X-POSITION: Burnham, Culver, Villalobos Spell Out "E Is For Extinction"
Bob’s Burgers opened, if only temporarily, over the weekend in Midtown Manhattan as creator Loren Bouchard and part of the cast of Fox’s quirky animated comedy — H. Jon Benjamin (Bob), Dan Mintz (Tina), John Roberts (Linda) and Larry Murphy (Teddy) – gathered for a presentation at New York Comic Con.
Along with answering questions from fans, the panelists gave the giddy audience a look at what’s ahead for this season, and commented on the show’s recent renewal.
“The fact that they had the confidence to pick it up for a fifth season, before the first of the fourth premiered, was very encouraging,” Bouchard said. “Fox has been incredible supportive.”
The premise of Bob’s Burgers is simple: Bob Belcher runs a burger joint with the help of his family, made up of excitable wife Linda, gawky teen daughter Tina, spastic middle child Gene (Eugene Mirman) and trouble-making youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal), who’s never without her signature pink bunny ears. However, when your wife often bursts into insane songs, your boy-crazy teen writes erotic friend fiction, your son falls for a toilet seat, and your little girl tells her class you serve human meat in your burgers, no day is without a bit of mayhem.
The panel kicked off with a montage of zingers, songs and screams that bled into the elated cries of the audience that gathered in the Empire Stage Theater. Bouchard, who served as master of ceremonies, generously gave the audience credit for the show’s continued success. “You can’t do this kind of work — it’s too hard — without fans like you,” he said.
Benjamin, by far the show’s best-known cast member, having lent his distinct deep voice to Archer, Dr. Katz, The Venture Bros. and Home Movies, was true to his cantankerous persona, taking the audience down a peg, saying, “You guys got a lot of credit for everything we’ve done. And I have never seen a single one of you do anything for this show.” The next target of his comical curmudgeon shtick was a baby in the front row. “Will someone shut that baby up!” Benjamin demanded. “Who brought a baby?”
Told it was, in fact, Mintz’s baby, Benjamin continued, “Why would you bring your baby and sit it in the front row. It’s going to cry the whole time. That’s a terrible idea.” Someone cried out it was “Tina’s baby,” and he repeated the phrase, softening a moment. But then said sternly, “I’m serious now, shut up that baby.”
The uncomfortable moment faded as Roberts greeted the audience in Linda’s voice with a big “Hi!” Some fans may remember that before Bob’s Burgers, Roberts was using this voice on his viral video “Christmas Tree.” But the character’s original source of inspiration was his own mom, a proud Brooklyn native who was in the audience.
But as warm as Roberts’ reception was, it didn’t compare to the first time Mintz, who plays the ever-groaning Tina, spoke. He sounds exactly like the painfully awkward and comically soft-spoken girl. Any time he was asked a question, it was virtually impossible to make out what he said, as the sheer sound of his voice incited overwhelming laughter from the crowd. As he spoke, people in the audience squealed “It’s Tina! He sounds just like Tina!”
“This is the way it always works, ” Benjamin said. “He never gets to answer.” Again and again, panel questions were directed at Mintz, and his stumbling voice was drowned out by the warm laughter of his fans.
Tina was a clear fan favorite in the room, and Mintz admitted he has heard from viewers who tell him they relate to her in all her teen awkwardness. Asked if he was like Tina when he was younger, Mintz won cheers by saying, “I’m kind of like her now.” The character was once meant to be even more like Mintz, as it was originally going to be a teen boy named Dan.
Tina love hit a New York Comic Con-level madness when one cosplayer, a young Asian man dressed as Tina — complete with her flat tone — went to the microphone and asked whether the panel would read “Erotic-Con fiction.” With urging from the crowd, they did act out the script, which mostly asked that they each touch their own butts before commanding they compliment the piece’s writer, become his best friend and pay off his student loans. And we have video:
In the form of scheduled entertainment, Bouchard showed two clips from upcoming episodes. One was a Christmas special that has the Belcher’s scrambling to get a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. “We got to go get the tree!” Roberts said, referencing his viral video. As a callback to Linda’s origin in Roberts’ aforementioned YouTube short, the overeager mother had bought a tree way too early. By the time Christmas hits it is dead, and needs to be replaced. With the family out on this quest, Bob needs Teddy to look after the ham in the oven. But that puts him in the path of a Santa trap presumably set by the kids. Meanwhile, the Belchers discover they have a yuletide nemesis in a mysterious figure who drives a tractor-trailer shaped like a giant candy cane.
The second clip is from an episode called “Seaplane” that has Linda learning how to fly from a lothario pilot known as “Upskirt Kurt.” In the scene Bouchard showed, Mr. Fishoeder tells Bob about Kurt’s seduction scheme. First, he flies them out over water. Then he fakes engine trouble, telling the “bored wife” that he must perform and emergency landing on a beautiful and remote island, where the “bored wife cheats death, and then cheats on her husband!”
When it came to questions from the audience, most of them dealt with the possibility of crossovers with Adam Reed’s Archer and other Bouchard shows like Home Movies, Dr. Katz and Lucy: Daughter of the Devil. Of course, there was a Bob’s Burgers crossover on Archer, but Benjamin noted that was Reed’s idea. Bouchard is far less interested in the device, although he said he is open to “soft crossovers.” For instance, Jonathan Katz, who lent his voice to a previous Bouchard/Benjamin animated series Dr. Katz, will be featured in an upcoming episode, although not as Bob’s father. Instead, he’ll play the dean of a college where Bob gets caught up in a prank war serving as the guest chef for a fraternity.
Off the cuff, Benjamin suggested a soft-crossover possibility, saying, “I always say Archer should drive by in, like, a car chase, like, ‘Aaaaaaaaah!'” Aside from that, there seems little likelihood of crossovers on Bob’s Burgers.
Asked whether Bob still hangs out with Marshmallow and other the transvestite hookers he met when he moonlighted as a cab driver, Benjamin said, “I hope so, they’re fun. Didn’t he do crack with them? I feel like maybe he’s not doing crack anymore, but he’s still hanging out with trannies.”
Bouchard added we’ll be seeing more of Marshmallow this season. Also likely to return is Bob’s nemesis from the “Sexy Dance Fighting” episode, Jairo. The show’s writers have pitched an episode in which Jairo dies. Bouchard hasn’t committed to that concept, but he’s confident the Capoeira teacher will come back to bother Bob some more.
Roberts’ favorite ridiculous Linda song is “Harry Truman,” wherein she sings “He’s dead in the ground. He’s dead in the ground! He’s dead dead dead dead dead!”
Will Teddy and Mort ever find love, possibly with each other? Bouchard admitted that Teddy and Mort getting married is a popular pitch from his team, but added,”I hope they don’t, only because I like to have the show not grow too much. We gave Tina her 13th birthday, and that’s it!”
Impressed by the show’s sense of spontaneity, one fan asked how much of the final product is scripted versus improvisation. Bouchard explained that the script they initially record with is totally complete, needing nothing to be added from the actors. However, when they record the producers are open to what the actors improvise in the booth, and will work in elements they like.
Asked how they get the show’s family dynamic to feel so real, Bouchard credited the grounded performances of his cast. But Benjamin was quick to give the show’s creator credit, saying, “He really focuses on making it a real family at all times, even in some of the crazier situations that they get in.”
As the panel went on, it devolved from a Q&A into an actual touchy-feely love fest. Aside from touching butts, the panel gave out hugs to three fans who ran up on stage — after asking nicely. When the discussion finally drew to a close, there was a rush to the stage as fans clamored for photos, autographs, or just a chance to share a word with the onscreen family to whom we’ve all grown so close.
Bob’s Burgers airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.