Since "SpongeBob SquarePants" first aired on Nickelodeon in 1999, it has brought joy and laughter to children and adults alike. But while SpongeBob is the headliner, the colorful cast of characters in Bikini Bottom is just as fun and memorable as the perky sponge. Be it Squidward’s grumpy demeanor or Mr. Krabs’ money-grabbing antics, SpongeBob’s characters are all highly memorable and crucial to the show’s humor.
Aside from the little yellow guy in the show’s theme song, arguably the most important character is his best friend, Patrick Star. The lazy, profoundly dumb sea star is known for his highly meme-able faces, his astonishing lack of intellectual prowess, and for being the best friend a sponge could ask for. He’s so important to the success of SpongeBob that Patrick is the star of a spinoff show titled "The Patrick Star Show." But what do we really know about Patrick Star? What secrets hide beneath his rock? This is a collection of the untold truth of Patrick Star.
Patrick started out as an educational drawing
Stephen Hillenburg didn’t always work in television. One of Hillenburg’s first loves in life was marine biology, so much so that he studied it and even got a job teaching science at the Ocean Institute in California in 1986. Hillenburg wanted to help his students understand the content of his lessons and wanted to make students engage with the material in a fun way. As such, he turned to his drawing skills and sketched out a comic book teaching the reader about the types of creatures that live in intertidal waters.
The title of the comic was pretty self-explanatory: "Intertidal Zone." Hillenburg made sketches of different forms of undersea life in its natural habitat. One of the hosts of the comic was Bob the Sponge, a spongy blob that wears sunglasses. Though this prototype was undoubtedly the inspiration for SpongeBob, he wasn’t the only character to make a debut. Featured on the front cover is a sea star lounging in a chair watching television.
It bears little resemblance to the simplified outline that is Patrick Star. That’s because Hillenburg endeavored to make his comic characters more anatomically correct. This means that the sea star has a mouth in the center of its body and an eye at the end of each arm.
Patrick is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke
Patrick has such a strange, husky voice that it’s hard to imagine the actor behind it playing anyone else. But before joining the hit animated television show on Nickelodeon, Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of Patrick, was a recurring character on the long-running ABC sitcom "Coach." On the show, Fagerbakke played Michael "Dauber" Dybinski, the coach of special teams at Minnesota State University. Fans of SpongeBob will be able to tell which character Dauber is due to Fagerbakke’s distinctive baritone and demeanor. In an interview with Den of Geek, he notes that he had been typecast as goofy characters in the ’90s. "By the time my business led me to voiceovers in the early ’90s, I realized oh, I also sound like a big goofball because that’s mostly the kind of animated characters I portrayed, too." In addition to appearing regularly in "Coach," Fagerbakke also had a recurring role in "How I Met Your Mother."
Fagerbakke has gone on the record stating that his favorite Patrick line is, "The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma." Another of his favorites is "Does this look dangerous?" from the episode "Hooky." In the scene, Patrick has a mouthful of fishhooks as he ironically tries to convince his friends that his risky activity isn’t at all dangerous.
Patrick has a dark side
Patrick may look like a simple, lovable sea star on the surface, but this pink starfish has shown his dark side on more than one occasion. According to Hillenburg, Patrick embodies the nature of an actual starfish. He notes that while they look "dumb and slow," in reality, they are "very active and aggressive." Much like an actual starfish, Patrick’s friendly facade hides a destructive potential.
The most troubling example of Patrick’s aggressive outbursts is in the episode "Valentine’s Day." Once Patrick believes that his best friend has neglected to give him a Valentine’s Day present, the usually friendly sea star becomes enraged. Heartbroken and jealous that SpongeBob receives gifts from other Bikini Bottom folks, Patrick is sent into a frenzy, during which he wrecks the Valentine’s Day carnival. More concerning, Patrick corners SpongeBob and a group of townspeople who desperately attempt to reason with him, to which he replies, "Nope, it’s too late for that now … for all of you!" Patrick Star may have very well been on the brink of murder had Sandy not arrived in the nick of time with the gift SpongeBob had arranged for Patrick.
Patrick’s outburst in "Valentine’s Day" was very extreme, and initially, the idea was that this would be an isolated incident of rage. According to writer and storyboard director Jay Lender, "Patrick’s tantrum in "Valentine’s Day" [Season 1] was supposed to be a one-time thing, but when that show came back, it felt so right that his dark side started popping up everywhere."
Patrick’s parents got a design overhaul
Long-time fans of "SpongeBob" may remember the first episode where Patrick’s parents are introduced. The Season 2 episode, "I’m With Stupid," featured SpongeBob posing as Patrick’s stupid friend in an attempt to make Patrick look wise to his visiting parents. It’s only at the end of the episode, though, that we are introduced to Patrick’s real parents after finding out that he was entertaining a pair of strangers because he forgot what his parents looked like. After appearing as punchlines early in the show’s run, Margie Bunny Star and Herb Cecil Star make a few appearances in the show with minor design changes. But overall, their appearances in SpongeBob have been relatively consistent.
That all changes with "The Patrick Star Show." Patrick’s parents look totally different in this new iteration. Margie and Herb are no longer generic pink sea star copies of Patrick; instead, they have more standout, brightly colored designs. According to co-executive producer Vincent Waller on Twitter, "Cecil [and] Bunny, they are his mom and dad. We felt the original iterations of the characters, while they worked for that episode, they were boring as characters. They were NOT entertaining or fun. These two are so much more fun. I can’t wait till you get to meet them."
Gary and Patrick are cousins
Patrick usually doesn’t interact much with his family on the show. When he does, it’s generally with family who is visiting Bikini Bottom for the duration of a single episode. However, one Season 4 revelation throws that entire idea out of whack. In "Rule of Dumb," Patrick is informed that he is descended from a long line of royalty and is presented with a crown and the title of king. Patrick begins his despotic reign by stealing food from the Krusty Krab while protected by a royal treaty.
After demanding tribute from members of Bikini Bottom, Squidward convinces everyone that Patrick doesn’t have the mental fortitude to rule over anyone. While that may or may not be the case, it turns out that the royal official who gave the crown to Patrick didn’t look closely enough at the family tree that led to Patrick. Taking the crown away, the official discloses that Patrick has a living cousin who is the rightful heir to the crown. Shockingly, Patrick, SpongeBob, and Squidward all learn that Gary, SpongeBob’s pet snail, is the true heir to the throne.
Patrick could have been a decent fry cook
In the Season 2 episode "Big Pink Loser," Patrick wants to get an award like his friend SpongeBob and so decides to mimic him all day long. He even goes so far as to get hired at the Krusty Krab to work alongside SpongeBob. However, Patrick finds that working in food service is a tough job, and in the end, he receives an award for doing nothing longer than anyone else. However, it seems like Patrick wasn’t really giving the job his all.
In the Season 2 episode "The Fry Cook Games," Patrick asserts that anyone can become a fry cook, insulting SpongeBob’s hard work. The two get into an argument, and, ultimately, to prove a point, Patrick enrolls himself into the Fry Cook Games as the Chum Bucket’s fry cook to compete against his best friend. Surprisingly, SpongeBob and Patrick are fairly evenly matched despite Patrick having never worked as a fry cook. Patrick and SpongeBob ultimately drop their differences and as well as the competition, but it’s safe to say Patrick had a fair shot at beating SpongeBob in the final match.
Regarding why Patrick never worked at the Krusty Krab for more than a day, Clancy Brown, the voice actor for Mr. Krabs, said in a YouTube video, "The only person that he [Mr. Krabs] doesn’t hire is Patrick because Patrick is just too stupid to work for nothing."
Patrick’s footsteps are recorded using a loafer
Since the denizens of Bikini Bottom are all fictional, making "SpongeBob SquarePants" is a bit more complicated than bringing a camera and microphone underwater to record sea creatures. Plenty of people know that cartoon characters need voice actors to bring them to life, but what few people realize is that all of the other sounds in a show or film have to be recorded by sound artists as well. Everything from music to sound effects must be recorded before they can help bring an animated scene to life.
"SpongeBob" is no different from any other show in this respect. And one of the most frequent sound effects in the show is the footsteps of each character. According to sound designer Jeff Hutchins in an interview with Cartoonician, "As when we first started, and still do today, each footstep is recorded by a Foley crew; this helps tell which character it is and what surface they’re stepping on." Even though Patrick walks around without anything on his feet, the Foley artists who create the sound of Patrick walking don’t record themselves walking barefoot. Hutchins explained, "Patrick is actually recorded with the Foley talent wearing a loafer (shoe). [Going] barefoot makes it tough to have much presence, so we decided that Patrick would be performed with shoes on."
Patrick can fly
In the special "lost" Season 3 episode "The Sponge Who Could Fly," SpongeBob yearns to fly with the majestic jellyfish. The enterprising young sponge enlists the help of his friend Patrick to construct a series of gadgets to let SpongeBob achieve his dream and take to the skies. After testing each one, SpongeBob finally gets his wish when his inflatable pants let him soar, though this unnatural flight angers the townsfolk of Bikini Bottom, who band together to ground SpongeBob permanently. After piercing his pants, SpongeBob resolves that flying should be left to those sea creatures who can do so naturally. In an odd twist, Patrick ends the episode lifting a single arm and flying to go get some pizza.
What seemed like an end-of-episode gag turned out to be a confirmed character trait in the Season 6 episode "A Life in a Day." In the episode, SpongeBob and Patrick are amazed by Larry the Lobster’s daredevil lifestyle full of risk and intense action. As Patrick decides to start "living like Larry," he launches triumphantly into the air. He effortlessly lands on the back of a wild seahorse, whooping and hollering.
Patrick has two sisters
In the Season 2 episode "Something Smells," SpongeBob’s best friend comes to the realization that he stinks. Not having a nose to smell himself, this comes as quite the shock to the sea star, who begins frantically spiraling as the gravity of his situation dawns on him. As he babbles about the consequences of stinking, he exclaims, "Oh gosh, if my sister finds out — oh, wait. I don’t have a sister." While it seemed like Patrick was just letting his paranoia get the better of him, this little tidbit of familial information didn’t hold up as more episodes of the show came out.
By the time the Season 7 episode "Sam Star" premiered, it became apparent that Patrick isn’t a reliable genealogist. The episode features Patrick’s older sister, who comes to visit him and his friends in Bikini Bottom. This might be a consistency error in the show, but then again, if Patrick forgot what his parents looked like, it’s also totally possible he just forgot he had a sibling or two.
"The Patrick Star Show" further compounds the confusion, as Patrick makes a television show with his adoptive younger sister Squidina, who had never been mentioned previously, though she did appear in a few episodes as a side character. In the end, it’s hard to say whether Patrick doesn’t know his family or if he’s been disowned by his siblings.
Patrick’s appetite resembles that of an actual starfish
One of Patrick Star’s most endearing qualities is his appetite, which is as insatiable as it is indiscriminate. However, this wasn’t a decision made for purely comedic reasons. It turns out that Patrick’s appetite may be related to Stephen Hillenburg’s vast knowledge of marine biology. In "Case of the SpongeBob," the collaboration video that Hillenburg made with famed underwater explorer and scholar Jacques Cousteau, Hillenburg states that "Patrick is definitely true to his kind. He loves to eat." One of the most obvious examples of this is in the episode "Something Smells." SpongeBob asks Patrick what all he’s eaten, and Patrick lists roast beef, chicken, and pizza as items he’s consumed in the morning alone. This isn’t exactly your typical starfish diet, but real-life echinoderms are just as voracious as their fictional counterpart.
Though the inner machinations of a sea star’s mind may be an enigma, its digestive system is not, though it is fascinatingly strange. According to National Geographic, sea stars digest food outside of their bodies. They latch onto the food with their arms and shoot their stomachs out through the mouth at the center of their body. From there, chemicals produced by the stomach break the food down and absorb nutrients back into the stomach, which then retracts back into the sea star.
Thankfully, the show wasn’t aiming for anatomical accuracy, though it’s interesting to imagine how a more realistic portrayal of him eating would play out in the show.
Patrick gets a cult following in the Broadway musical
In the Broadway adaption of "SpongeBob," a volcano near Bikini Bottom becomes active, and Sandy calculates that the town has mere hours before its fiery eruption. With everyone’s lives, homes, and livelihoods at stake, the citizens of the city scramble to figure out how to spend their last day before getting incinerated. SpongeBob decides to assemble a team of his most trusted friends to work together and stop the volcano from destroying his beloved town.
However, a group of fanatical sardines drives a wedge between the pink and yellow dynamic duo when they decide that Patrick possesses unique wisdom that will lead to the volcano being stopped and the day being saved. Wearing pink sea star outfits, these sardine acolytes sing a song about how great Patrick is, appealing to his sense of ego. In the course of the song, they call him a hero, guru, king, and savior. With a group of fish sure that Patrick alone can save the world, Patrick decides to leave SpongeBob and Sandy to lead his own personal cultish fan club.