He has a deep, rich, velvety voice that makes many swoon – before they see him. He is a comedian, a writer, and an actor, although you probably best know him for the voices he provides to animated characters on such shows as ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ and ‘Archer.’ You’ve probably even seen a commercial or two recently with him talking about roast beef sandwiches.
Despite all of this, H. Jon Benjamin would be perfectly happy blending into the scenery, content with receiving less attention for his work. Of course, this doesn’t mean he’s a recluse. He’s far too busy to stay hidden from the world for too long.
With a new (and possibly final) season of ‘Archer’ premiering Wednesday, May 29, a ‘Bob’s Burgers’ movie scheduled for 2020, and being the new spokesperson for Arby’s, it’s a bit of a crazy time for Benjamin.
The Evolution of ‘Archer’
‘Archer,’ created by Adam Reed, premiered on the FX Network in 2009. The original premise of the show followed the antics of the “world’s best secret agent” Sterling Archer. Archer works with a host of colorful characters at the spy agency ISIS, owned and directed by his overbearing mother, Mallory Archer (voiced by Jessica Walter).
Archer, who has an on-again, off-again relationship with fellow spy Lana Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler), is a tremendous spy, despite sleeping with almost every woman he meets, berating everyone, and rarely without a drink or flask in his hand. If he weren’t so charming – and played brilliantly by Benjamin – it would be hard to root for him.
“I really like Archer as a character – he’s probably one of the more fun characters to do,” Benjamin said. “Not that Bob isn’t, but ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is a big ensemble cast. So is ‘Archer,’ but Archer is just so obnoxious, he’s a lot of fun to play. … Ever since ‘Archer’ started, I always look forward to those [recording sessions].”
After the fourth season, the show started to evolve. The fifth season, called ‘Archer Vice,’ put the characters the fans had grown to love into different roles. Gone, too, was the spy agency name, ISIS. This was around the same time the real-life terrorist organization of the same name became international news.
“I think [the writers] dealt with it pretty swiftly in the show,” Benjamin said. “They kind of rolled out a sign or something. I think [Reed] probably would have gone in this direction anyway. If you asked Adam, my guess would be he’d say ‘I got bored writing spy narratives. We wanted to dip into other genres once the characters were established.’”
Indeed, Reed has dipped into other genres. Since ‘Archer Vice,’ the former ISIS team has worked for an L.A. detective agency, had different roles as Archer looked to solve a mystery in the 1940s, and searched for treasure on a deathtrap of an island shortly before World War II. In order to pull the last two off, the writers of the show put Archer in a coma. The past two seasons have all been Archer’s coma dreams, resulting in ‘Archer Dreamland,’ and ‘Archer: Danger Island.’ The new “futuristic” season, which airs Wednesday, is ‘Archer: 1999.’
The Devil Helps Jon’s Career
Prior to 2007, Benjamin had already been a part of several projects, the most successful of which were ‘Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,’ and ‘Home Movies,’ where he played Coach McGuirk. ‘Home Movies’ was co-created by Brandon Smalls and Loren Bouchard. In 2007, after ‘Home Movies,’ Bouchard decided to create his own show for Adult Swim. ‘Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil,’ only lasted one season, but it was enough to propel Bouchard’s career and, by doing so, help Benjamin as well.
“So few people even remember that show,” Benjamin said. “I loved the show. This was [Bouchard’s] first foray into creating his own show. The best thing about it was the way the shows worked at that point, with Loren at the helm, was basically an outline with a ton of improvisation with a lot of funny people. I really enjoyed that process.”
Benjamin was cast as the Devil, whose goal is to get his daughter, Lucy, to accept her fate as the antichrist. Lucy, however, has other plans. Each episode was around 11 minutes long, and Adult Swim didn’t pick it up for a second season.
Bouchard, the creator of ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ doesn’t have to worry about improvising scripts anymore. He has a full staff of writers and others who help make ‘Bob’s Burgers’ what it is today. Still, there’s a small part of Benjamin that misses it.
“I have to do a lot less work, which I like because there are a lot of good writers writing a lot of really funny material,” Benjamin said. “But at that time, ‘Lucy’ had really funny people. I don’t think it was given enough of a chance. I assume Adult Swim was still changing their dynamic at that point. It might have been a little slow and conversational for their taste. I don’t think a lot of people know about that show just because it came and went so fast.
“Like anything, if that show wasn’t made, it probably wouldn’t have catapulted Loren to where he is now. It gave him a platform to do his own work.”