Depending on the species, a starfish can live up to 35 years. That means Patrick, the overweight, slightly dimwitted pink starfish who is best buddies with SpongeBob SquarePants, looks to have years of entertaining ahead of him, much to the surprise and delight of the actor behind Patrick’s voice.
“It’s crazy,” said Bill Fagerbakke. “My business is so moment-to-moment. But I got to do ‘Coach’ for nine years, and now we have been doing the show for 15 years and counting.”
The animated series has grown into an entertainment empire with everything from toys to TV. The latest movie offering from the gang at Bikini Bottom, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” was released on DVD last week. SpongeBob and the gang go on a quest to find a stolen formula.
Countless animated shows have come and gone during the show’s run. Faggerbakke is convinced that “SpongeBob” has survived because the series rolled out the silliness slowly, building to the crazy levels that now draw fans young and old.
Fagerbakke’s children were 5 and 7 years old when the show started, and now they are in their 20s. Being the man behind Patrick made him a star with his children’s friends when they were young.
“When I would stop by their elementary school, I felt like the Beatles,” Fagerbakke said.
His rise to stardom started with “Coach” in 1989. Fagerbakke laughed as he said that the voice of his “Coach” character, Dauber Dybinski, is not that different from Patrick’s.
A doggie Dauber
That voice has served him well. In 1994, a casting director told him about a new animated show based on the movie “Beethoven.” One of the dogs was supposed to sound like Dauber. Fagerbakke went to the audition, landed the job and has been a busy voice actor since then.
At 6 feet 6, Fagerbakke stands out in a crowd, but he rarely gets recognized solely for his voice because he varies it to speak for Patrick. Once he’s recognized, a lot of people ask him to record a message for their voice mail.
“I really enjoy that kind of interaction. When I was doing on-screen acting, it felt weird when people asked for a photo,” Fagerbakke said. “I do try to dissuade people who want me to call a birthday party. There’s usually 15 kids who are 6 or 7 in a big room. All I hear is silence until one person will say, ‘Hi, Patrick.’ ”
The success of “SpongeBob” shows no signs of drying up. As for the job he was doing before becoming the voice of a starfish, Fagerbakke said that he would love to revisit the role of Dauber but that he has no idea if he will be a part of the plans by NBC to relaunch “Coach.”
Either way, Patrick continues to be a shining animation star(fish).