SpongeBob SquarePants is a fictional character in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. He is voiced by Tom Kenny and first appeared on television in the series' pilot episode "Help Wanted" on May 1, 1999. SpongeBob was created and designed by cartoonist and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996. Hillenburg intended to create a series about an over-optimistic sponge that annoys other characters. Hillenburg compared the concept to Laurel and Hardy and Pee-wee Herman. As he drew the character, he decided that a "squeaky-clean square" (like a kitchen sponge) fits the concept. His name is derived from "Bob the Sponge", the host of Hillenburg's comic strip The Intertidal Zone that he originally drew in 1989 while studying at the California Institute of the Arts. SpongeBob is a naïve and goofy sea sponge who works as a fry cook in the fictional underwater town of Bikini Bottom.
SpongeBob has achieved popularity with both children and adults, though he has been involved in public controversy. The character appeared in a We Are Family Foundation video promoting tolerance, which was criticized by James Dobson of Focus on the Family because of the foundation's link to homosexuality.
SpongeBob is depicted as being an optimistic, cheerful, naive, enthusiastic yellow sea sponge residing in the undersea city of Bikini Bottom alongside an array of anthropomorphic aquatic creatures. He works as a fry cook at the fast food restaurant, the Krusty Krab, to which he is obsessively attached. At work, SpongeBob answers to Eugene Krabs, a greedy, miserly crab who shows SpongeBob favor (mainly because SpongeBob is willing to work enthusiastically and efficiently for very little pay), alongside his ill-tempered, hateful, snobbish neighbor Squidward Tentacles. His favorite hobbies include his occupation, jelly-fishing, karate (albeit at an elementary level, with Sandy Cheeks as his sensei), relentless fandom of superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, and blowing bubbles. He is often seen clowning around with his closest friend Patrick, who lives on the same street as SpongeBob two doors down (with Squidward's home separating the two). However, SpongeBob's varying intelligence, unlimited optimistic cheer, and irritating behavior often leads him to perceive the outcome of numerous endeavors and the personalities of those around him as happier and sunnier than they often actually are; for instance, he believes that Squidward enjoys his company in spite of the fact that he clearly loathes him. A recurring gag in several episodes is SpongeBob's extremely poor "boating" (driving) ability and his repeated failures to pass his road test at "Mrs. Puff's Boating School." He lives in an iconic pineapple with his pet snail Gary.