Sometimes it feels like SpongeBob SquarePants memes are the logical conclusion to Western popular culture. Memeable bites of the classic Nick Toon allow for older (some would call geriatric) millennials to share their feelings from their half-remembered childhoods in all new contexts.
When Earth is gone and the aliens have arrived one day, perhaps the only evidence that we were ever here will be images of SpongeBob emoting on a recovered hard drive. And you know what? I’m quite alright with that! SpongeBob memes are great. Thankfully, the voice behind the sponge agrees.
Tom Kenny has been voicing the cheerful titular SpongeBob since the show first premiered in 1999. He’s followed the undersea fry cook through more than a dozen seasons, several movies, and the Paramount+ prequel Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years (which returns for more episodes on July 22). He sees the value in memes repurposing old art.
“I used to have a friend who would dumpster dive, find cool stuff, and then turn it into art. He would find some crazy old typewriter and then take out all the guts and turn it into like a metal insect or something like that. That’s kind of what I look at these memes as,” Kenny says. “(Fans) took it and turned it into another really cool, funny, applicable thing in different contexts. So I love the memes.”
Kenny is not shy about discussing his series memetic potential. But we thought it was high time to contextualize things a bit and have him rank his favorite SpongeBob memes (from a list provided by us). To that end, the actor spoke with Den of Geek (on his birthday, no less) to present his favorite SpongeBob memes. Kenny addressed five images templates that feature SpongeBob and four “bonus” ones from the show that don’t. Check out the results below.
Tom Kenny’s Favorite SpongeBob Memes
5. I Don’t Need It
“I guess this meme is for those times when you’re trying to be all cool, and acting like you don’t need help. Maybe you’re above this thing. ‘No thanks,’ and then ‘yes, please give it to me.’ You know? ‘I was lying! I underestimated my self-reliance.’ That happens to me all the time. I like that one.”
4. Okay, Get In
“To me, it’s kind of a spin on those birthday cards where it’s like, ‘oh, you’re officially old now,’ right? Like, when you see a child actor from when you were a kid and you go, ‘holy crap, that guy is old.’ Then you go, ‘wait, if he’s old that would make me old.’ So, yeah. Come on, get in. We always got room for one more. You know, there’s a pine box waiting for you.
3. Tired SpongeBob
“So this one is Tired SpongeBob? You said that you call it ‘Phew SpongeBob’ and yes, that SpongeBob is often all about the phew, the proud. To me this one is when you get away from something horrible, or a person that’s wasting your time, or you escape. It’s about dodging a bullet, right? It’s like the knife whizzes past your head and gets stuck in the wall, which is a metaphor for life. And you’re just like, ‘phew!’ Yeah, you’re kind of exhausted by then. It’s a release. SpongeBob is also naked in this, but I’m not sure what that means.”
2. Ight, Imma Head Out
“Ight Imma Head Out is one of my favorites. It’s just kind of a thing where you are, ‘Okay how are you doing man? Better hit the road, time to make a mile. Yeah, Imma head out.’ That one is just funny. He’s like, ‘Hi, I got stuff to do. I’m going to rouse myself out of my La-Z-Boy and get the heck outta here.’ Yeah, I love that one. I actually use that one in real life with my wife and kids.”
1. Mocking SpongeBob
“As far as I know, this is the one that started it all, or at least the one that really started snowballing. So, I have to say I love Mocking SpongeBob. Again, as I’ve said before, the beauty of these memes is that often it’s just a pose or a drawing taken from the show, with another meaning ascribed to it by the internet wacks out there. I’m not sure if the original intent of that pose in the episode was, but somebody thought, “it looks like he’s [mocking]”. I love that repurposing of old stuff. In the spirit of [SpongeBob creator] Steve Hillenburg, I’m a big recycler. I love when drawings are taken out of context and made into a whole new thing, with a whole new meaning, that’s almost like digital folk art or something to me.”
Bonus SpongeBob Memes Sans SpongeBob
4. Savage Patrick
“To me, this meme is more like devilish Patrick, more demonic like, ‘Ooh, I’ve got you now’ Patrick, of ‘I see which way this is going and how I can use it to my advantage.’ Yeah, that one comes in handy too when you’re feeling it. It’s mischievous I should say more than devilish.
3. Krusty Krab v. Chum Bucket
“Ah, that is a new one to me, ‘Krusty Krab vs. Chum Bucket.’ But it’s kind of like when you compare two things, one of them is awesome, the other one is lame, so it’s not so much an apple and an orange as an apple and a turd. One of my favorite old shows is The Fugitive with David Janssen in the ‘60s. I always like seeing that they’re remaking The Fugitive and then I try to watch it, it’s just like hmm…”
2. Confused Mr. Krabs
“Yeah, that’s a classic. To me, that meme fits that feeling that you get when life is just spinning out of your control and your brain is melting. Everything’s getting away from you. I was just in that situation, I remember, 4th of July, where every flight we tried to get out was canceled. You know what I mean? It’s kind of like one of those where you’re just caught in this vortex of hellishness and the ground kind of shifts under your feet for a minute, or longer. I love that one.”
1. How Many Times Do We Have to Teach You This Lesson, Old Man?
“As with Star Wars action figures, there is no SpongeBob character too obscure to have his own meme. That’s just, when you have to repeat something ad nauseam, and to just somebody who’s just not getting it, oh my God! This is getting so tiresome right now. I feel that way a lot with friends and family. That’s either because I’m a bad communicator or I’m the smartest person in the world. I’m not sure which one of those is true.”
New episodes of Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years come to Paramount+ on Thursday, July 22.