The 'Shared Delusion' At The Core Of Bob's Burgers And The Great North

The Bob of "Bob's Burgers" (H. Jon Benjamin) is something of a sad sack — a small business owner who often finds himself teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Despite his perpetual exhaustion, he finds time to invent new hamburger recipes, and his restaurant often displays his latest cleverly named entrée. He has a wife named Linda (John Roberts) who is relentlessly upbeat, and always eager to help others, even if her ideas often skew odd. Their daughter Tina (Dan Mintz) is stone-faced but secretly burns with lust for her junior high classmates ... and zombies. Their son Gene (Eugene Mirman) rotates through bizarre obsessions like they're pieces of gum, and their youngest, Louise (Kristen Schaal), has taken the role of the clan's precocious leader and is never seen without her pink hat with bunny ears. 

They are unusual people, the Belcher family. They often bicker and not a day goes by without one of them screaming. 

Beef Tobin (Nick Offerman) the patriarch from "The Great North" has a similarly obsessive personality, often pestering his four kids. Ham (Paul Rust) and Judy (Jenny Slate) share a gentle bond of awkward domesticity, Wolf (Will Forte) is awfully eager to please, and Moon (Aparna Nancherla) is a rough-and-tumble outdoorsman in the making. 

In both cases, the central joke of the respective shows remains the same: despite the strangeness, the awkward moments, and the constant screaming, the families love each other and, in a profound way, understand each other. 

Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin are the creators of "The Great North," and alternately serve as staff writers, story editors, executive story editors, co-producers, producers, supervising producers, co-executive producers, and writers of "Bob's Burgers." In a 2021 interview with Slate, they talked about how mutual strangeness leads their characters to bond.

Participating in the same game

Despite their characters understanding one another, the families in "Bob's Burgers" and "The Great North" ... kind of don't understand each other. If one moves from character to character in either series, one finds each person to be sealed-off, cultivating a bizarre set of carefully curated interests and attitudes. While Linda, for instance, is quick to encourage her son Gene to wear costumes and play music, she herself would never think to become Beefsquatch herself. So while their passions never directly intersect, the characters all recognize one another's capacity for strangeness. That, it seems, is what forms a clan. That, Wendy Molyneux says, is one of the keys to her and her sister's humor. In her words:

"I think sometimes comedy can come from shared delusion, right? [...] People who are weird in the same way. I think that's where a lot of 'Bob's Burgers' and 'The Great North' family vibes come from. They're all in agreement that they like each other and that they like all the same weird stuff. They're all participating in the same game."

Beef Tobin has a deep, shared abiding regard for his daughter, and the Molyneux sisters talked about how their main objective for "The Great North" was to forge a relationship between two comedians they admired, Nick Offerman and Jenny Slate. Their relationship is warm and close, but only one of them has Alanis Morissette (playing herself) as an imaginary friend who appears in the aurora borealis. Judy is alone in her obsessions, and yet Beef is there to obsess with her. 

Anyone with a weird family — and that's likely most of us — can take a great deal of comfort in the fact that the Molyneux's characters are equally weird ... and always find a way to make their family function.