A chat with Patrick Warburton, Patrick Warburton interview, Rules of Engagement, The Tick, David Puddy
Patrick Warburton

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Yeah, that’s right: it’s Puddy. Some would say that every role Patrick Warburton has ever played is, in a sense, just a slight tweak of his Puddy persona, but that’s not really true. The voice might be similar, but the characters have their differences. Over the years, Warburton has turned up as the title character in “The Tick,” provided the voices of characters on “Family Guy” and “The Venture Brothers,” and popped up for appearances in many other movies and TV series. These days, he’s one of the stars of CBS’s Monday night ensemble comedy, “Rules of Engagement,” which returns to the network on March 2nd at 9:30 PM EST. Bullz-Eye spoke to Warburton about his various gigs over the years, found out at least two less than manly-man things that he unapologetically enjoys, and learned that he loves “Flight of the Conchords” just as much as we do.

Patrick Warburton: Hey, Will?

Bullz-Eye: Yes?

PW: How are you? Patrick Warburton here.

BE: Hey how are you doing sir?

PW: I’m doing good. I’m calling five minutes early, is that okay?

BE: I’m fully prepared. So I’ve checked out the DVD of the first two new episodes of “Rules of Engagement” for the new season. Very much up to the standards of the first two seasons…and I’ve been a fan since the beginning.

PW: Oh okay, so you saw the first two episodes of this season?

BE: Yes.

PW: Oh, okay.

BE: And I have to say that the war of words over whom is less manly, a guy who likes Broadway musicals or a guy who cries at the end of “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” is awesome.

"I think the whole (‘Rules of Engagement’) cast has a really fun chemistry, and I think that’s got to be one of the main elements of a half hour show. It’s a primary element, and if you’ve got that, you can have something that’s fun to watch"

PW: (Laughing) Yeah, you know I think we have some really fun episodes coming up this season. Those weren’t even my favorites…or close to my favorites…this year. I think they turned out good; I just think this is a better season than the last, and I feel like the show is starting to see its potential, so I think this season ought to be fun. What did you think of the (Academy) Awards last night? Did you see those?

BE: I did. I thought it dragged a little bit here and there.

PW: Yeah.

BE: And I think I’m being polite when I say that, actually.

PW: Well, I finally made the Academy Awards. I… (Pauses) Bye, guys! (Pauses again) My wife’s dropping off two of the kids at school here; we’re just driving by. She’s just giving me crap about not getting the hands free device yet because, you know, it’s a $144 ticket. And she also knows I haven’t put the license plate on my car, which I got about three months ago. The reason for that is…well, let’s just say just in case you go through one of those flashing camera lights and, say, you missed the light. Right? They can’t give you a ticket if you have no license plate, right?

BE: That’s right.

PW: Right. (Pauses) What a bad example. So, yeah, I finally made the Academy Awards. They showed it when Jack Black was hosting that segment on animation, and they showed all of those clips, and who would have thought that “Space Chimps” would have gotten on the Academy Awards? But I actually had a line on the Academy Awards…which is pretty funny, I think.

BE: I actually liked that movie. We took my daughter to see it. She’s three, and she actually managed to sit through the whole thing, which is high praise, I can assure you.

PW: See, so you ignored every other aspect of that movie, just because of the fact that it got your daughter’s attention for that time. So that’s good then. All right.

BE: (Laughs) But I later watched it on DVD and really enjoyed it. But you’re right, I can’t say a thing about it from when we originally saw it because I was more focused on my daughter, thinking, “She’s going to snap any second.” But she never did.

PW: You know, “Hoodwinked: 2” is going to be coming out next year. That’s the one you’ve got to see.

BE: Oh, excellent. You know, that film…its soundtrack got a fair amount of recognition. (Writer’s note: It features a score by John Mark Painter, and songs by Fleming McWilliams, Ben Folds, Josh Greene, and others.)

PW: The soundtrack, huh? Oh, I didn’t know that. You know, I thought it was clever when they kind of pitched the idea to me that, ‘Well, the wolf is not just the wolf; he’s an investigative reporter who thinks he’s Fletch.’ I was, like, “Sold!” I just thought that was awesome.

BE: One of our other editors is a huge fan of “The Emperor’s New Groove.” I know you do a lot of voiceover work, but did you enjoy doing that one in particular?

Patrick WarburtonPW: Oh, I really did. You know, I grew up…I just grew up loving Disney, and I say that I love Disney as much as any straight man in the world can love Disney. I believe it’s the happiest place on Earth. I know that it’s…although it’s a corporation, you know, a huge corporation, I still believe that the soul of Walt Disney exists there, and I just love it. I love taking the kids; I love spending time there. It’s just a truly joyous place. So to get to work and be a part of anything Disney is still very special to me, I have to say.

BE: Now, had you known David Spade prior to working together on that film, or was that where you first met?

PW: Um, no. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know him then. I think I met him at the premiere of the movie. And it was funny because then I saw Eartha Kitt at the premiere of the movie, and I got to remind her that, when I was in my very early 20’s – I was 21 or 22 – I had done a movie with her in South Africa that was absolutely horrible. I got the impression that she probably didn’t want to hear that anything she had ever done was not good. You didn’t even have the right to say it if you were a part of it. She just looked at me and said, “I’m sure we had a good time darling.” I looked back at her and said, “Well, we didn’t have that good of time, Eartha.” It’s just kind of funny how…it’s just kind of an odd pairing, but I ended up doing those two movies with her, then doing “The Emperor’s New Groove” movie, and then the TV series, with her. It’s just kind of odd that, throughout the years, we ended up getting paired together a number of times.

BE: When I brought up that war of words a minute ago, I was going to ask you if you personally had anything that you loved, even though you know that a man’s man would totally razz you for it. But I guess you could say your love of Disney falls into that category…at least a little bit, anyway.

PW: (Laughs) Uh, yeah, that would, that would. You know what? I love a good musical every now and then. I took my daughter to New York for a week to go see shows. You know, because all kids get a special…just daddy time every now and then. And it’s easy with the boys to think of something, and I wanted to do something special with my daughter. So we ended up going to New York for a week and just had an awesome time going to shows. I can actually enjoy a good musical. Now, “Jersey Boys” is one of the true exceptions. I think that a guy who doesn’t even like musicals would just full on dig “Jersey Boys,” it’s that great of a show. But we saw opera…well, not opera, but we saw “Gypsy” with Patty LuPone, and she was brilliant. Then we saw “Mama Mia,” and we, uh, actually walked out.

BE: Wow.

PW: Yeah, my daughter and I walked out of “Mama Mia.” We just did not…it wasn’t working for us. We just didn’t get. We just did not get it. You know, I don’t want Ton Hanks or Rita Wilson to hear about that; I certainly would like to work with them some day. My apologies, Tom and Rita.

BE: Well, y’know, ABBA doesn’t work for everyone.

PW: No it sure doesn’t.
BE: Bob Odenkirk is in one of the new “Rules of Engagement” episodes. I know you guys were in “Run Ronnie Run” together. Did you know him prior to that?

PW: Oh, no. I had bumped into (Bob Odenkirk and David Cross) for something else that they wanted to do one time. Or we actually did something, but it couldn’t get used. They always said that they wanted to work with me, and I thought that was great; I’m a big fan of theirs. Then that came along, and we just did that little gag in there, which was fun. But it was fun to see him on the set of our show because I’m a big fan of his. Well, you know, a big fan of both of theirs. But I think that he has got a really…well, I mean, just like David Cross, they are both odd guys, and I knew that he would end up bringing something odd to the character. I would like to see him come back more on the show, because I think we just barely got to scratch the surface with that guy.

“With Puddy, there is something profoundly Puddy about him, and when there is a character like that, oftentimes they do try and put you in a box. It’s your responsibility as an actor to try and do something different outside of that.”

BE: I was very impressed with the lovely “I was right and you were wrong” dance that you pulled out of your repertoire in one of those episodes.

PW: (Laughing) Yeah, a lot of people don’t know I can dance.

BE: No, that’s very impressive. That’s got YouTube clip written all over it.

PW: They’ll know I don’t dance after they see that. Brutal.

BE: Now, as somebody who grew up in a generation where people would use “gay” as an insult without actually trying to insult gay people, there’s something comforting about the fact that you guys get away with still doing that…but when I say “comforting,” I mean that it reminds me of junior high, when kids would say “you’re so gay” but clearly didn’t really mean anything against gay people and, in fact, probably had never even met a gay person.

PW: Right, right, right. You know, it’s just guys being idiots.

BE: But do you get a backlash from the gay community when you guys say that?

PW: I don’t think so. I think I have a rather large gay following and I’ve always had great love for the gays…and compassion, actually. I mean, I had a manager who passed away from AIDS early on, and I was actually with the family members and friends at his bedside. You know, in this industry, throughout the years, you could have the most conservative family…you know I have four kids and have been married…but you end up working and having many gay friends throughout the years. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except that…I mean, only the most truly ignorant rube or ass has a real prejudice against them if they work in the industry and know or have worked with gay people.

Patrick Warburton

BE: I think that’s a safe answer, somewhere in there. So how much adlibbing goes on in “Rules of Engagement” between you and the other cast members? And in conjunction with that, how well did Oliver and Bianca adapt to sitcom work? Because they were relative amateurs, compared to you and Megyn and Spade.

PW: Yeah, but they had some history, having worked together on “Dawson’s Creek” years ago, so they knew each other. But they both have, I think, real good comic instincts, and I think that they’ve gotten a lot more comfortable, and they’re a lot of fun to watch. Some of their best stuff together is this year. But I always thought they had a real good chemistry and were fun together.

BE: I know it’s been a point of discussion on the series, but since it hasn’t actually happened yet, are you guys intentionally avoiding having anyone get pregnant because it tends to be such a jump-the-shark kind of thing with sitcoms?

PW: Yeah, I mean, in my opinion, if they wanted to go in that direction, I would fight hard against it. But I don’t think they’re going to.

BE: You don’t there’s a certain point where they’ve got it marked down somewhere where it says, “Okay, at this point, as an act of desperation, if we’re struggling, it’s going to happen”?

PW: Yeah, well, hopefully, that will be season eight.

BE: I want to ask you about a couple of your other shows. First off, Bonnie finally gave birth on “Family Guy.” (Writer’s note: Warburton voices Joe, the paraplegic policeman.)

Patrick WarburtonPW: Right, Bonnie finally gave birth. You know, my mother actually thinks my soul is in peril for being on that show, and after I watched last Sunday’s episode, I thought, “Geez, maybe she’s right. Joe’s getting his diaper changed…and I am going to hell for being on this show.” You know my rationalization is that it is just absurd, crazy humor, and…what the fuck. It is a deplorable show. It’s horrible. (Laughs)

BE: Brock Sampson on “The Venture Brothers.” How do you get the right mindset to play a guy with a Frankenmullet?

PW: “Frankenmullet.” (Laughs) It’s awesome getting to do that. You know, I have a sixteen year old son who is a big fan of that show…and, of course, “Family Guy,” too, so it’s fun doing that. (Pauses) Could you hold on for one quick second?

BE: Yes.

PW: Okay, there we go. I’m at the gas station, and I just pulled out a million dollar bill. I don’t think you would have taken it. I also have…they’ve got them in New York, too, but they’ve got a Barack Obama dollar bill that’s just a zero dollar bill. I gave it away, everybody wanted that one. Now, where do you live? Where’s this area code?

BE: It’s Virginia.

PW: Oh, Virginia.

BE: Yeah, I’m Chesapeake, right next door to Virginia Beach.

PW: That’s a great area.

BE: I’m a native of the area. It’s one of those deals where everyone always asks me if it’s beautiful there, and I’m always, like, “I don’t know, I’ve lived here my entire life. I can’t even tell you anymore.”

PW: Yeah it can be like that here in California too. It’s a little overcast right now. Okay, so where were we? Oh, right, it’s fun doing…you know, I’m actually supposed to record “Venture Brothers” today.

BE: Oh, okay.

PW: Yeah, they did 13 episodes. You know, it’s that very limited number runs sometimes for the Adult Swim. But it is fun. I guess, especially in this economy today, they don’t want to commit to too many episodes, so they just put a few episodes out or try to make the most out of those 13 episodes. But I’ve known Chris McCulloch since “The Tick” days. Yeah, I believe he goes by Jackson Publick as his writing name, but he was, like, Ben Edlund’s right hand man; they have been good buddies for years, and I met him working on “The Tick.” Chris is a great guy, very talented.

BE: What do you hear about a sequel to “Get Smart”?

PW: I’m hearing murmurs that it might go into production next spring.

BE: Excellent. Did you enjoy doing that? I mean, it was obviously not much more than a glorified cameo in the film itself, but you also popped up in that straight-to-video “Get Smart” flick that paralleled the proper film.

"You know, my mother actually thinks my soul is in peril for being on (‘Family Guy’), and after I watched last Sunday’s episode, I thought, ‘Geez, maybe she’s right.’ You know my rationalization is that it is just absurd, crazy humor, and…what the fuck. It is a deplorable show. It’s horrible."

PW: It was a lot of fun, and, God, my whole gang sure enjoyed it. All the kids enjoyed it, and I thought it was really fun. I’m a big fan of Steve (Carell’s) and Anne Hathaway, and I just thought they made a great duo. So I hope they do it. I would love to do some real Hymie. Originally, there was nothing for Hymie at the end, and I wasn’t too intrigued by it, so I took it to Pete Segal on the phone there, and he said, “Come on, you’ve got to do this. On the online survey, everyone says you have to play Hymie.” I said, “Well, I’m flattered,” and he says, “Well, come on, there will be more for you in the sequel.” So now I’m waiting for that promise to come true, because I think…come on, Hymie’s got to be a big deal in the sequel. Don’t you think so?

BE: Absolutely. You know, one of my favorite of your roles that I guess might not get cited a lot is Johnny Johnson on “NewsRadio.”

PW: That was fun, I loved that. That was so much fun. It just was really…it was rough seeing everybody that year and what they were going through, you know, because it was shortly after Phil (Hartman) had passed in such an untimely way. But I liked the whole odd mentality of that show. I think it was kind of a show that might have been a little bit ahead of it’s time with its oddness, its quirkiness. Yeah, but I liked that Paul Simms. I think he did it.

BE: Yeah, exactly.

PW: And…wait a minute, my new favorite show is “Flight of the Concords,” and…is that Paul? Is that his show?

BE: You know, I think it might be, actually.

PW: I think I saw his name on the credits or something. God, I’ve got to find out about that because that would be fun to work on, do something on. I mean, I just bought the episodes on DVD, and so I’ve got the two older kids – my son and daughter, she’s 14 ½ and he’s 16 – and my wife, and we’ve been watching those episodes now. We’re, like, four or five into it, and I think they all love it as much as I do. But those songs are just brilliant.

BE: Oh, absolutely. I picked up the CD, and it’s fantastic. They definitely have great replay value.

PW: Yeah, yeah. We like that song “I’m Not Crying.” Oh, my God, that’s so good.

BE: It shows the age of one our editors, though, that he was, “Oh, man, this song is so great,” and we were, like, “You totally realize that’s The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls,’ right?” He didn’t know what we were talking about.

PW: Yeah, that was awesome. I forgot what the Pet Shop Boys one is called, but when we were listening to it, we were, like, “That’s the Pet Shop Boys!” Which one is it? It’s in the first three or four episodes.

BE: The song is called “Inner City Pressure,” but I don’t remember which episode it’s in.

PW: I don’t know. They’re all funny, though.

BE: Just a couple more to keep you on schedule. Was there ever a point after you became recognized as being Puddy that you were only ever going to be remembered for being Puddy?

Patrick WarburtonPW: No, but I knew it could be potentially a little bit of a struggle. When you do something that’s a character or like a caricature…you know, he was such an its and bits of pieces kind of character, you never knew all that much about him. You know, with Puddy, there is something profoundly Puddy about him, and when there is a character like that, oftentimes they do try and put you in a box. It’s your responsibility as an actor to try and do something different outside of that. I have throughout the years. There have been some other times when I have done things where you acquiesce and you do something that’s relatively close to that, but I’m not going to copy the character. There might be something about a character who is slow or off or different, and he might resemble Puddy in a way, but I’ve also known that throughout my career to do different things, just to diversify.

BE: What’s this upcoming flick, “Rock Slyde”? Just from the cast alone, it looks really awesome.

PW: You know, it’s a little indie that we did, you know, we shot it in two weeks time. It was fun, but it’s just a quirky little movie, and hopefully it will turn out nice. I still think it’s hard to make something great and shoot it in fourteen days, but that’s what we did. We got some fun people involved. It’s about a detective…it’s about a guy who…well, you know, it’s a quirky little detective movie.

BE: What’s your favorite project you worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

PW: Well “The Tick” comes to mind.

BE: I would think that it would.

Patrick WarburtonPW: Yeah, yeah, that was just my favorite thing ever, and it was so smart and clever, and I loved it. I felt honored to get to step into the shoes of the Tick, and it just didn’t get love…not from the network, you know. The network killed it. It’s had a pretty fantastic after life on DVD, but it could have been a great series if they decided they wanted to spend any money at all back at the time. It became all about reality TV for them. They discovered they could spend very little money and get huge numbers.

BE: Did you have high hopes for the “Civilization of Maxwell Bright”?

PW: I probably had higher hopes than…it’s such a gritty little movie, so I didn’t expect anything other than like a minimal art house release, but something better than the three theaters we probably ended up in. You know, it certainly is not a perfect little movie by any means, it’s got it’s flaws. One in particular, I don’t know why in hell we shot on PAL, but I think PAL looks like shit. You know, it just was kind of shot on the fly, it didn’t all come together perfectly, but I think there are some great performances in it, and I’m proud of my work in it. I’m not embarrassed when people see it, because I do think that the story does come together pretty good at the end. I met the guy that the story was actually based on, you know, and I knew him. He wasn’t an asshole like that, but he did suffer greatly, and I think he handled it in a much braver way earlier on than did Maxwell Bright there in the movie.

BE: Last one. For someone who has not actually seen “Rules of Engagement” yet, can you describe it to them and why they should watch it?

PW: I just think there is really fun, great cast chemistry, and I think it is really fun and enjoyable to watch. It’s exactly what a half hour show should be, just good old fashioned escapism, you know. I think that the writers now have figured out better how to write for David, and his character has really come around. I think the whole show has…the whole cast has a really fun chemistry, and I think that’s got to be one of the main elements of a half hour show. It’s a primary element, and if you’ve got that, you can have something that’s fun to watch. I think that’s what makes our show fun to watch.

BE: Excellent. Well it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

PW: Well, thanks, Will, and if you need anything else, just give me a call. Take care.

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