LOS ANGELES " He's a perennial winner. So why is SpongeBob SquarePants sounding so nervous before Saturday night's Kids Choice Awards, Hollywood's most raucous, fun-loving awards show, the one broadcast live before an audience of 10,000 screaming preteens, teens and tweens?
"I don't get nervous very often over voiceover gigs," says SquarePants, who is lesser known to audiences as Tom Kenny, Hollywood's Man of a Thousand Voices. "But, man, a screaming, live broadcast that goes on across the country, where any flub or mistake you make is instantly beamed into people's living rooms and there's no do-overs. It's one of the most stressful " but fun " jobs I do in the course of a year."
He'll be doing it again this year, providing the mellifluous voice that is heard but never seen and that keeps the Kids Choice Awards show (8 p.m) on Nickelodeon) moving at its customary frenetic pace.
When it's time to give away the trophy for favorite cartoon, SquarePants himself usually heads to the podium in animated form. (He's won four years in a row and is nominated again this time.) Kenny then switches effortlessly from what he calls his World Wrestling Federation announcer voice to the high-pitched giggle that defines America's favorite aquatic creature.
"Most kids watching the broadcast probably aren't making the connection between that WWF-sounding announcer and the little yellow sponge that they love," says Kenny, who although laughing at the moment, sounds absolutely nothing like SpongeBob SquarePants.
"If they are connecting the dots," he adds, "then I'm doing a lousy job."
As its veteran announcer, Kenny has seen the show " in its 21st year " expand dramatically over the years.
According to Nickelodeon, the show is seen in more than 205 million households across the U.S., Europe, Russia, Israel, Asia, Australia and Latin America.
Miley Cyrus, the hottest thing in pop music at the moment, is scheduled to perform her hit song "Girls Night Out" at this year's show. The Naked Brothers Band will debut the song "I Don't Want to Go to School" from their forthcoming album.
"I'm curious to see Miley Cyrus perform. She's such a phenomenon and I've never seen her live so I'd kind of like to see what all the hype is about," said Quddus Philippe, a former host of MTV's "Total Request Live," who plans to be at the show.
"I just hope I don't get slimed because I plan on wearing my outfit for the rest of the evening," he said, laughing.
Indeed, green, gooey slime has become one of the show's hallmarks. Such celebrities as Robin Williams, Tom Cruise and Pink have been doused with it (actually it was colored pink for Pink). One year the band Green Day sprayed it on the audience. Still another year, BMX champion Mat Hoffman jumped out of a plane on a bike and parachuted into a pool of it.
Meanwhile, when the awards are handed out this year, one of the leading nominees will be Cyrus, who is up for favorite female singer and favorite TV actress and whose show, "Hannah Montana" on the rival Disney network, is also nominated.
Awards are voted on by kids themselves, who go to Nickelodeon's Web site to cast ballots.
"Last year we had around 40 million votes. We reached that last week and we're close to 60 million now," Marjorie Cohn, executive vice president of development and original programming for Nickelodeon, said earlier this week.
Kids are also voting on what outfit Miranda Cosgrove, star of the kids show "iCarly," should wear " and what kind of vehicle in which Jack Black, the show's host, should arrive on stage.
All of that kid-friendly input is what Cohn believes makes the Kids Choice Awards a hit.
"I think the show is still the only place where kids pick their favorite stars and it's different than other awards shows because, as we all know, kid-targeted movies never make it to the big awards shows," she said.
But they do at the Kids Choice Awards, where favorite movie nominees this year include "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Are We Done Yet?" Eddie Murphy is even nominated for his panned performance in "Norbit." And skateboarder Tony Hawk could beat out baseball's Alex Rodriguez or basketball's Shaquille O'Neal for favorite male athlete (as he has in the past).
"Celebrities totally respect kids (at the Kids Choice Awards)," Cohn said. "They turn up. Everyone's there. ... It's everybody who kids want to see most in the whole world."