If you haven’t been tuning into Archer, here’s a recap so far: It kicked off with a brilliant Bob’s Burgers-History of Violence mashup, then Sterling (H. Jon Benjamin) traveled to Vermont where his former best friend Lucas Troy (Timothy Olyphant) courted him. Krieger (Lucky Yates) gave Ray (Adam Reed) robotic legs, Lana (Aisha Tyler) and Cyril (Chris Parnell) are doing it again (Ew!) Sterling and his new stepfather Ron (Ron Leibman) bonded while going across the border in Canada, then Sterling got bit by a snake in the Middle East but almost remembered who his real father was. Pam (Amber Nash) and Cheryl (Judy Greer) are causing trouble as always and because we all knew you can keep good cyborgs down, Katya (Ona Grauer) and Barry (Dave Willis) are back in the picture. Not a single episode has been a down note. Creator Adam Reed and his team of writers are at the top of their game because Archer has been killing it for four years straight.
Sterling Archer has gone through quite an assortment of anguish and pain this season, brought on usually by his own doing and that’s just part of debonair charm. But we wouldn’t love him as much if it wasn’t for the man behind Archer, H. Jon Benjamin, who you’ve heard spanning the animated spectrum for nearly 20 years from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, The Venture Bros., Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and even the Sprout PBS educational show, Word Girl. If you’re sharp, then you’ve seen him recently in front of the camera in Suburgatory last year, as well as Important Things with Demetri Martin. We caught up with Jon Benjamin to talk briefly about the fourth season of Archer and all of those voices in his head.
Often times voice actors find or develop a particular voice for their animated character, and yet we don’t see that too much on Archer. Do you think you do anything special/subtle for Sterling? By playing both Bob/Archer in the Season 4 premiere, was there anything subtle you could share that you were doing playing one vs. the other, that you discovered while playing both in the same breath?
H. Jon Benjamin: Sterling does a lot of bloviating, so it pretty much just required me to study a lot of recordings of Warren G. Harding and copy him. Bob is more reserved and only suffers bursts of rage while Archer is more the inverse – consistently enraged with bursts of reserve.
How long does it take for your voice to recover from an episode of Archer with so much yelling that’s involved and how does that compare to Bob’s Burgers or WordGirl?
HJB: It’s been some time since anyone has mentioned my work on WordGirl. Congratulations–
HJB: I definitely have gone hoarse doing Archer and it has taken a day for my voice to recover, making it difficult to – for those specific nights – scream at my son.
You live in New York and are a basketball fan, are you either a Knicks or Nets fan, and have you ever had the frustration of a being a fan because that seems like it would be a good place to inspire Sterling’s painful frustration.
HJB: I am die-hard Celtics fan so I root against all NY teams.
Do you have to catch yourself on how much yelling you do because you have to record the next morning? If not yelling, does drinking alcohol the night before ever affect your voice work positively or negatively?
HJB: It depends how much I drink. If you watch the first 6 seasons of Dr. Katz, you can get a sense of what I sound like recording while still drunk from the night before.
Since you don’t watch Archer episodes as they roll out, where there any guest-voices that stuck out when you did eventually see them and impressed you?
HJB: Anytime Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) does something, I like it, but I’m a real sucker for Great Britain.
Speaking of guest-stars, world-renown chef, author and global trekker Anthony Bourdain is going to be a guest voice this week (see trailer below) and is a huge fan of Archer, are you a fan of his shows or books?
HJB: I haven’t watched a lot of his show, but I have seen a seen a couple episodes of No Reservations and liked it. I most definitely envy his lifestyle. He seems like the real life Archer without a gun.
When you’re getting the scripts, is there any one particular type of episode that you get excited for? For example, now that we’re into the fourth season and they’re starting to build on older plot points and some seeds that were planted way back—do you get excited to see those, or do you like seeing some of these stand-alone parody episodes?
HJB: I’m not particularly—I don’t really care, I guess, on the whole. But I do like, obviously, when like thematic stuff happens, it’s fun to read and it’s always fun to see. (Creator) Adam (Reed) is very good at that. He will plant a seed and that seed will grow like three episodes later. So it’s always nice to forget about a character and then realize—especially like the ‘Barry’ stuff, where he’s in space now and then I just sort of forget about ‘Barry’ and then an episode comes up where ‘Barry’ is surveilling ‘Archer’ all along and it makes sense why he’s doing it. So that stuff is very rewarding, I think, especially for people who watch the show a lot and appreciate that.
Are you told when those seeds are planted, that they’re going to become something later? Or do you get kind of surprised when we are the first time you see it?
HJB: Yes, I don’t get the script until basically almost the day, the night before the day I record it. So there’s no way to tell. There have been occasions where I read it for the first time while I’m reading it—while I’m saying it.
Look for Bourdain to guest-star in this week’s episode 407: “Live and Let Dine,” the season’s latest high point. If you love Bourdain, Top Chef, or are just a foodie, then you cannot miss this episode. And later in the season look forward to Sterling helping out Mexican coyotes cross the border in episode 408: “Coyote Lovely” (which was shown at Comic-Con 2012). All of it is building towards a multi-part finale that takes place underwater in what looks to be a parody of Adam Reed’s Adult Swim series, Sealab 2021.
Once again catch H. Jon Benjamin on Archer, Thursday nights at 10/9c on FX and Bob’s Burgers, Sunday nights at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.