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[originally published in Smoke magazine]

patrick warburton: alpha male for hire [cover story]

You may not know Patrick Warburton by name, but he’s been in your living room. For the past decade, Warburton has made his living as TV’s go-to big guy. His six-foot-three, truck-like frame is hard to miss, but he first caught the attention of most people as David Puddy, the beefy, squinty-eyed love interest of Elaine on Seinfeld (though he actually only appeared in nine episodes—seems like so many more, doesn’t it?) Warburton’s size even comes across in his signature galloping thunder of man-voice. Part John Wayne, part John Madden, Warburton’s voice is audible testosterone. Just about every cartoon, commercial, or video game of the past decade that has been in need of a voice actor to bring some steak-chewing, fire-fighting manliness to their project has tapped Warburton for the job. He’s lent his voice to animated alpha males from all corners of the cartoon universe including the musclebound Kronk from Disney’s Emperor’s New Groove; tank-torsoed Brock Samson from Cartoon Network’s cult favorite The Venture Brothers; and Joe, the paraplegic yet pectoraled neighbor on Family Guy; just to name a brawny few. So, what advice does he have to impart to the readers of Smoke magazine on being an alpha dog in a puppy chow world? “For the most part I hesitate to reveal the certain aspects of not being the most macho man in the world,” laughs the booming baritone from his home in southern California. “I drink my coffee with vast amounts of cream and sugar. I’ll even squeeze honey in there. Just now I’m trying to get off the mochas and drink my coffee black like my 17-yearold son who apparently is the real man. Um, and I also probably love visiting Disneyland as much as any straight man is allowed to love Disneyland.”

It’s that sort of self-deprecation which has given Warburton a consistent invitation into America’shomes over the last ten years. He plays the big guy, but never the bully. That altruism was shaped in part by the fact that America’s favorite big brother didn’t start out that big. “I hate bullies. I was a 95-pound freshman in high school. I was the smallest kid in school. My school was one of the top-ten academic high schools in the country. They prided themselves on football and academia. So you were either a brainiac or a football player. I was neither.” Of course, something happened between that 95-pound freshman and the rest of him. And that thing was a movie that made every underdog think that they could take on the champ—as long as they didn’t succumb to salmonella poisoning first. “When I was 13 years old I saw Rocky and I thought it was just the greatest movie I’d ever seen. I started getting up at six o’clock in the morning to start doing push-ups and running and actually began my day by drinking eggs into a glass—raw.” (No matter how much pushed on the subject, Warburton seemed hesitant to label himself a jock, though he does admit to making it onto the wrestling and track and field teams in high school, followed by a stint on his college crew team.)

Currently, Warburton can be found alongside David Spade on the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement. Warburton plays Jeff Bingham, one half of the long-married middle-aged couple that explores adventures in matrimony alongside a bright-eyed pair of newlyweds and their confirmed bachelor friend played by Spade. “My character is a guy that I think all married guys can relate to: cranky at times and absolutely befuddled by the insanity of his female counterpart,” comments Warburton on what has made the show click for the past several seasons. “I think most married guys can relate to being caught in the middle of ‘I love her, I couldn’t live without her’ on one hand, and ‘she drives me fucking crazy’ on the other.”

Warburton is able to bring a lot of his own life experience to his role on Rules of Engagement as he can lay claim to nearly two decades of marriage to his wife whom he met while she was in high school and he was in his first year of Junior College. They met how most love struck kids from Southern California met in the late ’80s: at afternoon Mass. “That was the ‘scammers mass’ as we would call it. All the high school kids would hang out in the back, kind of check each other out, that’swhere all the hookups were made.”

Marriages take work to maintain and while a show like Rules is a comedy first and foremost, it makes space to explore themes most committed people have experienced. “I think one of the things that works about Rules, as opposed to other half hour shows, is that we’re kind of in a whacked place, but there’s a lot of integrity too in our show. There’s a lot of married couples that are willing to do whatever it takes to be together and make it work and are dedicated to taking their vows seriously. It’s very relatable.”

Meanwhile, on the polar opposite side of the pop culture spectrum, Warburton is a contributing voice actor for the purposefully unwholesome Family Guy. “I’m sort of a unique element to the show,” he comments on the animated satire, which has built a small empire based on pushing the limits of what can be shown on TV. “I come from a conservative background. My mother honestly believes that my soul is in peril for being on Family Guy—she’s absolutely devastated that I would work on that sort of show. She left me a voicemail message the other day saying that she’s not only praying for me, but that she’s praying for [Family Guy creator] Seth McFarlane. Because God wants everybody in heaven, including Seth McFarlane.”

When Warburton is able to get some time away from his packed work schedule and pretty serious golf habit, he makes sure to set aside some time for a good cigar, which he has smoked regularly since his mid-20s (though on the golf course, he’s just as likely to suck on some Copenhagen pouches than chew a stogie). When it comes to cigars, Warburton’s choice of smokes is like the man himself, unpretentious. While he used to feel the need to be seen with those cigars from the “special section” in his local shop’s back room (wink wink), as a more veteran smoker his approach to cigars has matured. He has a level of quality he expects from a premium cigar, and knows anything above that will be a quality smoke. “I love a good cigar as much as anybody, but I don’t need to show off. I love it in the same way I love red wine. I love nothing more than a good Chianti, but nothing that has to be too expensive. I don’t need anything that I swirl around in my mouth while trying to come up with some B.S. about how many different frickin’ notes there are. It’s really hard for me to take myself seriously doing that. It’s the same thing with cigars. I think any Honduran or Dominican cigar is as good as any cigar in the world really. I like them alittle bit more on the mild side, but I have enjoyed all sorts of cigars.”

Like many smokers, Warburton views his cigar habit as a something best enjoyed in the moment. While there are some who make a hobby out of cigars, they are just as often the perfect accessory for unabated lazy relaxation. “For me, cigars are all about it being the right time. I’ve never been one to keep a humidor going. That takes some amount of maintenance, and I’m such a terrible maintenance guy. With the old humidor boxes, you got to put water in the thing and keep it clean, and regulate the temperature and humidity, whatever it is. I could keep a humidor going on a regular basis for about six months, but then I’d start slacking and realize down the line I had a box of either dry or moldy cigars.”

Unfortunately, Warburton doesn’t look like he’ll have time to perfect that art of humidifier maintenance any time soon. He has a full roster of upcoming projects to keep himself busy including several films in addition to his work on Rules of Engagement, and continuing voice work on Family Guy and Venture Brothers. As long as we, the viewing public, are in need of a big man with a big personality, there will always be a role waiting for Patrick Warburton.