H. Jon Benjamin has one of the most-heard voices on television. He supplies the pipes for superspy Sterling Archer on FX's Archer and beleaguered restaurant owner Bob Belcher on FOX's Bob's Burgers, and can occasionally be heard on FOX's Family Guy, too. BFTV wrangled Jon away from his numerous commitments to get some more witty commentary on the current season of Archer - and the weirdest experience he's ever had with the show's fans.
His two starring roles collided at the beginning of Archer's season, when Archer developed amnesia after his mother's wedding and became convinced that he was Bob. The brief bit even included a guest appearance by Bob's Burgers co-star John Roberts, voicing Bob's wife Linda. "Adam Reed, the creator of [Archer], had the idea to do it. Apparently, he was a fan of Bob’s Burgers and mine," explained Benjamin. "He asked me to ask Loren Bouchard, the creator of Bob’s Burgers, so I was like the middle man.
"But it went really smoothly. I think it was like around a 15 to 20 second phone call. Then they turned it over to hundreds of thousands of lawyers and they worked to hammer out a deal. It all came from Adam, I think, wanting to open the season like that. It was really well done, I thought."
How different are the voices of Archer and Bob? "Well, a lot of people complain how I don’t do anything different for either, and f--k them," he quipped. "I did notice, finally, that Archer is a little bit different than when I had to do him as Bob, but I got very convoluted. Real subtlety there."
Even if the voices might be similar, the characters couldn't be more opposite, and it's something Benjamin enjoys. "I like how different they are," he continued, revealing that he'll be writing for Bob's Burgers in the future. "It’s nice to sort of get payback for Archer’s attitude, when Bob seems to be sort of gets shoveled on, whereas Archer kind of doles it out all the time. It’s a good balance."
Now in his fourth season voicing Archer, he said that his take on the character hasn't changed too much since he first started playing him. "I think I was probably less confident in my character at the time, so now I’m really just sort of full-voiced, full-on arrogant," he says. "I think I’ve just gotten more aggressive in general and I try to be less nasally than what I used to be."
However, Benjamin does think the egotistical ISIS agent is growing up...slowly. Very slowly. "In really, really like glacial progress, probably. At some point, I think he has to," he continues, "and I just feel like his lifestyle is going to catch up with him, if it in any way mirrors real life. I just like feel like I want him to gain like 15 pounds. Like he won’t metabolize alcohol as well or something soon."
Which leads us into stating the obvious: the voice actor in no way resembles his alter-ego. Archer is dark-haired, well-dressed, and women fall all over him. Benjamin has considerably less hair, more weight and jokes that he hasn't had sex in years. A recent Vulture article quoted Archer producer Matt Thompson as saying that some people claim the show is ruined for them once they see Benjamin in the flesh.
Asked if the reaction is really that extreme, Benjamin says, "There have been a bunch of people who have not done well to disguise their disappointment. You have a lot of people going, 'Oh, too bad.' I think it was more just like sort of shattering hopes."
He goes on to talk about an...erm, interesting experience he had with some fans of the show when he lived in New York. "I did what I thought was a good idea at the time, when I happened to be walking through Central Park, sort of on the south side of Central Park," he explains. "Two guys came up to me and they were like, 'Oh my god! Archer! Archer!' It was right next to where they do the hansom cab rides, the horse-drawn carriages. It just so happened that the guy was right there, so I could give him money. I was like, 'All right, everybody get in.' So the guys got in with me.
"But the unfortunate part is it’s like a 45-minute ride around the park. That got really awkward after about the first ten minutes, because they were kind of like just two college kids. They were like, 'Why are we doing this?' I’m like, 'I don’t know; I thought it was funny at the time just because we were standing in front of it.' So that was...it wasn’t fun, but it was the best fan experience, I guess."
So what is the best thing about being the voice of Sterling Archer? "I really like this show - I think it’s probably my favorite thing - so I like seeing them," he says. "It’s a bonus to be in them. It’s fun that it’s me, fun that I’m that guy." A pause, then he adds, "But I’m a real conceited a--hole so I’m not sure. I like celebrating myself all the time." Ladies and gentlemen, H. Jon Benjamin. He's funnier than you, and if he has an ego, he's probably entitled to it. He's voicing two of TV's funniest characters, after all.
Archer continues tonight at 10 PM ET/PT only on FX. It involves the return of Archer's former fiancee Katya and her wanting him to rescue his arch-nemesis Barry Dillon. Don't miss it, because it probably won't end well.