Bob’s Burgers Live – The Beacon Theater (New York, NY), 3.27.15

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I may be in my thirties, but I still watch a lot of animated programming. I’ve been a fan of the genre since I was little, getting up early on Saturday mornings to see the latest installments of The Smurfs, Muppet Babies, Scooby Doo, Josie and the Pussycats and the Gummi Bears. As I got older, I switched over to Jem and the Holograms and Beverly Hills Teens; my brother and I found common ground with He-Man and She-Ra. Then it was on to The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, Daria, South Park, Family Guy, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and SpongeBob Squarepants. Now I’ve added Bob’s Burgers and Archer to my rotation. In my opinion, you’re never too old for cartoons.

Given my love of Bob’s Burgers, I was very excited to hear that the cast of the show was going out on a limited tour. Dubbed Bob’s Burgers Live, I wasn’t really sure what the show would comprise of, but I knew had to be there. Thanks to a pre-sale, I was able to snatch up tickets early. I was excited for the show, despite the fact that history shows that I get a little freaked out when the voice of a cartoon character comes out of a human person. If a person is doing a voice, it is less problematic, but if their regular speaking voice is the same or too similar to the voice that they use for an animated show, it throws me off. It’s like my brain cannot process what is happening. I first noticed this when I saw Seth MacFarlane on a talk show – his voice and Family Guy’s Brian are one in the same and I just couldn’t deal with the voice of a cartoon dog coming out of a human. This only happens when I am not familiar with the voice actor beforehand – celebrities that loan their voices to animated films doesn’t faze me in the least. But if I see Julie Kavner in another movie, I fixate on the fact that Marge Simpson’s voice is part of the scene. Intellectually, I of course understand how voice work works, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Yes – I’m weird.

If you’ve never seen the show – and you should – Bob’s Burgers is about a family that runs a fledgling burger restaurant. Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) is the default voice of reason, since his three kids and wife all march to the beat of their own drummer and occasionally need to be brought back to reality. This is not to say that Bob isn’t weird in his own way; he just comparatively more normal. He’s a great cook and a terrible businessman. Linda (John Roberts) is the matriarch of the Belcher clan who loves life and is enthusiastic about pretty much everything. She’s prone to break into song and she encourages her children to be their own people and be themselves. She tends not to think things all the way through and can be a pushover, especially where her offspring are concerned. Tina (Dan Mintz) is the eldest Belcher child and she’s socially awkward and struggling with going through puberty. She’s obsessed with boys, butts and zombies. Gene (Eugene Mirman) is the middle child and is the most similar to his mother in his offbeat sense of humor and musical inclinations. He’s probably the least bright of the Belcher kids, which makes him easy to manipulate. Louise (Kristen Schaal) is the baby of the family and is easily the most aggressive member of the family. She and Stewie Griffin from Family Guy would probably get along famously, as they both tend toward dark thoughts and wants to be in control of everything. The family all work together and live in an apartment above the restaurant. The kids are terrible employees, but they are free labor and while the family lives paycheck to paycheck, they genuinely love each other and enjoy each other’s company.

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As I filed into the Beacon Theater Friday night with a bunch of other Bob’s Burgers fans, I had only the vaguest ideas of what the show would actually look like. The crowd was in a jovial mood and many people came dressed up as characters from the show. There were many Louises floating about, which was not surprising given that not only is she a great character but she’s pretty easy to cosplay (put on a pink bunny ears hat and you’re basically done). I saw a few Tinas in the mix as well and one devoted audience member bridged out beyond the Belcher family to dress up like Jimmy Jr, Tina’s crush. I was impressed. I’m not a person that would dress up, but I always respect the people who have the dedication to do so. That takes some self-confidence and shows some true passion. I had great seats in the fifth row, so I was close to the action.

Jon Benjamin and Eugene Mirman came out to greet the crowd and give us the basic structure of the evening – each of the five main cast members would come out and do some stand-up, followed by some clips from the show, a table read by the cast and then end with audience Q&A. The stand-up intrigued me, since I didn’t know enough about the background of many of the actors to know if they had previous stand-up experience. I’d seen Kristen Schaal perform previously at the Oddball Festival so I knew that she was up to the task, but I wasn’t sure about the others. Turns out that they all were, to varying degrees. Everyone was funny, but some cast members seemed much more comfortable doing a short set than others. They were individually on stage about ten minutes each and it became clear that not only do the cast of Bob’s Burgers generally sound like their animated counterparts, many of them actually look like them as well. I didn’t really know what any of them looked like besides Schaal and Benjamin, so it was kind of jarring to see. The physical resemblance between Dan Mintz and Eugene Mirman and their respective characters is hard to miss:

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So basically, I was watching Tina and Gene Belcher doing standup. That was most problematic for Mintz, since his material dealt a lot with his girlfriend, which just sounded so odd delivered in a voice that we most associate with a 13 year old cartoon character. I wasn’t the only one in the audience that found this amusing, since every time he said the words “my girlfriend” there was slight titter from the audience. Roberts probably had the biggest personality on stage and sounded the least like the character that he portrayed; there were traces of Linda in his performance, but he was able to distinguish himself the most from his character. It was fun, but I was glad that they all did short sets, since I was more anxious for Bob’s Burgers-related content.

We then got to see a few clips from upcoming episodes of the show – two from an episode this season about Linda’s birthday and one from the Halloween special next season. The clip for next season wasn’t finished – the mouths on the characters were not psyched to the dialogue yet – but the episode looks awesome. I’m bummed that I have to wait until next fall to see the rest of it. The clips from Linda’s birthday episode were great too – the downside of seeing the clips with a roomful of enthusiastic fans was that we were all laughing so hard that we missed some of the dialogue. There are worse problems to have. It was cool to get a sneak peek at what’s coming down the pike. We were then briefly treated to some musical numbers from Roberts and Mirman, as they sang some of their characters songs. I was glad that they had Mirman sing Gene’s snake song:

 

The cast then came out on stage to participate in a table read for an upcoming episode. Yup – more advanced access, which I always enjoy. Since the episode that they were performing hasn’t aired yet, they only did the first two acts of the show so as to not spoil it completely. Even without the resolution, it was pretty funny – the episode focuses around the kids imagining what Bob and Linda’s first meeting would have been like if Bob didn’t have his mustache. Because it was a full table read, some additional actors were on stage as well – Larry Murphy, who plays fan favorite Teddy, and the great Kevin Kline, who voices the Belcher’s landlord Mr. Fischoeder. The best part about the table read, aside from seeing the cast all together, was how much they clearly enjoyed doing the show. They were laughing when it wasn’t their turn to perform and Roberts really seemed to get into being Linda. So it was nice to see that they find the show as funny as we do. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the rest of the episode when it finally airs. Good stuff.

I notoriously hate audience Q&A so I did have half a thought about ducking out early to make sure that I caught the earlier train home, but logistically that would have been difficult to do given my seat location. I didn’t want to disrupt the rest of the people in my row just because I think that fans generally ask asinine questions and ramble way too much. Thankfully, they did the Q&A in the best way possible, using pre-selected questions that had been submitted before the show. This basically took the audience out of it, which was perfect, though even the pre-selected questions weren’t generally very good. Thankfully, they dispensed with this pretty quickly; the only really interesting nugget that we found out is that there will be a Bob’s Burger album coming out. Hooray.

One of the final questions, which was probably a plant, was to ask the cast to sing “Electric Love,” a song from the episode “Topsy” when Louise is forced to do a science project on Thomas Edison. Annoyed by this, she decides to focus her project on Edison’s electrocution of an elephant, the titular Topsy, to annoy her teacher who is a big Edison fan. Classic Louise. This seemed like a fortuitous request since Kevin Kline was there, though they were missing Megan Mullaly, who voices the kid’s Aunt Gayle. Mullaly was out of the country, so no surprise appearance, but they found a suitable replacement for her half of the song – Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. The crowd went nuts when he came out, since Flight of the Conchords haven’t made a lot of appearances lately; I was less awe-struck since I saw the Conchors at the aforementioned Oddball Festival two summers ago. Still, it was a nice surprise and they got the whole audience to sing along with the song.

 

It was a great way to end the night.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • Seth Myers was at the show, sitting a few rows ahead of me in the front row. That was my second celebrity sighting of the day, as I saw Kirk from The Roots earlier that afternoon.
  • I’d never been to the Beacon Theater and I have to say it was really beautiful inside. It’s also conveniently located to a subway station, which is an added bonus. I’d definitely go to a show there again.
  • Kevin Kline actually came out on stage with an eyepatch on, to match the attire of his character. Outstanding.
  • Worst question from the Q&A – Who would win a fight – Bob or Archer (both voiced by H. Jon Benjamin)? Not even a question – the super spy would wipe the floor with the burger chef. Don’t waste our time with this foolishness.

I had such a fun night at Bob’s Burgers Live, even if it was a late night for me (I got home from the City after 2 am). In fact, I spent most of the rest of the week lounging on my couch, recovering from the late night and watching all the back episodes of Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. I haven’t watched many of the episodes multiple times, so it was nice to revisit them. The tour is now over, so I can’t recommend that you go check it out, but if it does come to a city near you in the future and you are a fan of the show, it is well worth your time. My only regret was that some of my friends who are die-hard Bob’s Burgers fans couldn’t join me. It was a great time and made me fall in love with the show even more.

Bob’s Burgers airs Sundays on Fox; seasons 1-3 of the show are currently streaming on Netflix. Season 4 will be added April 1st.

Soundtrack > Movie

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A couple of Saturdays ago, I was making the late night drive home from Poughkeepsie. I make this drive frequently, since that’s where I catch Metro North whenever I’m heading into the City, but it’s not a very interesting ride and I’m usually doing it after a very fun, but exhausting, day. One of the ways that I keep myself alert is to play music really loud that I can sing along with; this keeps my energy up and makes the time fly by faster. The song “Footloose” came on and as I was belting out my best Kenny Loggins impression, I thought about how much I loved this soundtrack when I was a kid. It was one of the first non-kid albums (yes – I had albums) that I owned and I liked pretty much every song on it; “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” was a personal favorite, but there were also great tunes by John Cougar Mellencamp, Quiet Riot, Bonnie Tyler and Foreigner. I used to play that record a lot, probably driving my mother crazy in the process.

The irony is I didn’t even like the movie Footloose.

While I thought Footloose (the soundtrack) was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard, even at eight years old I knew that the premise of Footloose (the movie) was rubbish. I mean, a town where dancing was banned? What was that? I just wasn’t buying what they were selling. I finally got around to seeing the movie when I was a little bit older and my early instincts were right – this was not a good movie. But thirty years later, I still enjoy all the songs from the soundtrack.

This got me thinking about other instances where I liked a movie soundtrack a lot more than the movie itself. Turns out, this happens more than I would have expected. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I hated the movie in question, but simply that I enjoyed the collection of songs featured in the movie more. Maybe it’s a sign of being a kid of the 80s and early 90s, when soundtracks were really big business, that I pay as much attention to the music in films as I do. A good soundtrack improves a movie and helps the viewer connect with it. It often also exposes you to new artists that you might not have been familiar with; I’ve discovered a lot of music that I like from the artist being featured on a soundtrack that I enjoy. When it’d done perfectly, and there is a perfect marriage between song and movie, you can’t help but think of one without thinking of the other. The two are forever interconnected.

Sometimes the quality of the move can’t seem to quite live up to the quality of the soundtrack. While I’d listen to the following soundtracks anytime, you’d be less likely to get me to watch the movie that they are supposedly supporting. In some of these cases, the music is the star and the movie is more secondary. In others, the music is the only redeeming thing about the film experience.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

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I didn’t hate this movie as much as everyone else did, but I’ll admit that it wasn’t very good either. I respect what Diablo Cody was going for with her black comedy horror script, but it just didn’t come together all that well. The cast was pretty good – it featured a pre-super fame Chris Pratt – and it tried to put a new twist on the horror genre, but it gets an A for effort and a C for execution. The soundtrack, however, was great and marked my first exposure to the band Florence + the Machine. I was immediately drawn to their song “Kiss With A Fist” as soon as I heard it; In fact, I paused the movie midway through to start exploring the soundtrack online (not a good sign for the actual movie). It was full of a ton of bands that I liked or wound up liking. The movie experience wasn’t all that great, but the musical experience was top notch.

 

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

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While I didn’t get around to watching Saturday Night Fever until pretty recently, I was under the impression that it was just a cheesy 70s disco movie. I’d see plenty of iconic clips from the movie over the years – John Travolta in his white suit on the multi-colored dance floor. So I was ill-prepared for the fact that the bulk of this movie was not about dancing. You’d think that someone would have mentioned the rapes and gang violence and suicide at some point. Those are topics that I don’t necessarily have a problem with in a movie, but they were so far afoul of what I thought I was going to see that I wasn’t a fan of the movie at all. Thank goodness for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which provided me with all the disco-goodness that I was looking for. With the Bee-Gees, you get what you expect.

 

Into the Wild (2007)

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I didn’t mind the film Into the Wild, but it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I liked the book more, but that had more to do with Jon Krakauer’s writing style more than anything else. I just didn’t completely connect with Christopher McCandless’ story, probably because I am not, by any definition of the word, outdoorsy. The wilderness is pretty and all, but I’m over it pretty quickly. Taking off to be one with nature is nothing that I would ever do, let alone to do such a half-assed job of it or without telling anyone where I was going. I found much more beauty in Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack, not surprising since I’ve loved Eddie Vedder since I was 13 years old. Add some banjos into the mix and the movie didn’t stand a chance.

Top Gun (1986)

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Maybe I like Kenny Loggins more than I thought I did.

Top Gun is a fine movie; I enjoyed it a lot more when I was a kid and I might stop to watch it if it’s on cable on a Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t necessarily hold up all that well – the volleyball scene that was such a big deal when I was younger reads a little differently now that I’m an adult (and poor Goose – forced to play beach volleyball with a shirt on). But even on the strength of only one song – Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” – the soundtrack easily surpasses the movie. And seriously, who doesn’t love “Danger Zone?” Advantage soundtrack.

 

Garden State (2004)

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I have a complicated and ever evolving relationship with the movie Garden State. I didn’t really love it the first time I saw it, but the movie eventually won me over after a few viewings – until I hit a saturation point and fell out of like with the film (possibly related to falling out of like with someone who really loved the film). Now I’m mostly ambivalent about the movie. The soundtrack, on the other hand, I always liked quite a bit. There is just so much wonderful indie rock on there – Coldplay, The Shins, Colin Hay, Remy Zero. I’m 1,000 times more likely to play the Garden State soundtrack than re-watch Garden State itself.

Reality Bites (1994)

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I was too young and naïve when I saw Reality Bites for the first time. I was in high school when the movie came out and the thought that this angst was my future was not what I had planned. I didn’t get the appeal of arty and unambitious Ethan Hawke. Then I went to college and Reality Bites made a whole lot more sense. But while I didn’t love the movie as much as my peers did, I had nothing but love for all the music. Squeeze’s “Tempted” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and “My Sharona” and “Stay” are up there as well. I should probably give Reality Bites another watch to see where I stand on it now, but no matter where I am in my life I have always dug the tunes.

Your turn – what soundtracks do you like more than the movie that they were spawned from? Sound off in the comments below.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Spring Cleaning Edition

I found myself in an unusual position last weekend – I stayed in town and didn’t have any plans. I decided to take advantage of this unexpected free time to start spring cleaning. My apartment was in desperate need of a purge – turns out that when you are never home, things tend to pile up and your place is a mess. So I put some March Madness on the TV and went to town, throwing out a lot of stuff that I’ve accumulated and putting other things where they belong. I even donated a bunch of books and clothing, so my spring cleaning helped others. I’ve still got some work to do – I ran out of steam eventually – but I made a real dent in the mess. That’s progress.

I also cleaned out all the links that I’ve been compiling for the last week and the result is yet another pop culture roundup. So kick back, relax and see what you might have missed in the last seven days.

  • James Corden kicked off his tenure of hosting The Late Late Show by recreating Tom Hanks’ filmography:

 

  • Florence + the Machine debuted another new song:

 

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  • Conan and Zachary Quinto remember the late Leonard Nimoy:

 

  • Cookie Monster, Life Coach:

 

Time for some trailers….

  • I’m a little embarrassed about how excited I am for Lip Sync Battle:

 

  • Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation:

 

  • Silicon Valley, season two:

 

  • Matt Dillon in the new Fox series, Wayward Pines:

 

  • Orphan Black, season three:

 

  • Ethan Hawke in Good Kill:

 

  • Pitch Perfect 2:

 

  • James Franco and Jonah Hill in True Story:

 

  • Paper Towns:

 

  • Lake Bell and Simon Pegg in Man Up:

 

  • The WWE keeps cranking out movies – The Marine 4: Moving Target:

 

  • New Entourage trailer:

 

Premiere Of HBO's "Big Love" Season 5 - Arrivals

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Kendrick Lamar and the theme from Seinfeld go together well:

 

  • Up as a horror movie:

 

  • A Harry Potter-themed parody of “Uptown Funk”:

 

  • A dream sequence supercut:

 

  • LEGO The Matrix:

 

  • The Peanuts perform Journey:

 

  • The Avengers meets Friends:

 

  • And finally – Saved By The Bell meets Game of Thrones: