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Interview with H. Jon Benjamin of "Archer" on
FX NETWORK: Archer
January 6, 2014/10:00 a.m. PST
Kristy Silvernail, FX Networks / Senior Manager, Media
H. Jon Benjamin, Archer / “Agent Sterling Archer”
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by.
Welcome to the Archer conference call. At this time, all
participants are in a listen-only mode. There will be a
question and answer session on today’s call. As a reminder,
today’s conference call is being recorded.
I’d now like to turn the conference over to our host, Kristy
Kristy: Hello, and welcome to Archer conference call with
series star, H. Jon Benjamin, who voices ultra-suave master
spy, “Agent Sterling Archer.” I’d like to thank all of you
for joining us today and remind you that this call is for
print purposes only. No audio may be used.
Archer premieres its fifth season on Monday, January 13th at
10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific, only on FX and as many of
you know from watching the advance screeners, fans are in
for quite a ride this season with several exciting plot
twists. As always, we respectfully request that you do not
post spoilers pre-air to help protect the viewing experience
for our audience. With that said, let’s go ahead and open it
up for questions.
Moderator: Our first question today will come from TV
Megasite and the line of Suzanne Lanoue.
Suzanne: I watched all the shows last night. I was blown
Jon: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Yes. I haven’t seen any yet.
So, I’m glad that you were blown away.
Suzanne: Oh, yes, like from the first part. I don’t want to
give a spoiler.
Jon: No. I’ve seen the first episode. So, yes, I know what
you were saying.
Suzanne: Yes. I was wondering; do you know why they decided
to go in such a completely different direction this season,
sort of changing so many things?
Jon: Well, I think there’s a lot of changes and a lot that
stays the same obviously, but I think Adam Reed probably got
very drunk one night while he was writing on his computer.
Suzanne: Watched too many episodes of Miami Vice late at
night or something?
Jon: Well, I assume he’s of the age where he grew up on that
show. I know I was, maybe, right, mid-40s. I don’t want to
give away his age in case he’s been lying to people.
I mean I’m not exactly sure why is the real answer, but I
assume it has something to do with wanting to kind of change
the environment a little bit. But, the good thing is the
characters are pretty much the same dynamics. They’re the
same. It’s just more confusion, more of the same confusion.
Suzanne: More craziness.
Moderator: Next, we’ll go to Will Harris from TVWeek.
Will: Obviously, as noted, many changes to be had, but what
was your reaction when Adam first broke the news to you
about how dramatically the series was going to be changing?
Was everyone briefed at once, or did you get a late night
drunken phone call?
Jon: We all went to the briefing room, the briefing chamber
underneath the briefing room and no, for the last couple of
seasons, he’s had very kind of high concept ideas. So, I
think he tells everybody individually. I don’t think we’re
ever all in the same room for anything.
So, yes, like last season with the Bob Burger’s crossover, I
think he had called me to tell me that, about that. So, I
was forewarned about this change. But then, when he told me
in detail what was going to happen, I was thrilled. I mean I
loved the idea. But in fairness, I couldn’t reject it. I
couldn’t say, “Don’t do that.” I don’t have that kind of
Will: Was there any particular aspect of the changes that
really surprised you or you just kind of roll with the
punches with Adam now?
Jon: Yes, it was more like not punches, but slight slaps and
I rolled with it. I really love the idea that they’ve been
operating without a license for all these years and also
maybe the underlying idea that at any point in espionage as
a whole, the organizations can eat themselves kind of thing.
So, I thought it was a great way to change the show.
Moderator: Then next from Agents of Geek, we’ll go to the
line of Leslie Stewart.
Leslie: How did the character of “Archer” come to be? There
seemed to be a lot of really interesting personality
characterizations that make him up. So, did one person or
celebrity influence how you play him, or is there a lot of
yourself you see in “Archer?”
Jon: It wasn’t really based on anybody in particular, any
celebrity. I think I had the initial idea to make him—try
and portray him as suave, but I couldn’t really do that. So,
I just played it by ear. I mean I kind of pictured him in a
tuxedo a lot like James Bond. I just don’t embody that. I
can barely get into a tux. Everything is odd fitting lately.
Yes, I just kind of played him as a very hyper-aggressive
version of me.
Leslie: So, any of the other really memorable and hilarious
characters you’ve played in animation like “Coach McGuirk”
or “Bob Belcher,” do you really see yourself in any of those
one characters particularly?
Jon: Well, I mean “Coach McGuirk” probably was…. So, it
really had to kind of be me. “Archer” was, I think,
initially inspired certainly from Adam Reed’s perspective. I
think he wanted a spy version of “Coach McGuirk.” So, I they
share a lot of traits.
Leslie: That’s awesome, the spy version of “Coach McGuirk.”
That’s so cool.
Jon: Well, they both drink a lot and just “Archer” has a lot
more physical talents.
Moderator: Then next, we’ll move to the line of Niki Cruz and
Niki: You have such a brilliant way of balancing dry humor
with absurdist humor and I was just wondering how do you
keep that balance so fresh season after season?
Jon: Well, I really don’t. I think Adam Reed has a lot to do
with that and the writing has a lot to do with that. So, I
defer to that mostly. I think maybe I add drier elements,
but the absurdist stuff is all in the scripts. So, there you
Niki: And he has no edit button whatsoever. So, that must be
a gratifying experience for you, right?
Jon: Well, yes, it’s really fun to play. He’s a spy. So, he
can do what he wants. I mean I guess he announces that he’s
a spy a lot, which he shouldn’t do, but I guess when you’re
carrying a gun, you feel better about yourself, but that
doesn’t suggest carry a gun; just to feel better about
Moderator: Next, we’ll go to Matt Rodriguez of Shakefire.com.
Matt: As we’ve already said, season five is probably the
biggest departure for the Archer series. What did you enjoy
most about recording for Archer Vice this year?
Jon: The outfits. The outfits I wore were much better; all
Miami Vice stuff that I wore while recording. So, that was
fun to do, finally to get back to the way I used to dress.
Matt: You had mentioned earlier about Bob Burger’s episode
that you did from last season. Are there any other
characters from your past that you’d like to see do another
crossover episode? Like what other characters would you like
to see done?
Jon: You mean like in Archer or anything?
Matt: Yeah, in Archer if you could.
Jon: Oh, man.
Matt: ...which character?
Jon: Wow. I suppose that and “Katz” or something, or maybe
like “Jason” from Home Movies should walk by, but all grown
Matt: A spy in training perhaps?
Jon: He’s be like 18 now. That would be fun, to see him grown
Moderator: Next, we’ll move to the line of Sabienna Bowman of
Sabienna: My question is what can fans kind of expect from
season five since I know we’ve seen some of it, but they
haven’t, and is there a particular episode you’re excited
for them to see?
Jon: Well, the first episode, obviously, really defines the
whole change of what’s going on in the season. We haven’t
finished recording the whole season yet, so there’s more to
come. So, I can’t really pick the favorite except for the
first one, which I think is a real—I don’t know if you’ll be
shocked, but you’ll be hopefully duly surprised. So, be
prepared. I would say definitely the first episode. It’s
really fun to see what happens to ISIS.
Sabienna: Can you talk a little bit about how “Lana’s”
pregnancy will change the dynamic with “Archer” this season
since usually they’re partners?
Jon: Yes. Well, she’s moving a little slower and carrying
some extra weight. Doing what she’s doing this season and
being pregnant, there’s a fairly huge conflict of interest.
Moderator: Then next from Bubbleblabber.com, we’ll go to the
line of Rich: Milko.
Rich: Do you prefer the mystery around “Sterling’s” father,
or do you feel that he should be revealed?
Jon: I prefer the mystery I think. I think it fuels his
anger. It’s both what makes him good at what he does and bad
as a human being, which is fun to watch. So, yes, I mean
maybe it will get resolved, but I’m not sure “Malory” knows.
Moderator: Then next from SciFiAndTvTalk, Steve Eramo.
Steve First off, I’ve got to tell you, loving your work on
both Archer and Bob Burger’s. You do a terrific job with
Jon: Thank you very much. I love your accent.
Steve I wanted to find out what perhaps have you found have
been some of the biggest acting challenges would you say in
creating a character using just your voice.
Jon: Well, it was very hard initially when I first did it,
but that was like a long time ago. It’s hard to be sort of
physically restrained. I mean I’m not tied up or anything,
except on occasion from the night before. Well, whatever.
That’s a little bit difficult when I started, but I guess
I’m just kind of used to it now. I’ve been doing for so
long. I get kind of used to just working alone in a booth.
But at first, it was definitely odd. I remember feeling that
way, like how do you negotiate this. Like can I yell? Like
am I too loud? Yes, so there’s a lot of like natural
restraints, like being extra careful, which I wouldn’t do in
a live performance.
Steve And then just as a follow-up, a general question; I
wanted to find out did you always want to work in this
industry while you were growing up, or did you have other
professions in mind?
Jon: I had a lot of professions in mind when I was younger I
think - a fireman, arsonist, insurance adjustor, a lot to do
with fire and fire making and fire prevention, tobacconist.
I mean I definitely didn’t want to get into voice acting. I
just was interested in acting and that was what I was good
at early on. So, the voice acting part of it came just as a
coincidence I guess.
Moderator: Then next from HereIsTV, we’ll go to the line of Bruce Pisen.
Bruce: I’m wondering; what do you like to watch on TV?
Jon: Well, what have I been watching? I try to watch things
sort of—I don’t watch a lot of nightly television I guess. I
kind of watch it as a whole now like most people do. I
watched Homeland recently, all of it and the British
Shameless I watched all together, which is great. What else?
And then sports and the occasional news program.
Moderator: Then next from the line of Leslie Stewart of
Agents of Geek.
Leslie: For the record, I think “Jason” all grown up from
Home Movies definitely would join ISIS. So, that would be
great to see.
Jon: Well, yes, like as a janitor or something.
Leslie: Yes. I don’t know. I could see him being a really
epic agent. I don’t know. Maybe that’s just me.
Jon: Yes, I was never sure whether he was precocious or just
Leslie: He’s pretty adorable. I love him.
Jon: He is adorable.
Leslie: So, you have worked really extensively with Loren
Bouchard on some of the best kind of adult cartoons that
exist. What do you love about working with Loren so much and
do you see yourself working with him past Bob Burger’s or
even with Brendon Small again?
Jon: I don’t know. I work so closely with Loren still.
Brendon I haven’t worked with since Home Movies. So, I mean
he was great to work with, but with Loren, I certainly read
that he’s made the claim that he won’t do a show without me.
I’d hold him to that. I don’t know how many more shows he’ll
do, but it’s great working with Loren. We sort of started
together doing what we do now. So, it’s been a pretty
Loren started at editing my improvisation for Dr. Katz. Now,
he’s making his own shows and I’m still doing the same
thing. So, he’s really progressed. I’m just still doing the
same thing. So, now I’m mad. Now, you’ve got me angry at
him. But yes, I’d always be happy to work with Loren. He’s
very passionate about what he does and that’s really a good
foil for my dispassion.
Leslie: How much of Bob Burger’s with Loren is improv? Do you
do a lot of improv in that set?
Jon: We do. I mean I think I’ve heard Loren claim it’s about
90/10. They do a lot of improv obviously that they don’t
use, but I think they use about 10%-15% of the improv that
we do. I mean the show is really well written and they’ve
had I think pretty much the same writer since the first
season. So, they do a great job, but Loren always encourages
improv for pretty much every take we do.
Moderator: Next, we’ll go to Todd Gilchrist of Comic Book
Todd: Is there such a thing as too much or over the top with
Jon: It doesn’t seem so. I mean it lives pretty within itself
I have to say. So, as much as it’s over the top, it feels
organic. You know what I mean? I haven’t seen them go way
outside themselves, and that was a slight concern with like
a Bob Burger’s crossover because that can get like, “Oh, why
are you ruining it?”
But, he pulled it off. It was seamless. If you didn’t know
Bob Burger’s, I don’t think you would have even batted your
eyes at that. So, even when they do things very conceptual,
it somehow still works for Archer.
Todd: Is there anything either in your performance character
or the story as a whole that you feel like ... more or
something that just intrigued you that maybe did not get
pushed to that limit, to sort of explore as much as they
Jon: I had to cry a couple of times. I’d like to see more of
that. That’s hard to capture in voiceover work. But I like
to cry. I really like to cry.
Moderator: Then, our next question will come from the line of
David Crow of Den of Geek.
David: One thing I’ve always really liked about the show but
wondered; have you ever talked with Adam about when is it
really set? Not to give away the spoiler of what’s to come,
but they have the Internet, they have cell phones, but at
the same time, they’re fighting the KGB for ... the coding
machines and “Woodhouse” is talking about World War I.
Jon: Time is pretty fungible in Archer I feel, yes. Sometimes
Burt Reynolds seemed like he was of his time, but the car
that he was driving was from the ‘70s. I mean they preserve
cars. So, that’s maybe a sad example, but yes, there’s
pretty much a very broad sense of time in Archer. I think it
was that was from the onset. So, that was the world the way
they structured it and I don’t think it’s ever really
David: The one follow-up I had on that was another thing I
always thought was interesting about “Sterling Archer” is
that he’s actually very well read. It’s almost deceiving. He
can be talking for hours about the dangers of alligators,
but then he’ll drop a Herman Melville quote on his enemies.
Jon: Yes. Well, I think he was prep school educated it seems
like, at least from the flashbacks. So, he had the luxury of
probably some very expensive East Coast prep school and
they’ll make you read a lot of books.
David: Does it come somewhat from your background, or was
that just something you and Adam created for the character?
Jon: Well, I mean Adam Reed, I think, was a literature major
in college. So, I think that mostly comes from him, although
I’ve read Bartleby. I can tell you that.
Moderator: Our next question will come from TVWeek and the
line of Will Harris.
Will: I was just curious; I know that you did a one-off
appearance on Suburgatory a bit ago. Do you have any
interest in pursuing any more actual on camera work, or are
you quite happy living the life of a voice actor?
Jon: I do. I do on camera work when I’m asked to do it. So,
yes, I have no problem with it. I’ve worked on live shows of
my own and I’m working on one now. Hopefully, you’ll see me
in that. So yes, I don’t rule it out. I just rarely get
Will: On a whim, I’m curious; could you talk briefly about
the experience of Iceland Ultra Blue?
Jon: That was unfortunate. I loved that show. I wish it had
gone further. So, yes, that’s one of my big regrets besides
having a son. No, I like him. But, Ultra Blue was great. We
made it. They aired it for like a month, I think, at 4:00 in
the morning and they just never made more. We were excited
to make more.
Will: Did anyone actually believe that it was in fact a real
Jon: Well, I think people were confused. That was our
essential request to Adult Swim at the time, which was to
not peep a word about what it was or who made it, or any
information about why it was there in that landscape at that
time, which is not a huge sell for a network. Maybe that’s
why. We tried to not—in good part, they did sort of do that,
but they didn’t continue with it.
But, we knew that once it had aired, we would give it away
and then people would just enjoy it for what it was. But,
people didn’t kill themselves, but I think there was a lot
of like, “What the hell is this? Where’s the Squidbillies
rerun that I want to watch” or whatever. So, there were a
lot of angry e-mails to Adult Swim and a lot of it was
confusing. I think at 4:00 a.m. when you’re that high, you
really don’t know what’s going on anyway.
Moderator: Next, from TV Megasite, we’ll go back to the line
of Suzanne Lanoue.
Suzanne: Last year, I interviewed the guy who does the voice
of “Porky Pig.”
Suzanne: Yes, and he’s the only other voice actor that I’ve
Jon: How did that go?
Suzanne: It went well. He was really funny actually, but he
wanted to be “Porky Pig” since he was really, really little.
So, it was—
Jon: Wasn’t that Mel Blanc?
Suzanne: No. He’s the guy that took over from Mel Blanc who
Jon: Oh, okay. Good. I was going to say if you talked to Mel
Blanc, that would be really....
Suzanne: No. I would have liked to talk to Mel Blanc, yes,
but anyway, so he said that he basically doesn’t get
recognized by people because he only does voiceover work
pretty much except for when he goes like Comic-Con and then
people who really know what he’s like....
Jon: You can’t walk around talking like “Porky Pig” all day
Suzanne: No. So, I was wondering since you’ve done a lot of
non-voiceover work if you do sometimes get recognized by
Jon: I do. Yes, I do a lot. Yes. Maybe just because I had TV
shows and I’ve been on live shows a lot. I think combined
with people who love Archer and stuff like that, they’ll
know what I look like if you do a little research. But, I
Will promise to look up what the guy from “Porky Pig” looks
like. The next time I see him I’ll be like, “Hey, there you
Suzanne: That’s right. Well, he does other voices too, like
Luke Skywalker and some other things.
Jon: All right. I get it.
Moderator: The next from TVGuide.com, we’ll go to the line of
Liz: So obviously, the whole season so far is kind of a
throwback to the 1980s and Miami Vice. ...recurring jokes
... cocaine addiction. So, I was wondering what sort of
aspects of that whole ‘80s cop show would you most looking
to ... this season in your discussions with Adam.
Jon: What was it? I’m sorry. I didn’t hear the last part.
Liz: Which aspects of those ‘80s cop shows were you most
looking to spoof this season in your discussions with Adam?
Does that come up at all?
Jon: Well, I mean it certainly seems like a lot—yes. Archer
seemed to start in the ‘60s, late-‘70s in a way with this
kind of nod to James Bond and that’s sort of progressing
through the decade. I can’t wait for the ‘90s. But yes, I
was a teenager, I think, when Miami Vice came out and that
was such a huge show. So, I was excited when I heard that
the whole format was sort of—but I think it’s sort of like
the James Bond backdrop or landscape. It’s not
necessarily—the show kind of maintains itself. It just sort
of transitions into this kind of ‘80s world more so, but
it’s not really a lampooning of Miami Vice I think.
Moderator: Next, we’ll go to Rich Milko and the
Rich: Have there been any discussions about further Archer
Jon: They do them very like sporadically. There’s one coming
up in Austin, Texas I believe this weekend. I think so. And
then, I think it depends on the availability of the cast. I
know Aisha works during the week every day. So, it’s hard to
schedule a tour, but we’ve been doing them kind of as
one-offs. So, I assume they’ll do more. It’s just that
Moderator: Next, we’ll go to the line of Leslie Stewart of
Agents of Geek.
Leslie: So, my question for you is what your favorite drink?
Jon: Favorite drink?
Jon: Like drink drink or any drink?
Leslie: No, like drink drink.
Jon: Drink drink. Not like soda water.
Leslie: Not like grape juice.
Jon: I hear you. I don’t mix a lot, but I like beer and wine
mostly. If I do have a drink drink, it Will be I guess
bourbon. It would be bourbon.
Leslie: So, if “Coach McGuirk” and “Sterling Archer” and “Bob
Belcher” got into a drinking contest, who do you think would
take home the gold?
Jon: “Coach McGuirk,” “Bob Belcher” and “Archer?”
Jon: I’d say “Coach McGuirk” I guess. He’s bigger. “Bob
Belcher” would lose by a long shot. He would be in real bad
shape, but “Archer” and “Coach McGuirk” I think would have a
good go at it, but I think “Coach McGuirk” just solely based
on alcohol weight and the ability to process.
Leslie: Yes, he’s a tough guy.
Jon: He’s bigger.
Moderator: Then we have time for a couple more questions. The
next question, we’ll go to the line of David Crow of Den of
David: One question I have about the new season going forward
is can you foresee “Archer” sincerely trying to become a
would-be father to “Lana’s” child in the future?
Jon: I think that there’s always the hope or there’s always
the desire to probably do that, although I just don’t have a
lot of confidence in “Archer” as the character to commit to
that kind of thing yet. I think he’ll be more like one of
those guys who might be able to raise a child when he’s in
his mid-60s. So, I think he wants to do that, but I think
his emotional issues, deep, deep emotional issues would
always get in the way.
David: Speaking of the emotional issues, if there’s one life
lesson “Sterling Archer” needs to learn, what do you think
Jon: I think he probably needs to sort of get over these
issues with his mother, but that’s hard to do. Most people
can’t. I think he probably needs to cut the line with his
mom and just go somewhere and write an autobiography.
Moderator: Next, we’ll move to the USA Herald and the line of
Niki: Since we covered drinks, who makes a better burger,
“Woodhouse” or “Bob?”
Jon: I don’t know. I guess “Woodhouse.” “Woodhouse just seems
like he’s really—I don’t “Bob” runs a tight—apparently,
“Bob” is really good at making burgers, but I don’t have
total confidence in that.
Niki: What is the fan response? I mean you said that you do
get recognized, but do you get like high-fives from bros and
stuff like that and free beers?
Jon: I will get an occasional high-five from some bros, yes.
Niki: When you’re in the booth, is there a different sense of
collaboration by working off of other performers?
Jon: Well, the way it works with Archer is I really just work
off this guy named Matt: Thompson and this guy named Casey
who are producers of the show Archer. They’re on the line.
So, I always work off them and sometimes we’ll do scenes
together; like we would read together a scene and sometimes
I’ll just do line reading, but they’re very good at
directing me as to what they want. So, that works out well.
Moderator: Then our last set of questions will come from the
line of Leslie Stewart of Agents of Geek.
Leslie: I did want to ask you about Jon Benjamin Has a Van
because it was such a hilarious show and it was a completely
unique setting for us to see you in, but it ended only after
ten episodes. In a few days, I know you’ll be talking about
it in LA at the Celebration of Failure. So, why do you think
it was a failure, and if you had to choose one celebrity to
be on Cash Stall, who would it be?
Jon: Well, I guess I’ll answer the latter first. Cash Stall
celebrities, it would have to be male I feel like just out
of respect. I’d like somebody older, somebody—so, who would
I like to interrupt while taking a shit? That’s really the
bottom line, right?
Leslie: Yes, really.
Jon: Who would I like to ... next to the most and who would I
like to talk to while they go to the bathroom. It’s so hard
- Warren Beatty. Yes, why not?
And then, why was it a failure? Well, it got canceled and
that’s the obvious reason, but I think it was also a show
that was kind of finding its footing and we were kind of
just getting going as it was dwindling in favor, if it ever
had any favor with the audience. So, I think it just sort of
never took hold and that was the sad fact. But, I really
wanted to do more. The failure part comes from deep inside.
Leslie: I think it was kind of ahead of its time. I don’t
know. I think they should bring it back. I thought it was
Jon: Thank you. I don’t know if it was ahead of its time, but
yes, I think a lot of people disliked it for valid reasons.
It was a bit all over the place. That’s what I’m like. I’m a
happy little mess.
Kristy: Thank you, everyone, for all joining us today and
especially Jon. We always have such a blast speaking with
you and greatly appreciate your time.
Jon: No problem.
Kristy: As a reminder, Archer premieres Monday, January 13th
at 10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific only on FX.
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