SpongeBob SquarePants is the titular character and protagonist of the American animated television series of the same name. He is voiced by actor and comedian Tom Kenny, and first appeared on television in the series' pilot episode "Help Wanted" on May 1, 1999.
SpongeBob SquarePants 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) fit 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 the 1980s while teaching marine biology to visitors of the Ocean Institute. SpongeBob is a naïve and goofy sea sponge who works as a fry cook in the fictional underwater town of Bikini Bottom.
The character has received positive critical response from media critics and achieved popularity with both children and adults, though he has been involved in public controversy. SpongeBob 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.