He’s back and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Season 5 of ARCHER on FX begins January 13th at 10 p.m. Having spent the last few days reviewing Season 4 of Archer, he was pretty much into everything – trouble wise that is.
The 2013 season began with Archer having amnesia and working at Bob’s Burger. When the KGB tries to take him out, ISIS intervenes and the memories come flooding back. From his encounter with Timothy Olyphant (and who wouldn’t like an encounter with Timothy Olyphant) to Ron Cadillac saving Archer from Canada, to a border patrol mission, time in space, honeymooning with Lana in North Korea, to Morocco, the Vatican, the Bermuda triangle to Lana’s pregnancy news what could possibly be in store for Season Five.
EVERYTHING is my hope! Of course who better to speak on behalf of Archer than the voice of Archer himself Mr. Jon H. Benjamin. Yes, I get kind of giddy when one of my favorite cartoon characters wants to idly chat on a Monday morning – don’t judge, just enjoy!
Hi Jon, thanks for joining us. So lets get right into it. Do you know why they decided to go in such a completely different direction this season, sort of changing so many things?
Well, I think there are 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. 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. Its just more confusion, more of the same confusion.
What was your reaction when Adam first broke the news about how dramatically the series was going to be changing?
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 power.
Was there anything that surprised you about the changes or are you just going along for the ride as it were?
Yes, it was more like 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.
Can you tell our readers how the character of “Archer” came to be and is he a combination of characters?
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.
You’ve played “Coach McGuirk” and “Bob Belcher,” do you see yourself in these characters?
Well, I mean “Coach McGuirk” probably was 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. They both drink a lot and just “Archer” has a lot more physical talents.
You have a way of balancing dry with outrageous humor. How do you do that season after season?
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 go.
He has to be a fun character to play yes?
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 yourself.
With this being the biggest departure for the Archer series what did you enjoy most about it?
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.
Are there any characters you’d like to see cross over?
You mean like in Archer or anything? Wow. I suppose that and “Katz” or something, or maybe like “Jason” from Home Movies should walk by, but all grown up now.
So what can fans expect this season and any episode you’re excited for fans to see?
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.
How will Lana being pregnant affect Archer?
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.
Do you think we should find out who Archer’s daddy is or leave it a mystery?
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.
How difficult is it creating a character using only your voice?
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.
Did you always want to be in the business?
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.
So what shows are you watching these days?
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.
What do you enjoy about working with Loren Bouchard?
I don’t know. I work so closely with Loren still. 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 parallel trajectory. 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.
How much of BOB’S BURGER is improv?
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.
Is there anything that Archer does be considered too much?
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.
Have you ever talked with Adam about the timeline of the series?
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 changed.
Archer seems intelligent one minute and then he blows it.
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.
You showed up on Suburgatory, do you want to act more or stay ‘the voice of…’?
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 asked.
Tell us about Iceland Ultra Blue?
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.
Does anyone believe that it was a real infomercial?
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.
Do you get recognized by fans?
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 are.”
In your discussions with Adam was there specific 80s-cops-Miami-Vice-stuff you wanted to spoof?
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.
Are there going to be any more Archer live tours?
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 they’re sporadic.
If “Coach McGuirk” and “Sterling Archer” and “Bob Belcher” had a drinking tournament, who would win?
Jon “Coach McGuirk,” “Bob Belcher” and “Archer?” 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.
Do you think Archer can be a daddy to Lana’s baby? I mean we’ve sort of seen what kind of “dad” he could be.
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.
If Archer could learn one life lesson what do you think it would be?
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.
When you are in the booth recording, is there collaboration with the other performers?
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.
Jon Benjamin Has a Van was such a great show but was gone after ten episodes. What happened?
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.
Thanks to Jon H. Benjamin, the voice of one of my favorite cartoon characters of all and that’s Sterling Archer in the monster hit ARCHER on FX with a new season coming February 13th at 10 p.m. With the changes ahead you can be sure there will be comedy galore!