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What Life Is Really Like For The Star Of Napoleon Dynamite Now

In 2004, Napoleon Dynamite took the world by storm. An odd storm, perhaps, and not one that could have been predicted. No one was betting on the comedy centered around a school election, reconciliation through tetherball, and finding love in early internet chat rooms to become the cultural landmark it became. But it did. For what seemed like years, an entire generation couldn't stop making jokes about ligers, llamas, and sweet skills. 

But what's become of Jon Heder, the man who wore the iconic Vote for Pedro t-shirt? A lot, as it turns out. Heder is a family man, a committed Scoutmaster, and yes, still very much an actor. We rounded up some of the most interesting aspects of the life of the man who brought us all the greatest school assembly dance of all time — and we didn't even have to give up our tater tots to do it.

Voice acting in animated TV shows and movies

While Heder is most famous for a live-action role — and the incomparable physicality of his vacant-eyed, dance-move-busting, perfectly awkward performance — he's spent the years since exploring the many possibilities of acting in animation. While this does include playing the title role in the short-lived Napoleon Dynamite animated series, he's gone far beyond that at this point, into the realms of children's programming, video games, and a feature films. 

His film roles include the Surf's Up movies, Monster House, A Mouse Tale, and an Italian adaptation of Pinocchio. In terms of video games, his signature role is Seth in Epic Mickey. But it is TV animation where he really shines: from playing Oskar Greason in Star Vs. The Forces of Evil to voicing Ryu in The Legend of Korra, he's been a part of some of the most acclaimed and successful productions around. Recently, he's been exploring the voice acting possibilities of podcasting and web-based productions, including a guest spot on tabletop-gaming adventure Critical Role and a starring role in horror comedy Woke Up Dead.

Working in absurdist comedies

It's not all family-friendly comedy for Heder though — he's been known to get positively weird. Heder has appeared on all manner of bizarre web productions, side projects, and short films, lending his signature strangeness to star-studded and largely unknown ensembles alike. From Robot Chicken to Swedish Dicks, his range of expression and delivery have added the perfect touch of surrealism to many a production, but there is no work that more encapsulates this facet of his filmography more than Sockbaby

A four-part action comedy series pioneered by Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel and director, editor, and fight choreographer John Soares, Sockbaby is a hallucinatory spoof of everything from Blaxploitation to classic sci-fi. It's the kind of thing you get introduced to in college then quote obsessively for years afterward. Heder plays the leader of the dastardly Frogmen, who promptly gives birth to his own doppelganger. He might be a kind-hearted family man, but Heder is far from afraid of the truly bizarre.

Enjoying family life

It's not all glitz, glamour, and bizarre online comedy for Heder, however. Mostly, he seems to love his life as a typical family man more than anything else. Heder married fellow Brigham Young University alum Kirsten Heder (nee Bales) in 2002, and they have four children together that they are currently in the thick of raising in their California home. Heder's Instagram is a smorgasbord of fatherly joy: making a mask to complete his son's Avatar: The Last Airbender Halloween costume, taking his kids to a Heifer International fundraising event to pet some particularly strange looking llamas, and exploring the national parks on foot. 

Though he has worked steadily for years now and shows no signs of stopping, it is clear that Heder's home life is very much the sun around which he orbits, and his family is always his first priority. He lives a quiet life, for someone in Hollywood, and it seems to suit him just fine.

Participating in the Boy Scouts

Heder's interests extend far beyond the performing arts. He's an ardent supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, and has served it in a variety of roles and from more than a few different levels. Growing up, Heder achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in scouting. To become an Eagle Scout, the young man in question must spend years earning the proper number of merit badges, devote himself to service and leadership, and design and complete an Eagle Scout Service Project. 

Heder's involvement in scouting is a family affair he shares with his father and brothers, and he has gone on to become a Scoutmaster. Despite his achievements and enthusiasm, as in all areas of life, he is notably proud when pressed for details about his Eagle Project, in which he organized a number of boys into building and installing bird houses at a nearby park to encourage the development of a nature trail. Hit movies come and go, but what you achieve as a child stays with you forever.

Revisiting his Napoleon fame

Though his career has extended far beyond Vote for Pedro t-shirts and jokes about "skills," Heder isn't averse to revisiting his signature performance. On screen, he reprised the role in the Robot Chicken sketch "Napoleon Bonamite," and recorded a number of commercials with Pedro himself, Efren Ramirez, to promote the 2005 Utah State Fair. These callbacks extended into the realm of animation when, in 2014, he played the part of Napoleon Bonafrog on Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is to say nothing of the many interviews and appearances he makes in which, in the middle of promoting or discussing something entirely different, he is called to perform a famous line or endures a knowing joke from the host. 

Happily, Heder takes it in stride, and has never seemed to lose his gratefulness for his iconic role. "Parents are introducing it to their kids, friends are introducing it to their younger friends, 14 years since it came out," Heder said. "I think it will always relate to youth culture and the awkwardness of being young and being on your own without any responsibility."

Getting to be choosy with roles

In the years since Napoleon Dynamite, Heder has had myriad opportunities presented to him. He keeps the details to himself for the most part, but it's clear that he's turned down more than a few chances to be part of some projects that ended up going the distance. While some might see this as foolish, Heder considers it an asset — because of his early break, he can pick and choose exactly what kind of work he wants to do, and calibrate a work-life balance few actors have the chance to make real. 

When asked by Vulture why he didn't become "the next Jonah Hill," Heder was quick to clarify that this was a conscious choice. "I enjoy success and I certainly want the projects I did to do well. But I realized how happy I am trying to be somewhat normal without becoming huge. And not so much normal, but grounded, down-to-earth." He went on to compare his work to that of his father, a family doctor — though they're seemingly dissimilar, he's always wanted the same level of community and quiet in his life. This affords him the option of saying no to projects he finds distasteful as well, which he clarifies as "raunchy" comedies. As he summed it up, "I've never been interested in doing those kinds of projects." And he's never had to be.

Kicking back with video games

Though they are, largely, enormously different people, there's definitely one thing Heder and Napoleon have in common: they're both huge nerds. A quick look through Heder's various social media accounts reveals a man who isn't just into a Star Wars movie now and then, but someone devoted to genre fiction, and video games in particular. His efforts on his kids' homemade Halloween costumes involve enough work to be more accurately categorized as cosplay. He's sought out niche gaming series like Critical Role to be a part of (playing a character named Lionel Gayheart, no less). 

His Instagram reveals him clowning around with his children on a Nintendo-themed backdrop, celebrating the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, fundraising for his appearance with nerd icons the Aquabats, and playing the Fortnite Pro Am at E3. It's a delight to see him share this side of himself with friends, family, and loved ones, but it's also just fun to see the guy people know for having a terrible perm and hiding tater tots in his sweatpants kick back with a copy of Uncharted 4. Game on, Jon Heder.

Expanding into more dramatic work

Though he's not strayed too far from his comedy roots, Heder does dip a toe into the world of dramatic film now and then — especially the independent ones. In recent years he appeared in Weepah Way for Now, a drama about the relationship between two sisters, a biopic entitled Walt Before Mickey, and For Ellen, a downbeat story of divorce and creative failure. Drama has been a fairly recent venture, as prior to that his filmography is almost entirely defined by comedic roles, with minor genre twists as in Just Like Heaven's flights of fantasy and The Benchwarmers' borrowing of sports tropes. 

Heder has stayed tight-lipped about this detour — perhaps it's an experiment he's still waiting to see the results of, or a new direction entirely. Regardless, it's a pleasure to see him do his thing as an actor, especially when he's pushed to take his skills to new emotional places.

Being active in the Mormon church

Beyond Heder's role in one of the biggest sleeper hits of the 21st century so far; beyond his involvement in scouting, video games, and podcasts; beyond, indeed, his passion for the performing arts is his foundation in the Mormon church. Heder's entire life has been shaped by his faith, from his time at Brigham Young University to his choosiness when it comes to what projects he's part of. 

As he said when asked of the effects of his upbringing on his career, "These are the standards I live by and whatever comes my way in the future, whether filmmaking or animation or whatever, I'm going to do my best to live by those standards." Regardless of fame, fortune, or fairweather friends, Heder will always have those grounding principles to guide him. If the future is like the past, it seems like they'll take him far.