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John Roberts, Voice Of Linda Belcher In Bob's Burgers - Exclusive Interview

Sunday, November 15, 2020 will see the 200th episode of Bob's Burgers. "Bob Belcher and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Kids" shows the Belcher family trying to keep the restaurant open during Oceanfest after Bob's flattop goes kaput. Despite the milestone, series creator Loren Bouchard made sure the episode wasn't grand or flashy — it's a quintessential Bob's Burgers episode, one he describes as a callback to a line from episode one: "You're my family and I love you. But you're terrible, you're all terrible." It could just as soon be someone's first episode, but keep an eye out for lots of little details for longtime fans.

In anticipation of the Big 2-0-0, Looper interviewed John Roberts, the voice of Linda Belcher. He gave us insight into the episode, what it means to hit such a landmark, and what he sees for the future of the series. We also spoke about his work outside of Bob's Burgers, including his music career and pilots he's written.

Episode 200

So 200 episodes. That's a big one. Congratulations!

Thank you. It's kind of nuts, right? Yeah.

Did you ever have any idea it would get this far when you were starting?

No, the first season, we didn't know we were going to get picked up for a second season and it's really been a slow climb, and just the right timing, and the right show, and it feels like we've earned it, I think. But it's crazy to have a show on for this long.

And I think animation is probably the only kind of show that, besides M*A*S*H maybe, that you could have a show for this long, I think. So maybe it's a little more normal, but still probably not. I mean, King of the Hill went for 14 seasons, so that's pretty amazing too.

On Animation Domination, you're surrounded by all these shows that have been on for 20, 30 years. Do you see that happening for you guys?

I would love that obviously, as long as Loren's into it, and the writers are into it, and we can still preserve what we're doing right now, which I think is very possible. Loren runs such a tight ship and the writers are all so good. And I feel like there hasn't been any slowing down, even with COVID, the scripts are really great and we're still having fun.

So I mean, God willing, we would, but if it ended in two more seasons I would still be one of the luckiest people alive, I feel like. But that would be great.

Special and similar

So let's talk about the 200th episode. Did you get a chance to see the mermaid statue that kicks off the plot?

Not yet.

Oh. Not yet?

No. I usually watch on Sunday nights when it airs.

So you all just had to collectively imagine what the mermaid statue looked like when you were talking about it?

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. It's a good episode. It's very traditionally Bob's, and I believe Loren said it could almost be a pilot episode again, if you'd never seen the show before, you could watch this episode and jump on board.

Watching the episode, I saw that this could have easily been episode 87 or 207 or anything like that. When you were doing this episode, did it feel special to you doing it?

I mean they all feel special to me, but yeah, it's a big milestone, 200 episodes. I remember 100 episodes, and being like, "Wow, this is crazy." And now this really does feel really crazy, but I'm happy to keep doing them, and I think this is a great script. They put a lot of special detail, especially for the fans and things like that. So they're very on top of making sure this is a special episode without breaking it all.

Recording an episode of Bob's Burgers

I recently interviewed H. Jon Benjamin for Archer...


Sorry? Oh...


I'm sure he'd appreciate hearing that.

Yeah, of course. He expects it.

Yeah. But he says that you all record together in a room all together.


Have you been able to do that with COVID or was this all done beforehand?

This was done before, so now we record at home, but we can hear a few other people now. It's not like it was, but we've adjusted to improvising a lot more with the writers than with each other. Which is kind of okay at this point, I can anticipate Jon's stupid jokes at this point, so. Just kidding.

No, I think also we feel a really strong bond with the writers, and them as well with the characters. They're actually talking in the characters' voices and things like that. So we've managed to really keep that going. It's just changed a little bit. And of course I miss being with Jon and everybody in the studio, and having a drink afterwards, and that kind of thing.

There's just a lot of stuff in there that is obviously laugh-out-loud funny, and you've mentioned in previous interviews that you all tend to laugh in the studio together. About how many takes does it take to get something done for you guys?

We're really good with that. With not laughing over when someone's having a moment, to just let them go. So every once in a while, I'll let out like a "Ha," like that, but then I'll just be like, "Oh God, I just ruined that take." But we're very good at respecting each other's moments, and it's like a volleyball team or something where we're all kind of passing the ball to each other, and letting everyone have their moment.

Because I can tell you this — I would just be laughing at Eugene Mirman all the time. He always gets that little last word and just nonsense. He's so good at that stuff.

He's also just such a brilliant comedian too, and there's such a big part of that in Gene. And he's so sharp, and his wit is a big part of that character. So I mean, everyone, they all are hysterical comedians, so it's such a joy to work with them.


You mentioned improv. How does the improv really work in a show that is very, very well written, very tightly written most of the time?

Yeah. So that's what's great, is that the writers are already handing us amazing scripts. So usually the first two takes, we stick to the script, and then the third take we'll have a little fun. And Loren is very patient in letting us go and have fun with that moment.

There's a lot of freedom like that. And if it's something good, he'll use it up for sure. But I think it's gotten to the point where the writers and... We've all morphed into each other and I don't think I could tell you what's improv and what's not improv anymore. But it's really a great way to add your personal touch to the character.

When you're recording, do you imagine yourself as Linda and imagine everybody else as their characters? Or do you just look at each other, and see each other as each other?

I feel Linda in my blood. No, yeah. It's more the voice. I close my eyes a lot and just, it's more about hearing the voices. I hear voices. And we really have the easiest part of it. It's what happens afterwards, and Loren, the way he's able to take the recordings, and turn them into this music, and have the animators work off that. So he's the genius that pulls it all together and we just get to have fun.

A peek at the Bob's Burgers movie

Is there anything you can tell us about the Bob's Burgers movie that's going to be coming out?

I can tell you that I've seen parts of that and it's beautiful. The artwork is gorgeous, and there's a lot for the fans, and there are great songs and great moments for the characters. And it's big. It's big and it's beautiful. (Linda voice) And it's Bob's.

I was wondering when you'd break into that.

Yeah. Got to give you a little Linda, keep you on your toes.

Do you get requests to do that?

I do. I get requests usually when people are feeling down or someone's sick, but I'm happy to do that, and obviously cheer someone up, or on a birthday. I'm not on Cameo or anything like that, so I get some DMs or something, and I'll have to email a voice message, but that takes two seconds and I'm always happy to do it.

Music and writing pilots

You have a music career outside of this. You take it pretty seriously. How much does your singing impact your voice acting and vice versa?

Oh yeah. Well, I've always had home studios for a long time, and I'm used to having headphones on and being in that space, and kind of closing your eyes and using your voice. And I think Bob's actually helped my singing a lot too, because I ended up singing a lot on Bob's, and my last band, Opti-Grab, was like 2002, and that was a little more tongue in cheek and not so serious, actually.

I don't take it that seriously in terms of... it's dance music, and it's meant to lift your spirits, and you could take it or leave it, but I do enjoy doing it. And I take it serious when I'm writing. I want it to be the best it can be when I'm performing. So yeah, I think Bob's has helped a lot with that though for sure. Using my voice and being super comfortable.

Is it true that you wrote a pilot for MTV with Bob Odenkirk? Or is that just something someone put in your Wikipedia page?

No, I did. That actually happened. And it was based on my YouTube characters and Michael Showalter directed it, I wrote with Bob, who was great, and it turned out to actually be a really good pilot. MTV passed because there was a big switch up there with the guy that was there for like 80 years. And then my pilot came along, and he kind of stormed out right when that happened. So it was just one of those things that happens with pilots. And because it was my first one, it was a little depressing at the time. But then Bob swooped in, and I obviously can't complain.

So whatever's meant to happen is meant to happen in that situation, but working with Bob was great. And I've worked with Amy Poehler on the next one. Me and Jon just wrote a script called Edison for HBO that did not get picked up as well, but we may turn that script into something animated, which is really exciting.

And you've got to keep plugging away with the pilots. It's more likely you're not going to get picked up, but working with someone like Bob, Jon Benjamin, and really great people, you become better every time. So hopefully you've just got to keep at it.

Happy with the Belchers and a delayed Halloween

Your voice acting resume is a lot smaller than, say, Kristen Schaal's or Jon Benjamin's. Is there a reason you focus so much on Bob's Burgers? Do you have any desire to do something else?

Yeah, well, I think because Bob's is so good, and if something equally as good were maybe to come along in this type of situation, I don't traditionally audition like Kristen, and things like that. I don't have an agent or a manager. I'm just focusing on my music and writing. I'm more of a creative person, and Bob's allows me to continue to be that way.

So I think I'm very happy and lucky with Bob's. I don't feel like I have to do every job, although I understand why people do. And not that I haven't tried, I think after a certain amount of time you don't really want to spend your days auditioning for stuff. I'm much more happy creating something and then maybe going to pitch it, or writing a song and having something to show for my time. It's a nice balance of the two.

The Halloween episode got pushed back this year. How are you guys handling that?

Yeah, that was a bummer. Even though I'm a Dodgers fan, I guess. I don't know. But no, I think it's a bummer, but it's going to be a day after Halloween, I think there'll still be some decorations up. And the nice thing about the holiday episodes is every year you have more to watch.

So right now everyone's bingeing all the Bob's Halloween episodes. So it just adds to the arsenal of episodes. I mean, I love Sunday nights, but things live after they air now, much more so, so people will be able to still enjoy it, although it was definitely a bummer.

Fan interactions

So let's talk fan interactions. I know you usually go to Comic-Con every year. We obviously couldn't have that, but any favorite or notable fan interactions?

Just everyone in general. I'm kind of under the radar there, so people don't really recognize me until I'm on the stage. And I just love walking around, and watching everyone all dressed up, and seeing the different Lindas. It's very sweet and passionate. And I think with all the gross things that are happening in the world, it's such a nice thing that people can still celebrate something that's so joyful, and just be goofy and not take themselves too seriously.

So, I mean, that's what I love about all of our fans, and families too. Just seeing families of all different colors dressed as the characters, and relating to the characters that really warms my heart.

Back when Cons were a thing, I saw a lot of families show up as the Belcher family. That's a very common cosplay.

Yeah, and it's fun for everyone, hopefully. They can stay in character. I'm hoping when the movie comes out, people will dress up when they watch the movie, kind of like a Rocky Horror type of thing, and just have fun.

Mrs. Roberts

You say you based Linda and a lot of your female characters on your mother. I know she's a big fan of yours in general, but what was her first impression when she found out you were basically doing an impression of her for a popular show?

Well, it was such a gradual thing to Bob's, and I started with YouTube videos where I would impersonate my mom, and actually wear all her clothes and film in her bedroom. And she was ordering pizza for us at the time and she loved it.

So my mom's super cool. She's a big fan of comedy. So when I was growing up, she would go into the city and see Pee-wee Herman, and bring me back brochures from Caroline's. So she knows this was really my only thing that I'm really good at, comedy. So, and music. Those are the two things, so she's definitely supportive.

And it's interesting to me personally, because I've seen that you grew up in Edison, New Jersey. That's not far from where I am right now.

Oh, nice.

Yeah. And your family's from the outer boroughs, if I remember correctly.

Yeah. They're from Brooklyn.

So I hear a lot of my own family in them.

Oh yeah, yeah. It's very East Coast, and it's Jewish, Italian, it's a Brooklyn thing. It's something in the water and the bread, and it's really a lot of just family, relating to your family, having a strong mom in charge of everything, and Brooklyn's such a special place.

Guest stars and closing thoughts

When I interviewed Jon, I asked him about favorite Archer guest stars, and he mentioned your guest appearance as Linda. What was that experience like, playing Linda on something else entirely?

That was really cool. I think Archer is an awesome show, and it was different in a sense that we just recorded by ourselves, and like with Bob's how we all record together, but they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to do with the character. And we see a lot of different interpretations of the characters from artists. We had our fan art episode, and I love seeing Linda in different forms. I think that's just so cool, and there's so much talent out there. So it was a little bit of that. And then also just cool to be on Archer, you know?

Do you have any favorite guest stars on Bob's Burgers?

Sure. Cloris Leachman was amazing. I think she gave Loren a hard time a little bit. I love Megan Mullally anytime she comes on, her voice is so gorgeous and she plays Gayle. Kevin Klein is really, I'm always pinching myself that I'm working with him. He's super talented. And just the list of all the comics that we work with. They just get so many good comics all the time. So I'm always impressed by everyone they cast.

Do they show up in the studio?

Yeah. In either New York or L.A. So you get a little starstruck, but mostly it's just having fun with everyone who shows up and is just ready to play, and that's the best way to meet people.

Is there anything else I haven't brought up?

Just my Twitter, @JohnRobertsFun on Twitter and Instagram. And thank you for watching Bob's, and hopefully we continue to make a great show that everyone enjoys, and it keeps going.

Catch the 200th episode of Bob's Burgers November 15 at 9PM ET on Fox.