Interview: ‘Archer’ Star H. Jon Benjamin Talks The Upcoming Season, Burt Reynolds & The Fate Of ‘Jon Benjamin Has A Van’

You might not know the name H. Jon Benjamin, though you should, but you have probably heard his voice. The star of the FX animated series Archer has been a staple of primetime and late night animation for years. From Adult Swim to FX and even Fox, Benjamin has been almost anywhere animation is aimed at teens and adults.

TheFlickcast recently had the opportunity to hear insights on all things H. Jon Benjamin from the man himself. He discusses the process of Archer as well as the new season, how he is just like Sterling Archer and even the fate of his Comedy Central show.

On ad-libbing in the Archer recording booth 

Very little.  There is not a lot of room.  The scripts are tightly written and he encourages sometimes on occasion, he’ll be like do you want to add anything, and I’ll say no.  So it’s not the same kind of production as Bob’s Burgers, which is a lot improvising all the time, but the scripts don’t really require it.

On Archer‘s popularity with the masses

Well, the masses are idiots, so they don’t know any better.  They’re too busy just staring at the light and cartoons are colorful.  So don’t get me started about the masses.  I’m really not a fan.

On Burt Reynolds’ guest spot 

Oh.  Man, no one tells me anything about this ….  That’s great.  I can’t believe he’s still doing stuff.  He should take a break.  It’s been like 60 years.  Like just stop.  I think, they mentioned him—I think it was the natural—well, not the natural progression, but ‘Archer’s’ obviously referenced Burt Reynolds a lot, so I’m sure it popped into Adam Reed’s head to just to try and cast him.  It’s funny that I shouldn’t be calling like these people and you must think like they’ll never do it and then they’re probably like, “Of course, I’ll do it.”

On understanding the obscure references in the scripts 

There’s like a 50/50 ratio of me knowing and me not, but I’m always getting questions about that, and occasionally I don’t have the answer.  I forgot to check.  Fortunately, I’ve read some Melville, so that’s good, and some …, so I knew a couple, but there is some stuff like the guy who invented or who started eugenics—I didn’t know that was him. 

So I’ll oftentimes be asked what …, and the first season I always got the question about Jonny Bench or … that was said, which I did not know about him, or why—a lot of people asked me why did you say that.  Nobody knew, but it’s a relatively educational show.

On Archer‘s potential future happiness 

Well, I don’t think it would behoove the show for him to be happy, so I assume that will be avoided.  I think, by nature, he’s like a troubled character, so I don’t think he’ll ever be happy, but I got asked this recently, and I think my stock answer was that if his mother died, I’m not sure he’d be happy, but it would change everything for him and maybe he’d be happy.  So there is some—I guess that’s not…, but I just think that his mother created a lot of problems. 

On what traits he shares with Sterling Archer 

Well, obviously, personality wise, I can be a little shrilly, and that comes from the way I look and just having to go out in public is a struggle.  So, yes, I think that my tension for anger and my general attitude—poor attitude—and failure to recognize authority and my sense of entitlement in my life and being American and white and rich, those things I share.  And I drink a lot in real life.

On recording in a cast group vs recording alone

I don’t.  It’s much more efficient to record alone, obviously, so Archer is quicker to do, which is a benefit, I guess, if I wanted to go shopping.  It doesn’t take as long—it’s not as long of a process, but there are occasions when being amongst a group of people is a benefit for the show—not for me but for the show.  So, it just kind of depends on the day, I guess.  I have done, I think, once I recorded Archer and then had to go record Bob’s Burgers or vice versa, and that day was too long.

On specific lines that stood out to him

I get asked that a lot and I’m always at a loss because I never remember lines, but I do like whenever I have to say something really like falsetto and quick.  It used to be like danger zone or something.  And I really like doing his answering machine messages because they’re usually written out exactly as I do them.  They make me laugh every time because in real life I do that stuff.  So I like when he really … with people on his answering machine.  That makes me giggle.

On if he was a fan of spy movies in his youth 

I was in to the Torah, mostly and into the movie Torah, Torah, Torah because it fooled me because I thought it was Jewish, and it was actually a movie about kamikazes.  But I thought that was like this movie that was going to be like crazily about the Torah—like Torah, Torah, Torah!  And it had nothing—no Jewish—there was nothing Jewish about it except maybe one—I don’t know, they didn’t mention that any of the pilots or the people killed were Jewish.  So, yeah, as a kid, it was strictly all about Judaism.  I was crazy for it.  So I didn’t have time for spy stuff.

On branching out to live action 

Well, we are waiting to hear if this comedy central show that I did is going to get a second season.  I hope that it does.  I liked doing it a lot.  But, you know, voice work right now is predominantly what I do.  But it took a year to make that show, and it was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it, so I would probably like to do more stuff on camera, but with this …, it doesn’t bode well.

On a potential season 2 for Jon Benjamin Has A Van

I, like I said before, I guess, I would like…have rewrote the second season.  We wrote half of the second season of the van show, and we’re waiting to hear.  But I’ve heard nobody watched it.  That doesn’t seem like it’s encouraging, but I hope we can do more of them.  And the scripts we wrote are, I think, sublimely funny.

Season 3 of Archer airs Thursday nights at 10:00 pm only on FX.

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