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.
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:
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.