How Bob's Burgers Blurs The Line Between Acting And Improv

If the upcoming "The Bob's Burgers Movie" is anything like the television series, then it's sure to grill (heh) longtime viewers and newcomers alike. I remember catching a few episodes when it was first coming out, and for some reason, it just didn't quite grab me. When I heard that a movie was happening, I wanted to go back and give it another shot, and I'm really happy I did. While Fox keeps renewing "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" well past when their reign probably should have ended, "Bob's Burgers" is still producing fresh laughs each week with over 12 seasons under its belt, and another on the way.

What makes the Belchers stand out among their dysfunctional animated family counterparts is their approach to embracing one another's weirdness. Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), Linda (John Roberts), Gene (Eugene Mirman), Louise (Kristen Schaal), and Tina (Dan Mintz) are anything but normal. You can't stop Gene from using fart machines, just like you can't stop Tina from writing erotic friend fiction. The show succeeds in showing Bob and Linda as loving parents who may have to intervene when things go too far, as well as indulge in their own eccentricities. They wouldn't change their children for the world. While talking with Variety, Roberts elaborated on how the series' voice actors bring their closeness to the Belcher family:

"We are like a family outside and then when we're on the mic together, too. We're our characters and we know how to play off each other with, obviously, the writers are giving us so much to work with."

The Belchers are all in sync

What I find so fascinating about "Bob's Burgers" is how it adheres to the sitcom blueprint of introducing everyday conflict, but the show usually veers in a much weirder direction. The same can be said for the characters, really. I never have any idea what's going to come out of Gene's mouth next, and it's because of his shouty spontaneity that the show remains as consistently funny as it is. Eugene Mirman even noted to Variety how the inherent off-the-cuff remarks made by the Belchers has become a consistent part of the series:

"I think the writers and the actors have gotten to know each other and, very much, we've met in the middle where the writers now write to our personalities and we, also, act to the writing ... Ten years ago, you could watch something and we'd know if we improvised it or if someone wrote it. Now, I would have no idea if it was improvised or written because it's so seamless."

I'm not huge on ad-libbing as it can often feels less like the characters talking, and more like an actor trying to wring a laugh until all the air has been deflated from the scene. This is truly not the case with "Bob's Burgers." Trying to distinguish what's written on the page versus what comes out in the recording booth sounds nearly impossible. One of my favorite little things is when Bob tries to say something, but one of the children will interject with something completely off-topic, and instead of trying to talk over them, he suddenly loses track of whatever he initially wanted to say and gets wrapped up in the tangent. The Belchers are so inherently frenetic that their eccentric dialogue feels like a natural progression.