What you know Patrick Warburton from may depend on when you were born. It could be as Lemony Snicket from the current Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events. From 2007 through 2013, Warburton starred as Jeff Bingham on the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement. He also played the titular role on The Tick, but not the version whose second season dropped on Amazon last month. Nope, it was the original Fox series that lasted only nine episodes in 2001 despite praise from critics and a hardcore following.
Warburton also pops up in films and other television shows, his voice is featured in animated projects ranging from Family Guy and The Venture Brothers to The Emperor’s New Groove and its sequels, and the veteran actor also appears as a “control enthusiast” in National Car Rental commercials.
But for me, he is forever Puddy, Elaine Benes’ on-again/off-again boyfriend on Seinfeld. Seared into my brain is Puddy showing up at Jerry Seinfeld’s door in a multi-colored leather jacket, turning around to point both thumbs at the large number eight on the back and informing, “I’m Eight-Ball.”
Warburton does this with the manner and cadence of a Huntington Beach Bro, which is fitting considering that was the actor’s original hometown, where he attended Saints Simon and Jude Catholic School (or Saints Smarty and Rude, as it was known by my kids and their classmates at the rival St. John the Baptist in Costa Mesa). Warburton went on to Servite High School in Anaheim, then Newport Harbor High and Orange Coast College–before dropping out to pursue acting and modeling. I recall him talking on a podcast (Maron’s perhaps?) about his very religious upbringing by his very Catholic mother, who wasn’t really down with his whole Hollywood acting thing.
Huntington Beach figures into a project that brings Warburton back to Orange County this weekend. He will be reading from the bestselling Letters from a Nut series of books by Ted L. Nancy. The author sends letters to various companies and officials, asks something ridiculous and then gets sincere responses, all of which go into the books. This comes straight from the promo:
Ted L. Nancy is a customer in need of service. He writes to the City of Huntington Beach requesting a permit for operating his Electronic Nose Blowing Machine over a neighbor’s patio, invites Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel to become Treasurer of Ted’s Vacuum Club, asks Nordstrom about buying a mannequin that looks like his deceased neighbor to present to the grieving widow and more.
It brings to mind Don Novello’s Lazlo Toth letters that dated back to the 1970s, also became part of a series of books and were picked up by Spy magazine in the 1980s. The Spy letters actually inspired a certain OC Weekly writer to pose as a true patriot who fired off letters to various local officials, the results of which landed in a cover story that included “Matt Stanfil” volunteering for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign at a Mission Viejo GOP office. Like Toth and Stanfil, Nancy does not exist, and when the first Letters from a Nut book came out in 1997, many assumed Seinfeld was the author as he had written the forward and appeared on TV talk shows to promote it. Actually, the writer was and is his longtime collaborator, Barry Marder.
But Marder won’t be the one reading Ted L. Nancy letters Friday through Sunday at the Irvine Improv, Warburton will be. The shows are billed as “family friendly for audiences of all ages.”
DOOD! Get Puddy to sign your 8-ball jacket, bromaine!
The Improv, 527 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-5455; www.improv.com. Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.