is that I have this barn, and it’s my man cave,” he explained. “It got dubbed ‘Club Ed’ years ago after the great Eddie Vedder.
“I’m a diehard Pearl Jam fan. Every time I meet Ed, I can barely talk, because I so appreciate his work … The whole music scene that came out of Seattle – Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains – there’s a handful of groups that came out of here that are the most integral thing to happen to rock ‘n’ roll since the British Invasion.”
As Warburton opened up about his love of the Seattle music scene, one fan asked whether he has any Eddie Vedder stories he could share.
“I’ve met Eddie about 12 times. He’s always very, very kind and gracious,” the actor said. “For the first six or seven times I met him, I never expected him to remember me. But I remember one time, backstage … this was the first of four shows in Los Angeles, and there were about 200 people backstage – you know, everybody from Sean Penn to Jon Krakauer, and I didn’t think I’d get to see Eddie. But this guy from the band came up and said, ‘Eddie knows you’re here’ and invited my wife and I back.
“That night, Eddie gave me his Social Distortion T-shirt. It was unbelievable. So my wife and I are walking back to the car and we don’t say anything for, like, five minutes. And she knows I’m beside myself – so I just stand there and look at her, and then take the shirt and go … [Warburton mimes holding the shirt to his face and smelling it] And then I look at her and go, ‘Aw, it’s clean.’”
Once the laughter died down, Warburton talked about his character Puddy on “Seinfeld.” He told the crowd how wonderful the cast was and how thankful he was to have been on the show, but indicated he had some questions about the relationship between Puddy and Elaine. “I thought they must have had this remarkable chemistry in the bedroom, because he was such a dolt,” he said. “I don’t know what else she would have seen in him.”
A fan expressed appreciation for Kronk from Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and asked whether it was difficult to learn squirrel, which Warburton’s character speaks in the film. The actor played along, responding in Kronk’s voice, “Well, I’ve gotta tell you – you really should be well-versed in the languages of all woodland creatures.”
Amid the laughs, he said, “I loved doing Kronk. I grew up with Disney, and I’d have never imagined that I would get to work in a Disney film, so that’s very special to me.”
Warburton also had a bit of news that seemed “special” to many of his fans: “We are doing ‘The Tick’ again. Amazon came on board, and we couldn’t be happier. In terms of preparation, we’re on the five-yard line. Once they greenlight the newest draft, then we’ll get started. It’s been a little bit of a journey – we started a year and a half ago, so we’re almost right there and we’re really excited about that.”
When asked if this would be the same Tick as seen on network TV, he said yes, only different and better. “The Tick will have the same essence – flamboyant and interesting and introspective and wonderful and silly and ridiculous – but it will be a bit darker too,” Warburton explained. “This incarnation is going to be a little bit more specifically what Ben Edlund has in his mind for the Tick.”
He added that the Tick is probably his favorite live-action role. He loves the essence of the Tick and how the character seems to have reached so many people in a roundabout way. “It’s been fun throughout the years to see the Tick audience build on a show where we did nine episodes, and the network gave us no support.”
Warburton added this wasn’t the only show he did that lacked network backing. “‘Rules of Engagement’ was a midseason replacement for seven years, which meant that we only did half a season – 13 episodes – and that was it,” he said. “We never knew if we were going to come back, or if we had a job next year. But every year the network would have a new show that didn’t work out, and then they would drop us in. So we were an insurance policy for them for seven years. And after that, they had a hundred episodes and put us in syndication, and it’s done very well there. It appears to have been a hit, but we were not a hit.”
The moderator concluded the panel by asking the actor what projects are on the horizon. Warburton responded, “‘Ted 2,’ ‘Joe Dirt 2’ -- anything with a 2 -- and ‘The Tick.’ Hopefully we’ll go into production on that soon, so contact Amazon and tell them the script is good to go.”
With the audience shouting the Tick’s catchphrase – “SPOOOOON!” – the panel was brought to a close.