Q&A: Loren Bouchard, Creator of Bob’s Burgers
Before creating the animated Fox series Bob’s Burgers, Loren Bouchard spent many years in Boston. He grew up in Medford, partook in the vibrant Cambridge comedy scene, and even worked as a night watchman at the Gardner Museum. Many of Bouchard’s local experiences inspired his work on the hit show.
Before the sixth season of Bob’s Burgers premieres on September 27, we caught up with Bouchard to talk local inspirations, what to expect on the 100th episode of Bob’s, and more.
What was it like to grow up in Massachusetts?
When I was two years old, my family moved from New York City to a friend’s old dairy farm in Central Massachusetts. It wasn’t a working farm anymore, but we had a barn and a couple fields, and I loved running around in the woods. Then, around 1977, I moved with my sister and my parents to Medford, and that’s where I spent the next 20 years of my life. My dad got a job as an art teacher at a private school in Cambridge, so my sister and I got to go there on scholarship.
Shady Hill, right?
Yeah, that’s right. So I spent a lot of time in Cambridge, which is where I had the luckiest day of my life. I was 23, and I was very sure that I had messed up my life irreparably because I had not finished high school, and I had not gone to college. My mom died when I was 14, and for some reason my grief expressed itself as an inability to do homework. I just couldn’t get my shit together. … So I bartended at the Roxy in Boston for five years, and I really liked working there, but I was worried that what I really wanted to do, which was something creative, wasn’t going to happen if I kept working nightclubs and bars. I was walking around Harvard Square thinking about all of this when I happened to run into an old science teacher from Shady Hill.
Tom Snyder, exactly. He asked me if I wanted a job at the animation company he had just started. And I was so, so, so ready to work for him. We started on what became Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, which is how I got to know Laura Silverman and Jon Benjamin, who were living in Cambridge at the time. Everything I’ve ever done in the 20 years since, I’ve done with Jon Benjamin as a voice.
You said you bartended at the Roxy. What were some of your other local haunts?
My first job was as a night watchman at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I quit six months before they got robbed, but they got robbed on [what would have been] my shift. I’m sort of glad I wasn’t there for that. … I don’t think I would have enjoyed it that much.
What was the Boston comedy scene like at the time?
The beginning of alternative comedy was growing strongly in Boston and particularly in Cambridge. Boston is the home of a lot of people who mean a lot to comedy, like Conan and Louis CK. Funny people like Jon Benjamin, David Cross, and Janeane Garofalo had moved to Boston to be a part of the scene. And Dr. Katz really reaped the benefit of that. It wouldn’t have been the same thing if we had been in Pittsburgh or even New York. It just wouldn’t have had the same voice.
What was your favorite part about Boston?
I never had a more perfect urban existence than when I lived in Cambridge in my twenties. I spent a lot of time with comedy people…first Jon Benjamin, and then later Brendan Small. [Small’s] roommate at the time was Eugene Mirman, who is now obviously a big part of my life and Bob’s Burgers. … Also, a very young Dan Mintz [the voice of Tina] was doing standup as an undergrad at Harvard at that time. Those guys were all living in Central Square and doing really silly, original, and sometimes very musical comedy at the Comedy Studio on the third floor of the Hong Kong.
Did any of your Boston experiences make it into Bob’s Burgers?
Yeah. Medford was really kind of an old-fashioned blue-collar town. We would go down at least once a week to Jimmy’s Pizza in West Medford Square, and that was where I would see kids working behind the counter. That definitely stayed with me through the years, so when the time came, the idea of creating a show about a family that runs a restaurant seemed very organic to me.
What about the seaside town where Bob’s Burgers takes place?
Because Jon Benjamin and I are from New England, there was a strong urge to place it there. There were two reasons why we felt like we shouldn’t. One is John Roberts, who plays Linda, and his accent, which is so Long Island. That, combined with the fact that Family Guy, which is based in Rhode Island, basically got there first. But for the town’s amusement park, I drew on memories of going to Nantasket Beach when I was a kid. For me, amusement parks were always a little grungy.
Which character resonates the most with you?
I don’t think I’d be doing my job if I couldn’t find resonances for all of them. But I have two kids, so I see the world a lot through Bob’s eyes. Bob is a portrait of an artist, in a way. He’s really trying to express himself through his burgers, and that’s kind of us projecting ourselves into our characters.
Do you have anything exciting planned for the Tina and Jimmy Jr. plot line?
Oh yeah. It’s our Romeo and Juliet in a way. We were just working on an episode where [Tina] looks up at a cloud while they’re walking home from school, and she says, “Does that look like people holding hands?” She’s trying to give him a hint. And he says, “No, it looks like it’s going to rain. I’ve gotta go home before my hair gets wet.” She’s so disappointed by his lack of romance that it sends her off on a misguided meddling into an old lady’s life.
Any hints about what we’ll see in the new season and the 100th episode?
I think that if you’re going to celebrate a show, it should be the purest expression of that show. So our 100th episode takes place entirely in the restaurant and features Bob getting glued to the toilet in his own restaurant as a result of a prank gone wrong by his kids. Other than that, we have a great Christmas episode coming up. The kids put on a homegrown Ice Capades called the Nice Capades. And we love working with guest voices. We have Wanda Sykes, whom we’ve never worked with before, and Paul Rudd, who got a special role in an episode where he’s going to play Tina’s imaginary horse, Jericho.
Season six of Bob’s Burgers premiere’s September 27. This interview has been edited and condensed.