Shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons are the anchors of Fox’s Sunday night of animation. Other shows have come and gone, but few have built a cult audience like Bob’s Burgers. The cartoon chronicle of the Belcher clan mixes quirky characters, catchy musical queues, and fresh puns to bring together big laughs and a sentimental streak for a bit of texture. This is a show with song in its heart and butts on its mind. Nowhere was that combination more evident than Riverside Theater Saturday night, during the Milwaukee stop of the Bob’s Burgers LIVE! tour featuring the main cast.
Each member of the cast took the stage in the opening segment for a short stand-up bit. Dan Mintz, the voice of Tina Belcher, delivered a deadpan set that wouldn’t be out of place coming out of the mouth of Steven Wright. John Roberts copped to doing Linda’s voice, and mixed in several voices during his set about his gay wedding. Kristen Schaal used her time and distinctive voice as Louise to deliver a Drunk History-style one-woman show featuring bits of Emily Dickinson’s poetry hidden around the stage. Gene’s voice, Eugene Mirman, delivered a classic stand-up set talking about his adventures in renting a car and dealing with the aftermath of an accident. H. Jon Benjamin, whose distinguishing voice creates both Bob Belcher and Sterling Archer, rambled about the history of a New England bar band that seemed built to test the idea of whether or not an audience could watch a favorite actor read the phone book.
The show also touched on its musical element featuring a few short duets with various cast members and the show’s creator, Loren Bouchard. Bouchard ended up as the default emcee during the second part of the show, which moved into showing various unaired and unfinished bits and pieces of upcoming shows. A trio of clips acted as cover for rearranging the stage for a table read, with Bouchard filling in for one of the absent voice actors and the other actors goofing around a bit as they read. A few questions from the audience ended the show, sourced from cards filled out in the lobby rather than the usual soul draining and time consuming line-and-microphone setup of similar other shows.
Bob’s Burgers is a fun, slightly shaggy dog of a show, and the live version was no different. The crowd was ready to sing along to the musical numbers and jump in to interact with the folks on stage. Schaal’s set was the strongest out of the individual performers, though Mintz’ dry, snail-crawl cadence made his routine feel like an alternate universe where Tina was a struggling and exceedingly weird stand-up comic. The audience reacted the most strongly during the table read and the announcement of the upcoming collection of music from the series. The show stayed mostly clean for the kids in the audience, save for a few harsh words and an impromptu gay sex scene between Benjamin and Mirman. It was a messy two hours with the cast, but it didn’t keep many audience members from singing about butts as they walked out the doors.