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During WonderCon 2016, I participated in a roundtable interview with the creator and cast of Fox’s animated series Bob’s Burgers. Present was Loren Bouchard, the Creator/Executive Producer/Writer of Bob’s Burgers, as well as the actors Kristen Schaal (Louise Belcher), John Roberts (Linda Belcher), Dan Mintz (Tina Belcher), and Larry Murphy (Uncle Teddy).
Q: How does 100 episodes of Bob’s Burgers feel?
Loren Bouchard: It feels great. You do not want to go into this taking anything for granted. You don’t. Speaking for everybody, 100 episodes feels absolutely amazing.
Q: So the Annie Awards [for animated TV shows]. You guys won twice?
LB: We won none last year. This year we got our first Annie Awards. Kirsten got it for voiceover – much deserved. And we won one for writing.
Kristen Schaal: I’m so happy that I won. And I’m still waiting for it. It takes like four months until you get it. But I’m going to put them side-by-side, and I’m going to spin them!
Q: What makes Bob’s Burgers special for you guys?
Schaal: I’m really proud of this show. When people say they like Bob’s Burgers, I squeal with them. I love it too. I’m right in there. I love watching it and I think that the writing is really excellent. I think that Loren does a kick-ass job of storytelling and just guiding the characters where they’re supposed to go and finding their arcs in a timely matter. I think that a) I’m proud of it and b) everyone on the show I’ve been friends with in the comedy world for 15 years. So it’s the one job that I’ve kept that has stayed around and feels like a real family outside of the animated one. Like, Loren is kind of like our dad, and these are kind of like my brothers and it is a little weird… Like, he [Loren] will pick up the check and stuff…
John Roberts: I love the characters and how specific the humor is to each character and how they kind of work together as a band, in a way. As the show grows, you’re pleasantly surprised, I think, as it cuts into different parts of their personality, and that brings out the humor even more, the more the audience connects with the characters. That’s a nice bond to have that everyone’s laughing at these quirky moments that are very specific and very smart of our writers and Loren to focus on.
Dan Mintz: The writers are so good are keeping it feeling natural but still being able to hit jokes. A lot of times you have choose between having a naturalistic comedy or jokes that are more forced and they [the writers] can always do both at the same time.
Larry Murphy: We certainly talk about how the writing has gotten stronger over the life of the show but also we record this like a teleplay. We don’t get to these [episodes] until people see them…
Schaal: A year after we record…
Murphy: I’m also blown away by the animation. The show looks great and it keeps looking better.
Bouchard: Yeah, the germ of the show really, the initial chemical reaction we were going for, was the cast, it was the actors, it was the voices. So part of what we do every day is make sure the picture supports the cast, supports the performances that we’re getting from these guys, and that’s been really gratifying, following along what Larry said, we’ve been working really hard to bring the animation, to bring the show to life in a way that honors the voice performances. We have fantastic directors, fantastic artists, and it’s been fun to grow that part of it.
Schaal: Loren has a really good ear for comedy, too, I think. He’ll hear a line and you’ll deliver it, and he’ll give you a line reading always.
Murphy: That keeps everyone’s performance the way Loren wants it.
Roberts: He is really patient as a boss. He lets us talk a lot. We get to carry on a lot. So he’s always keeping us focused, and keeping us back on the ball.
Q: When you’re carrying on, do you ever play with another character’s voice? And try to be a different character?
Roberts: Yeah, it never makes it to the show but of course, yeah.
Schaal: Larry can. Larry can do all of the characters.
Murphy [as Bob]: I’m happy to be here. This is great. [laughs]
Q: Is there a character that you’d want to trade places with?
Roberts: That would be a good episode, like a Freaky Friday. Linda and Tina switch places, huh?
Schaal: But the show would never do that, and that’s why I like the show. It could be a dream that someone had, but we’re not actually trading places in the reality of Bob’s Burgers. Like, it’s real, though it’s animated.
Q: Are there any big challenges you have trying to inhabit a character that’s animated?
Roberts: No, it’s so easy. The job is very easy.
Schaal: Hey! No, it’s not.
Roberts: Oh yeah, it’s not.
Schaal: What we do is very complicated and hard, and only a few people can do it. And it’s like one of those things where we drink a lot to get over the stress of trying to pull it off.
Roberts: She’s very right. Does anyone have tequila?
Schaal: He loves his tequila.
Bouchard: To answer your question, these characters were custom fit to these actors. We borrowed voices that they already use every day in their life, like their own voice or a character they were doing. They nicely loaned them to us. So it makes it hopefully, well, not easy, but easier for them.
Schaal: Oh, it’s very difficult, what we do. If you want to write that… It’s hard. [laughs]
Roberts: Your lines are there. You’re having to learn lines. You’re in a trailer all day by yourself, pretty much. You’re on set for 18 hours…
Schaal: What are you talking about right now?
Roberts: Regular TV shows compared to animation. I mean, I don’t want to screw up our renegotiations… [laughs]
Schaal: Everything you’re doing, you need to stop right now. Just stop. Next question. Next question.
Roberts: Yeah, I don’t know… I hit my head on the way here.
Q: Would you guys ever want to do a mash-up between your series and another cartoon?
Schaal: Never… I think a lot of cartoons rule, but again it goes back to what we were saying before. Like, maybe in a dream sequence or a story but it’s very important to keep the show grounded with the rules of the world.
Bouchard: It makes it hard. The fans have asked and clearly there is something about a crossover that lights up the back of people’s brains. I don’t know why but a crossover makes people excited, and it is hard for Bob’s to do it. It’s like we would accidentally break the show and then we would all feel dirty afterwards… So maybe Kristen is on to something, maybe it would be a dream sequence or something. I don’t know how.
Schaal: We also don’t like to do pop cultural references, as you’ve noticed, because again it sort of keeps the show timeless if you don’t constantly reference a show that’s popular in the moment. So Archer is very popular right now and it will be fun right now, but we want it to be a show that you tune into 10 years from now and it’s just like you’re watching it now.
Roberts: Nobody’s laughing at Murphy Brown anymore. [laughs] The Dukakis jokes are falling flat.
Schaal: He gets it! He’s back.
Roberts: I’m back. I was gone for a while.
Q: So Loren, you have two iconic female characters [Linda and Tina], and you’re saying from the get-go you had them cast as men?
Bouchard: Dan Mintz was a boy, he played a boy, and we discovered that he was an interesting voice for a girl while we were in development. And while we were looking towards that first pilot, we basically switched sex on the character, so it wasn’t from the get-go. He did starts as a boy. John Roberts has been doing that voice and that character on the Internet, so we knew that character would be perfect. And there are women that play men. Sarah and Laura Silverman play boys [twins Ollie and Andy] and they’re perfect little boys. They’re great at that. So I just think it’s one of the pleasures of animation. It hits your brain in unusual ways when an adult’s voice comes out of a kid’s mouth or when a man’s voice comes out of a woman’s mouth. I think there is just something that lights up the track and the show itself. I don’t know exactly how to explain it except that it’s one of the big levers you can pull in animation.
Q: John, Linda is so motherly. How did you encapsulate those qualities?
Roberts: I’m motherly. You know, I like to stay at home with the dogs all day and talk to them a lot. My mom – I spent a lot of time with her. My mom kind of raised me and my sister, and I spent a lot of time with her and mocking her. She’s from Brooklyn so she had a very big accent and most of my life she’s kind of allowed me to make fun of her… which is nice. She always thought it was kind of fun, and you know, moms are good material for every comic. It’s kind of a classic. But I do like to care for people.
Q: Some of my favorite episodes from the show have been Halloween episodes. Can you tease us with something that is coming up this Halloween?
Bouchard: Yes! Oh wait, that’s a spoiler… I will say this: we loved doing Halloween episodes, we love doing holiday episodes. For some reason, that has always helped us kind of bring our best game and it’s just a pleasure to see these characters celebrating these holidays, and it’s becoming really weird because if you do the math, they’ve had the same Christmas, the same Halloween, the same Thanksgiving over and over again. It’s the multiverse. It’s getting weird. You can’t refer to them because [the characters] haven’t aged, so it’s this “Groundhog Day” kind of vibe. But it’s fun!
Bob’s Burgers debuted in 2011 and is now into its sixth season. The series, which won the 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Bento Box Entertainment. It airs Sundays on Fox at 8:30 pm ET/PT. Dynamite Comics is currently publishing a Bob’s Burgers comic book series. Issue #10 of Bob’s Burgers Ongoing comes out on April 6th.