Patrick Warburton’s distinctively deep voice and deadpan delivery makes him one of the most highly sought voice actors working today. From adult-themed TV shows like “Family Guy” and “The Venture Bros.” to animated kid flicks like “Bee Movie” and “Hoodwinked,” Warburton has hundreds of credits on his voice acting resume, but his starring role in the beloved, albeit short-lived, “The Tick” may be his ultimate animated work as a living, breathing cartoon-come-to-life.
Fox canceled the series in early 2002 after just nine episodes aired, but it remains a cult classic to this day. Recently, reports surfaced indicating that Amazon is interested in reviving “The Tick,” with Warburton returning as the Big Blue Bug.
CBR News connected with Warburton to discuss the possibility of a series revival and also covered the September 20 Netflix premiere of “The Woman Chaser,” a film starring the comedic actor, which made its debut at the New York Film Festival back in 1999 but has been in limbo for the past decade due to problems, not the least of which involved music licensing. Warburton also shared his thoughts on used car salesmen, binge watching TV series like “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey,” stamp collecting, the upcoming “Ted 2,” for which he jokingly teased a very unexpected twist, and why he may some day have to make it a point to kiss Chris Hemsworth.
CBR News: I know you’re likely sworn to secrecy about the possible reboot, but if the possibility presented itself, would you like to return to “The Tick”?
Patrick Warburton: Yes. Absolutely. Once again, now, we live in a world where you can’t just bury something. The eight or nine episodes we did of “The Tick” 12 or 13 years ago had a life because of DVDs. There was nothing like Netflix or Hulu, but it was still able to find its cult following. A network can’t just kill a show off like that anymore and make it disappear like Fox did. [Laughs] But those people at Fox are long gone, so I’m not hammering the Fox of today.
The Tick is a wonderful and genius character, and it would be lots and lots of fun to do again if we could find a way to make it happen.
There were only nine episodes, but those who liked “The Tick” loved it. Why do you think the character works? Obviously, you being The Tick is a big part of that?
I think The Tick has license to be bigger than life. You don’t question it. One of the grandest performances — and for me it’s the grandest — in sitcom history is Michael Richards’ portrayal of Kramer. He’s as big as a circus clown, yet you never question the integrity of his character. You aren’t watching a character make choices. You are just enamored by this wonderful character. You believe that Kramer is a real person. It’s just so much fun to watch.
I think The Tick is also like this. He’s not even sure of where or whence he came. He’s just always been the same character, with this enormous heart. He wants to right the wrongs. He gets everything insanely mixed up, but somehow he makes it all make sense. He’s just a joy to watch. He’ll pick up a tiny cocktail umbrella and wonder who the tiny fellow is that left it behind. If it were anyone else, you’d think he was joking. But with The Tick, he’s not joking. It’s just fun to live in the world of The Tick.
So, you’re saying we’re going to get some more of “The Tick?”
I’m feeling very positive. Yes.
Were you a comic book reader growing up as a kid?
I read all of the pussy comic books, like the Disney ones and “Richie Rich.” All of the other stuff was too dark for me. I was the biggest dweeb. I collected stamps and coins and on the weekends, I would go to a stamp and coin store that had a bid board. You could bid on a buffalo nickel and the bid might be 15 cents but I would look in my book and see that a 1923 buffalo nickel in fair condition was actually worth 24 cents so I would bid 16 cents. And if I could get that nickel for 16 cents that was a steal. And then I would take it home and be like, “Dad. Look at this. It’s worth 24 cents and I just got it for 16.” And he would say, “Well, something is only worth as much as somebody is going to pay for it.” “Thanks, dad. You’ve taken the wind out of my sails.” But that would be a good day for me.
“The Woman Chaser” is coming to Netflix next week, but it premiered at the New York Festival in 1999. Why haven’t I heard more about this film? Was it made ahead of its time?
Because “The Woman Chaser” is stylized, it makes it a timeless film. It’s definitely ironic and humorous, but there were problems with it getting released. There were ownership issues, and a lot of money was owed for the soundtrack. A lot of great artists were used in the original, and we were able to maintain a lot of them, but they did have to compose some new music to get it released. It’s been buried for about 10 years. No one has seen it for at least 10 years.
In the movie, you play a used car salesman. Have you ever sold or even bought a used car?
I always buy used cars. And the reason that I do is because my family and I live outside of Los Angeles and I drive a lot. I can’t lease a car because I will drive over the lease limit. And I’m not going to buy a new car because I drive cars into the ground. I put 100,000 miles on a car in four or five years.
I’ve found if you buy a really solid pre-owned car that’s only two-and-a-half to three years old, and it’s got under 30,000 miles on it, you get it for less than half price, and I’ll be the one to put 100,000 miles on it.
If this acting thing doesn’t work out, you could be a used car salesman!
I can’t think of anything more exciting than selling used cars. [Laughs] Now, if there is anyone out there selling used cars, no offense. I’m sure that you’ve got an excellent hobby on the side.
I just took my wife to get a new car, and — used car salesmen are funny. If you observe, it’s almost like watching animals in the wild. When there is no one around, used car salesmen all stand together with their cups of coffee, with their heads slightly turned down, discussing things. Never making eye contact. But you’ll notice that once someone steps on the lot, their heads all pick up in the herd, and whoever gets to him first, gets the kill. [Laughs] It’s as predictable as animal behavior out in the middle of an African safari.
This could be Netflix original documentary. We could get actual footage of used car salesmen in their natural environment, the car dealership, and you could do voiceover work like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” It would kill.
That’s a fantastic concept. Jeffrey, write it up.
“The Women Chaser” is the third Charles Willeford novel to be made into a movie. What is it about Willeford’s writing that translates so well to film?
Willeford definitely had a compelling style. He was the pulp fiction writer that inspired Quentin Tarantino to do what he does. Quentin Tarantino would obviously have had a number of inspirations, but Willeford was that pulp fiction writer that inspired him. I really like his style, and his stories are intriguing for reasons other than really complex twists. It’s compelling more so for the strange interactions between the characters. How he builds characters and how they react to certain situations.
I am going to owe Patton Oswalt some money for telling this story, but I had never met Patton and I’m a big fan. I think he has an amazing comic perspective. I met him at Disney Imagineering and the first thing he said to me was, “I love ‘The Woman Chaser.'” He thought it was ironic and humorous. To me, that was very validating, when you get something like that from a talent like Patton Oswalt. So thank-you, Patton. The check is in the mail.
I always loved the film. We debuted it at the New York Film Festival, and we brought it to Sundance, and it had its fans. That’s why it was so sad to see it disappear. When you’ve got something that’s a unique and quirky art film, that’s going to cost a lot more to put it out there, it’s probably going to fall through the cracks, and this one did. It’s a glorious day for everyone that was involved in “The Woman Chaser.” I am so happy that it’s going to have a life once again on Netflix.
While a lot of your work on camera or as a voice actor is mainstream and high-profile, you have also done some indie films. Is it a different experience releasing a smaller film on the indie circuit?
The landscape has changed dramatically in the last 10 years alone. With all of the new media and new channels, if something is good now — it doesn’t matter where it is showing, it doesn’t have to be on network TV. If it’s good, people will find it.
And “The Woman Chaser” was definitely guerilla filmmaking. It was long, long hours. Rob Devor was a first-time director. He was adamant about his style and what he wanted. And I went along for the ride. I disagreed with his choices a few times, but I trusted him. And I am glad that I did, because the film is what it is because of Rob and his vision. He’s an incredibly intuitive and creative director, and he’s also a true intellectual and artist. In a day and age when just anybody can grab some kind of camera — you could make a movie with your cell phone — Rob really knows the medium, and he really has a vision. He’s turned out to be a real fine director.
You talked about the changes in people’s viewing habits. Do you watch TV and movies on Netflix and binge watch like the rest of watch?
We were watching nothing in her house. We would just read. Sorry, I’m going to throw [his wife] Cathy [Jennings] under the bus. There is so much reality garbage on TV and I was trying to explain to her that the Long Island Medium isn’t as perceptive as you might think. “Being that even reality TV is scripted, what do you think producers are doing back there? Do you think they might be able to make her look like a magician that can read minds?” [Impersonating his wife] “Shut up. Shut up. I believe it.” By the way, she is so much smarter than me but I just love how she takes the bait on that shit.
But I told there was too much good stuff on TV so we’ve started to get into some shows. We started with “Game of Thrones.” But we don’t binge watch three or four shows in a night. We’ll watch an episode every night or every two nights to get caught up on a show. And we loved “Downton Abbey.”
You would be great on “Downton Abbey.”
I would love to be on “Downton Abbey.” But it would be less fun now that they have killed off the most beautiful lass in the land. I won’t mention the name. I don’t want to spoil for someone that isn’t caught up.
That’s the whole thing now. The way everyone watches things now, you can’t really talk about what happened on any show because someone could be reading this and going, “I just started watching ‘Downton Abbey.’ I thought I was reading an article about ‘The Woman Chaser’ and that asshole Warburton just ruined it for me.” [Laughs]
What happened to Joffrey?
[Laughs] There was a funny bumper sticker that I saw the other day that my neighbor pointed out to me: “Guns Don’t Kill People. George R.R. Martin Kills People.” That’s pretty funny, right?
I know you were shooting “Ted 2” this summer. Have you finished shooting?
I am in Boston shooting that right now. I’m at the Liberty Hotel, which is a really cool joint. It was a jail for 200 years. Babe Ruth was incarcerated here. They have a plaque with a quote from Babe Ruth. I guess when he was here he said, “It’s more like a hotel than a jail.”
Obviously, the cast and crew assembled for “Ted” was great but I don’t think anyone involved thought it would be quite that successful. High expectations for the sequel?
Yeah, I think so. It’s a lot of fun. Like other sequels, we don’t have to revive the exact same story. This time, it’s just me and the bear. What’s the name of the bear again?
Yeah, that’s right. It’s just me and Ted and we get married. And it gets pretty nasty after that. There’s a lot of bear-man/man-bear sex. My kids were concerned. They thought they didn’t know something about me when they saw me kiss Ryan Reynolds. But for this one, they’re not going to be pleased at all.
That’s right. You kissed Ryan Reynolds in the first one. Is he a good kisser?
Not bad. I think it speaks volumes about me that I could get such a handsome, young boyfriend. You know what I’m saying? The upside was that it took Ryan Reynolds off my daughter’s Top 3 list. It’s an interesting dynamic that I never knew, but when your father kisses a guy, he’s not hot anymore. Now I’m threatening her with Chris Hemsworth. If she gets on my bad side, I’ll take Chris Hemsworth right off her list.
One last question. Earlier you mentioned Michael Richards’ portrayal of Kramer on “Seinfeld.” There is always talk of a possible “Seinfeld” reunion. Would you like to do some more David Puddy?
I think too much time has passed. It would have to be something different. I think that ship has come and sailed and is in the history books.
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