Fan favorite, Emmy award-winning animated comedy Bob’s Burgers is making its PaleyFest LA debut at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 24th featuring the opportunity to see the cast –H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman and Larry Murphy– along with series creator Loren Bouchard doing a live table read. Table reads are always fun, and table reads by animated casts are a particular kind of peek behind the curtain. But Bob’s Burgers live script reads are something truly special, and if you’ve ever seen one live or on YouTube, you already know what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s because two of the voice actors cross gender to play their characters, or maybe it has something to do with how authentic the characters seem, but regardless of the reason, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to be at a Belcher family table read.
The full PaleyFest lineup runs from March 17-26. Get your tickets now and check out Bob’s Burgers on Sunday nights at 7:00 on FOX.
I got the chance to speak with series creator Loren Bouchard about the history of the show’s live performances, why Bouchard missed the very first table read, and how Bouchard and his team created such three-dimensional characters. He also dropped a little exclusive, the new Bob’s Burgers album release might not be the only audio headed our way. Could there be the possibility of an official Bob’s Burgers Podcast in the series future? Bouchard says it’s something he’s wanted to do for a long time.
The Interrobang: How long have you been doing these live reads for?
Loren Bouchard: Let’s see, that’s a good question. There was the first live table read, I actually missed it because it was in the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, and I went to go to the airport the night before, and my passport was expired. I was like, “Oh, well … Can I get a special … Can I get on anyway?” The lady was like, “No”. I said, “I have a table read, I have to be there. I’m reading the stage directions”. She looked at me like, “Oh my God. Get out of here, kid”. Then I’m calling Fox. “Does Fox have any special powers?” They were like, “No! We’re just a TV network. We can’t change the law”. I was like, “I guess I’m missing it”.
I can’t remember when that was. I want to say it was probably … Pretty early on, third or fourth season. What was nice about it was afterwards I was talking to Jon Benjamin, who plays Bob, and I asked him, how it was? He was giving me the rundown, and he said, “The table read was actually the best part”.
I was surprised that he said that. I thought that he wouldn’t like it. I thought that it would sort of feel like work, or it would be a little bit of a chore, or something. He said, “No, it was really interesting, the extent to which the fans really seemed to like hearing a live table read”. That’s what started Bob’s Live. He kind of gave us permission to do these live table reads, as a half of that comedy show. Obviously, the stand up comedy was the other half. We started doing live table reads, after that. We did a little tour on the West Coast, we did a little tour in the Midwest, a little bit on the East Coast. We’ve been doing them for awhile now. It is fun. It’s interesting because when we do them here at the office, our workday table reads. Obviously, we do almost Friday. There, everyone’s reading along in a script, and everyone knows that we’re still working on it. It’s different when you do it live in front of an audience, and they can’t read along, for one thing, and secondarily, they’re there to be entertained. In that situation, you want to make sure that script is tight.
The Interrobang: Was there any concern in the beginning that live readings might dispel the magic?
Loren Bouchard: I never worried about that, only because I’m just such a big fan of these folks. For me, it’s such a pleasure to see Linda’s voice coming out John Roberts’ mouth. It’s a particular kind of cognitive dissonance, but I never think of it as ruining the magic. I was never worried about that. I figured everyone would enjoy it as much as I do.
The Interrobang: I remember being excited when I heard you brought on John Roberts because I had been a fan of his YouTube videos. Do you remember how you found those YouTubes before you started working with him?
Loren Bouchard: I do. I remember it very well. His manager was also Eugene’s manager, and she wrote on the back of a card, she just wrote, “The Tree”. I was like, “The Tree? That’s what you want me to look up?” She said, “Yes, it’s called ‘The Tree'”. I remember going back to my hotel room that night, and being like, “There isn’t gonna be a video called ‘The Tree'”. Sure enough, I found it, and I was instantly in love, and I reached out the next day. This was before we were doing Bob’s. I just was like, “Yeah, I want that guy to … If he’s willing to do that voice, then I’m ready to write for it”.
The Interrobang: Did John come first? Or was it H. Jon Benjamin? Which John did you bring on board to this project first?
Loren Bouchard: I’ve never done a project without Jon Benjamin. He is just … When I think of, “What am I gonna do next?” He’s in it, because he’s … I don’t know, he’s my muse, or something. He comes first, and last, and everyone else, most of those folks I’ve known for a long time. The only person I didn’t know personally was Dan Mintz, but Jon Benjamin had recommended him. He had been working with him as a writer. They’d both been in the writer’s room for Demetri Martin’s show, the first season of Demetri Martin’s show on Comedy Central. John Roberts, sorry, Jon Benjamin said, “You’ve got to hear this guy. You gotta hear his voice. Every time he opens his mouth in the writer’s room, everyone laughs”, so he was excited before he came in, and that’s why we added a third kid. It was originally just gonna be two kids.
The Interrobang: These three children are so weird, but it’s such a real weirdness, Some of that obviously came from the cast, but how did you develop their personalities? Did you know kids like this?
I have wanted for a long time to release the show as a podcast, just for free, not to try and make any money off it.
The Interrobang: You’re not aiming to create a political show, and yet there’s inspiration to be drawn, and role modeling taking place. Is that intentional or it just happens that way?
Loren Bouchard: Both. We loved our characters, and we didn’t want them to be shitty to each other. When you start with that, you end up, I think dealing in a certain … I think you end up in tolerance and kindness, end up being sort of part and parcel of what you’re doing, and then, I guess, there’s on some level, it starts to feel like a political choice because … Everything feels political now, but even a few years ago, I think it’s because that’s not on TV that much, or if it is, it’s not quite as featured as we have it. We were just trying to write characters that like each other, and comedy that follows from that, but it ended up, I think, again pulling us towards a conscience choice about how it’s gonna feel when you watch this show.
We knew enough to protect it early on, partly because again, the cast themselves enjoy each other, and take care of each other. If you have nice people in the booth, in a way, you don’t want to write jokes that are too mean. Which is not to say, I don’t like the occasional mean joke. They’re very funny, they can be very funny, but we just don’t go too far with it, I guess.
The Interrobang: I also wanted to ask you about the choice of using stand-up comedians so heavily in this show. Obviously, of course, Dr. Katz was very stand-up based, but this is such a different kind of show. What made you want to work with so many stand-up comics?
Loren Bouchard: I feel like we got so … Dr. Katz, I was incredibly lucky to stumble into that situation. We were, those of us that were making the show, I think lucky we … My boss at the time, Tom Snyder and Jonathan Katz, who created the show together, they really knew what we were doing was recording great voices and great performances and that it was about the audio. You know what I mean?
First and foremost, we were creating a kind of radio play. Nobody is better in a way, nobody is more trained, then a stand up comedian….they’re like Jedi.
Everyone else, by comparison, actors who get to use their faces, because they’re on camera, or especially actors who are attractive, and I would say furthermore, unfortunately, a lot of voice-over actors, they don’t really live by the sword the way stand-up comedians do. Those folks, when they do it, in a live situation, are working without a net, so they’re skills are honed in a way that by the time they get into the studio, it’s such a pleasure because they’re just gonna be funny. You can almost guarantee it. Especially if you write towards their voice. That’s the other thing. They’ll have a distinctive voice that you could go look at in a club, or YouTube, so you know … If you’re gonna write a part for Todd Barry, you know how to use his Todd Barry-ness. Which, I think, is such a powerful weapon.
The Interrobang: That’s fascinating because I’ve always thought that the show stands up as audio only. I know because when I get tired of podcasts, I listen to it in the car and it’s fantastic.
Loren Bouchard: That’s so great to hear. I have wanted for a long time to release the show as a podcast, just for free, not to try and make any money off it. But just for the people who might want to listen to it in their car, because we do try and make it work as audio only. We often will put a line in, and we say, “Tell, don’t show”. Or we say, “For the blind”, because we’re aware of the fact that you want to kind of hear the actor say, “Lin, what are you doing with that fork?” It’s somehow more fun for us, if you could close your eyes and still know what’s going on.