"He works with tools; I’m a tool," Wilmer Valderrama jokes Tuesday (July 15) at a recording session of his Playhouse Disney series Handy Manny, on which he voices the title character.
Valderrama and the rest of the Handy Manny cast were gracious enough to open the doors of Salami Studios (yes, really) in North Hollywood to show reporters what it’s like to record an episode of the popular preschool program. On the show, Manny Garcia (Valderrama) is a handyman who carries his numerous talking tools to help out the folks of Sheet Rock Hills, including stubborn candy store owner Mr. Lopart, played by SpongeBob SquarePants’ Tom Kenny, who also plays the voice of the hammer, Pat.
The session is a high-energy whirlwind presided over by voice director Sue Blu and introduces us to a new tool, Flicker the flashlight. It’s difficult to keep from laughing much of the time, considering Kenny’s very physical performance and numerous ad-libs. At one point he compares a tripod that has lost a leg to Heather Mills.
Yes, it’s a kids’ show, but it’s run by adults. Valderrama, Kenny and comedian Fred Stoller, who plays the nervous monkey wrench Rusty, demonstrate this in an interview with Zap2it.
Is Manny or Wilmer handier?
Valderrama: Definitely Handy Manny. He works with tools; I’m a tool. I know how to change a tire, I know how to fix some electric stuff, but definitely what he does for his community it’s way above and beyond.
And since you play Pat the Hammer and Rusty the Wrench, how handy are you guys?
Kenny: In two words: puh thetic. I’m the worst. I’m third generation unhandy. My grandfather couldn’t fix anything, my father can’t fix anything and I can’t fix anything.
Stoller: (right) My father can [fix things] and never taught me anything. I didn’t inherit anything. He would build train sets. People say, "It’s easy, you can do it," like tech support people, but I can’t. This show has helped me. Now I know, a hammer, you hit it. But if anything goes wrong, you call a handy man, I learned that.
Kenny: I know "Call A Guy" is my middle name. If I need a picture hung, I call a guy. If the doorknob falls off, I call a guy. If I need a lightbulb changed, I might decide to tackle it myself but I’ll have to work out first.
How do you feel about Handy Manny getting a new tool?
Valderrama: It’s really cool because introducing a new character, we definitely add an interesting dynamic to the rest of the tools. It’s made it incredibly diverse. It’s really neat. The character Flicker is adorable. Funny story. The woman [Grey DeLisle] who does the voice for Flicker, she played my English teacher on the first season of That ’70s Show, so it’s a funny little integration there. It’s really neat to have a new member because it always helps to keep it fresh and different. I think the kids will enjoy that.
Do you want to see Manny and Kelly share something a bit more intimate?
Valderrama: I can’t speak on that because it’s Disney. So I can’t really give my opinion on those two characters, but they have a very close friendship. They supply each other with great things they need for each other.
Tom and Fred, how do you guys access your inner tools?
Kenny: Wow, I don’t think we can talk about that right now. It’s a preschool show. Playhouse Disney, and it’s not that kind of Playhouse.
Stoller: I play a nervous monkey wrench, which is stretch for me because I usually play war heroes and G.I. Joe animation commandoes.
Do you use Method acting?
Stoller: Just about neurotic people, look it up on Google.
Kenny: Cartoons are different for you [Fred] because for once, you can’t just rely on your Aryan good looks.
Stoller: Yes, it’s kind of hard.
Does Manny have a favorite tool?
Valderrama: He definitely does not have a favorite tool. Every one of his tools are part of his family and every single one is just as important as the other. He really preaches what working as a team is and being together as a family.
Does Wilmer have a favorite tool?
Valderrama: Yeah, my cars I guess. They’re my toys. I got the That ’70s Show car at my house.
How does Manny take Mr. Lopart’s antagonism?
Valderrama: He understands that you have to respect people’s boundaries, people’s theories about how they carry themselves. On of the special attributes to Manny is that he’s open-minded and people must be allowed to make their own mistakes. I think that’s his take on Lopart’s stubborness.
Kenny: (left) Handy Manny can do anything; he’s "Mr. Look At The Problem And Fix It Instantly." It’s sort of like my dad. We had a guy living across the street that was the handiest man on Earth when I was a kid. It was like, "You know, I’ve got three hours. I think I’ll put a deck on. I think I’ll build an addition on to the house. It’s a long weekend." My mother would be like, "Why can’t you be like Jim Russo?" "Oh, here we go again. Jim Russo!" I like Mr. Lopart. There’s an inner sadness to Mr. Lopart. He’s very close to his mother. He can’t fix anything, which I can totally identify with.
What are your Handy Manny fans like?
Valderrama: I’ve had so many parents come up to me and say, "Thank you, this show is so good for our kids." I never thought this show would be so influential.
Kenny: That’s the thing. People want your autograph, but they have to be driven everywhere.
Stoller: I don’t think little kids understand the concept. I’ll be at the Grove, and some parents will be like "Look, it’s Steve the tree from Oswald" or "It’s the wrench." [The kids] go, "No, it’s a man." So they don’t understand … [if I do the voice] then they get very confused. They think it’s some weird guy doing a voice.
Kenny: Sometimes you’re hoping you’re not being perceived as a weird guy pretending to do a voice in order to get near single moms and their children. I’m so paranoid about looking like a weirdo.
Are you a member of Club 33 (the fabled "Members Only" DisneyLand restaurant)?
Valderrama: Uh, I’m not allowed to discuss that. Let’s just say it’s really fun to go to DisneyLand.