With all that Patrick Warburton has done over the years, do I really think of him from a decades-old M&Ms commercial first? . . . Yes. Yes, I do. Is it the first place I saw him? Now, that, I’m not sure. It’s from the ‘90s, and more specific than that I’m not sure. Certainly it’s possible I’d seen him on Quantum Leap before then, or maybe Northern Exposure or Mad About You. But it’s certainly one of the first places I saw him, and I’ll go to bat for it as one of the best commercials ever made and certainly the best M&Ms commercial ever made. And part of that is Warburton’s resonant voice and deadpan delivery.
Because when you hire Patrick Warburton, that’s what you want. A resonant voice and deadpan delivery. There are many, many roles he’s done in the years since telling M&Ms they can’t eat their own kind that are only as notable as they are because they’re done by him. He was, and I will die on this hill, the Platonic ideal of The Tick. Frankly he’s a better choice for Buzz Lightyear than Tim Allen, even though a lot of people will disagree for political reasons. And my Gods is he great as Mr. Barkin on Kim Possible.
Not to mention Kronk. Overly Sarcastic Productions, a YouTube channel I follow, also used the term “Platonic ideal.” To describe Kronk as the Platonic ideal of the himbo. They are so not wrong, and it so wouldn’t work with a different voice. Face it, you can hear him in your head talking about his spinach puffs or the poison, the poison for Kuzco, the poison chosen especially to kill Kuzco, Kuzco’s poison. The scene with him talking to the squirrel kills, because he’s so dignified in a ridiculous moment. You need someone who can pull that off, and Warburton can.
What’s amazing is that he’s actually one of those people who looks the way the voice sounds. Mr. Barkin is pretty well drawn to resemble Warburton, and you almost suspect he would be even if they’d made the mistake of having the character voiced by someone else. His every interaction with Ron is pure comedy gold, and they had the good sense not to overuse him. Possibly his best moment is when he’s panicking because DNAmy is hitting on him and he simply does not know what to do about that.
I’d also like to throw out a specific shout-out to his performance as The Token American in The Dish, the Australian movie about the importance of Australia to the Apollo landings. He’s taking everything so seriously in the movie, because that’s what Warburton characters do, and while it would be wrong for any other character in the movie, it’s perfect for his. It’s a movie very few people have seen about a moment very few people have heard of that is essential to our history as a species, and I cannot recommend it enough.