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Why the Creator of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Wrote a ‘Full-Blown Musical’ for Its Season 7 Premiere

Loren Bouchard explains how the music and the humor (and the guest stars) on his Fox series stay fresh.

On Sunday night, the irrepressible fan favorite Bob's Burgers returns, bringing with it a host of new and returning spectacles—like an underground gingerbread-house building competition, hosted by Mr. Fischoeder; an all-out musical, starring Louise and her Kuchi Kopi nightlight; and Billy Eichner's whisper-screaming Librarian. The show adds some sweet but substantive notes to the fall's animation-heavy lineup; at the risk of conflating our burger metaphors, it's the sauce—be it "Secret" or "Shack" depending on your coast or loyalties—augmenting the whole affair.

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But how does a show that's been on for six season stay so fresh? Series creator Loren Bouchard reveals the show's comedy club roots, and gives us a glimpse—actually, it's many glimpses—of what to expect for Season Seven.

Your voice actors have such a rich, alternative stand-up comedy background. A dozen years ago, I remember going to Rififi in New York's East Village and seeing so many of your cast members performing: Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, H. Jon Benjamin, Bobby Tisdale…
Think back to when you were going to Rififi. Look to your left: See there's a guy with a beer and a goatee? That's me. I was there every chance I could be. I would go on stage with Jon Benjamin on his Midnight Pajama Jam [his Rififi show, a mix between a kids' program and a talk show]. I would play a guy who liked Top Gun, playing keyboards.

Holly Schlesinger, who producers Bob's Burgers, produced Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale's show, "Invite Them Up" at Rififi.
That's a relationship that goes back 20 years. Holly was one of the earliest people—I'm embarrassed at how long it took me to react—singing the praises of Kristen Schaal. It was very early days, and I regret I didn't have Kristen in some of the other animated stuff I've done.

Kristen's performance as Louise—like Eugene Mirman's as Gene—it's hard to imagine a different voice talent working with those characters.
No one else could play Gene. Not really. These characters were custom made. There's no scenario where we were considering another guy or we auditioned. These were characters written for these actors.

What goes on in your writers' room?
Before a table read, we all get together in the writers' room and we project the script up on the wall. We go through it from top to bottom as a group, and it takes about eight to ten hours, all told. And we don't get out of chairs, except to pee, and I'm always amazed we're still giggling and making each other laugh and enjoying the work, not just at 9 at night, but after this many episodes.

"Looking for guest voices is like comedy dating: We're not looking for a big star, we want someone we can fall in love with."

Your writer Kelvin Yu is basically a sex symbol now, because of Master of None. Has he become intolerable?
He is a sex symbol on our staff and has been since day one. It's all the same to us. Now just more people know about it.

The show has done really interesting things with music. The songs—and I'll use "Topsy" as a prime example—are more than just funny and weird, they're catchy. They're actually good. Did you hire special people with this in mind? Are you musical?
Both. I had a four-track in my garage going all the way back to my early teen years. I loved making music. I love music and animation together. Some of my earliest memories are listening to the old Disney movies—my parents would buy the record of Robin Hood or The Jungle Book and play them at home. In my mind, the audio and the music is the singular most important part of the animated show. It all has to work, but the engine that pulls the whole thing along is the voices and the music. In this case I knew a guy; I hired myself. And I hired some great music men. And our writers. They're great composers. Our actors are great composers. We have an embarrassment of riches.

I'm sitting in front of my Pro Tools rig right now, about to mix the songs for the episode you'll see this Sunday night. It's called "Flu-ouise" and it's a full-blown musical, in the spirit of The Wizard of Oz. Louise has the flu and goes into a fluid dream after her family ruins her Kuchi Koi light. She's so furious at them, that when she goes into this dream, it's populated with her toys but with her family's voices coming out of them. It's all about whether she'll forgive them for this crime. We've got this ambitious but also classic story of this girl going down the rabbit hole, an exploration of this imagination through the toys she's had in her room since Season One. Hopefully there's a Miyazaki feel to her dream world.

What can we expect this season in terms of guest stars?
What we look for with our guest voices is like comedy dating: We're not looking to have someone who is a big star, who is in a movie or series; we want someone we can fall in love with. I like it when they come to the table read and we see them with their reading glasses and water; who will sit in the record booth with our cast for three hours and lean into those experiences.

Billy Eichner [the librarian Mr. Ambrose] is in the Halloween episode. Ken Marino, he's in the fourth episode, "They Serve Horses Don't They?" And we're still having fun writing for Kevin Kline [Mr. Fischoeder]. In our Christmas episode, "The Last Gingerbread House on the Left," there's an underground gingerbread house-making competition hosted by Mr. Fischoeder and attended by rich men like himself. He enlists Bob to help him.

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