INTERVIEW: Bill Burr on “F Is For Family” – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: Bill Burr on “F Is For Family”

Following a successful six episode debut in 2015, the Gaumont animated sitcom F is for Family has returned to Netflix for Season Two – this time with 10 episodes. Does that mean the show’s a hit? Co-creator, EP and star Bill Burr isn’t quite sure. I recently sat down for a phone conversation with the stand-up comedian and new dad, though I don’t think he was sitting.

Jackson Murphy: “F is for Family” has a very similar look and feel to the iconic animated series “King of the Hill”. Was your goal with this to create a King of the Hill for a new generation?

Bill Burr: No. (laughs) The goal was to do something original. I never really watched “King of the Hill”, so I can’t say it’s based on that. I am a big Mike Judge fan: “Idiocracy”, “Beavis and Butt-Head” and… “Silicon Valley”. I am a big fan of his stuff, but for some reason, I think I was doing so much stand-up that I didn’t get to watch “King of the Hill” as much as I probably should have. The goal, when we were coming up with the animation, was we have to have our own look. “The Simpsons” looks this way, “South Park” looks that way, “Family Guy” looks this way. So the fact that you say it looks like “King of the Hill” – I guess we failed.

JM: No, I don’t think you failed. It’s a big success for Netflix. They’re very happy with it. And a lot of the material is based on your childhood and your stand-up. Did you find that there were a lot of unexpected challenges in translating the stories from the stage to scripted, animated form?

BB: No, because… I’m in a writer’s room with a bunch of writers like Mike Price, who’s a legend – who’s done, like, over 300 episodes of “The Simpsons”. So they know what they’re doing. It would’ve been a challenge if it was just me by myself. We got Emily Towers. We got Dave Richardson. I got Murderer’s Row in our writer’s room, so that was not a problem.

However, I did like the fact that you said the show is a big hit and that Netflix really likes it. Now, Netflix doesn’t have any ratings that they let people like me know about. So that must mean you have some sort of inside information. So what has Netflix told you about the show? Because we’re all dying to know what they’re saying.

JM: If a show gets a Season Two pickup, that means at least somebody likes it and somebody’s gotta be watching.

BB: Well there you go. It was a something. It wasn’t based on any concrete facts. So in a court of law that would not be admissible.

JM: I wish they would throw out more ratings. I’m into learning about ratings for shows, so I wish Netflix would do that. I’m with you there. Of course, on the show, you voice Frank Murphy and Laura Dern voices your wife, Sue. All great marriages rely on a strong relationship. So how does Sue bring out the best in Frank this season?

BB: Well, how she does it is [she’s] voiced by Laura Dern, who’s an absolute… legend. The best is when we’re both in there at the same time because there’s a lot of arguing. It’s like a real relationship. There’s a lot of talking over each other. So fortunately, despite being an icon, she’s totally down to Earth, and actually she’s like, “I wanna be in the booth at the same time.” I really see when I work with her why she’s been so successful for so long because… she’s all in. If she says, “I’m doing this”, she does it.

Everybody: Justin Long, Sam Rockwell, Dave Koechner – Everybody on the show: Mo Collins, Debi Derryberry… Now I gotta name everybody or I’m gonna get in trouble… Haley Reinhart. I remember watching Jerry Seinfeld when he was talking about being on “Seinfeld”, and he said, “I basically surrounded myself with the most talented people I could, and people I would want to hang out with.” So I remembered that when we were… putting the thing together. And it’s paid in dividends because it’s a lot of work to do it, but the people I work with are awesome. Obviously, there’s tough days – if the script isn’t working, but overall, it’s been a great time.

JM: And with “F is for Family”, you’re not only going for big laughs, but you also tackle some more mature, serious themes involving relationships and family dynamics. Why did you feel it was necessary to go in these directions in the midst of a raunchy animated comedy?

BB: I didn’t think it was necessary, it’s just… what I think is funny. I can take absurd to a certain point, but when stuff gets too absurd, the people, literally, become cartoons, and I can’t get invested in it the way I would if it was tethered to some sort of reality. The through line of the show is that it’s based in a reality that people can relate to, and then after that, the jokes and having fun with the animation, is where the cartoon aspect of it comes in.

But my favorite types of comedy – my favorite comedians, my favorite movies and all that – I also felt that writing what would really happen was more difficult than making up some s***. So that’s more of a place of where I’m coming from. It wasn’t a – “Well, we’re all raunchy here, so we need to tackle something serious” I’m just remembering the way stuff was when I was growing up, that’s all.

JM: And you grew up in the 70s. The show is set in the 70s. Who were some of the TV families that you connected with?

BB: Well I remember my parents watching “All in the Family”, but I was too young to understand that. My teen years were in the 80s… but my growing up years when I was getting bullied and picked on was the 70s. So I was watching “The Banana Splits” and “The Flintstones” and Bugs Bunny and all of that type of stuff.

I remember watching “The Brady Bunch” and thought it was weird that Greg never beat the s*** out of his little brothers. I did think that that was weird, and the dad never yelled at anybody. They were like, “Greg, now blah blah blah”. I used to get angry watching shows like that. The last episode they ever did, when Bobby turned Greg’s hair orange…

JM: Yes!

BB: He chased him down into the dad’s office and he was gonna beat the s*** out of him, and I remember being like, “It’s finally gonna happen! Something I can relate to!” And then Carol came in and broke it up. And I was so f***ing pissed! It’s why I hate reality television. My wife watching all those stupid “Real Housewives” shows, and they’re constantly saying things to each other when one person should beat the s*** out of the other person, but it never happens because the cameraman always breaks it up. It’s the exact same level of frustration I experienced when Mrs. Brady didn’t let Greg beat up Bobby.

I watched “The Monkees”. I liked “The Monkees” – specifically Micky Dolenz. I thought he was hilarious. I loved that because it was comedy and music, and that’s… all they needed to do was throw in sports and that’s basically my world. So that’s what I was watching back then.

JM: If Frank and Sue and the rest of the family were plopped into 21st Century society, how would they react?

BB: They’d be amazed by the technology, I would think. And they would also think that people had lost their minds. I think the over-sharing that people do on social media and the stuff people would get offended by vs. what really was going on – like ignoring the heroin epidemic but getting upset when, I don’t know, somebody does a photoshoot with a political agenda, you know – they get all upset about that.

JM: Bill, you’ve had quite a year. On top of “F is for Family”, you welcomed a new daughter in January. Congratulations. How long will it be until she can watch “F is for Family”?

BB: Oh, man. I wouldn’t wanna ruin that innocence with my filth. She’ll eventually see it, but… I’m gonna try to keep her sheltered. One thing that I think is really sad is that kids are not allowed to have a childhood anymore – just because of, I guess, shows like mine being so easily accessible, and they can just watching them on computers somehow and find it. I’m not gonna be this Quaker or anything like that, but I’d like for the first 9-10 years of her life – for her to just have a childhood.

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy is a movie critic and entertainment columnist. He is the creator of the website, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Jackson Murphy
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.