Q&A with H. Jon Benjamin from 'Bob’s Burgers' and 'Archer'

Win tickets to 'Bob’s Burgers Live'—a sold out night of standup and shenanigans with the cast of the animated show. May 10 at the Crystal Ballroom.

By Marty Patail May 1, 2013

Image: Fox

The cast of the FOX animated show Bob’s Burgers is rolling into Portland on May 10 for the sold out Bob’s Burgers Live! performance at the Crystal Ballroom. The evening will include a raucous and lively mix of fan Q&A, a table read, an exclusive sneak peek at upcoming episodes, and stand-up comedy from the cast’s who’s who of contemporary comics, including H. Jon Benjamin (Bob Belcher), Kristen Schaal (Louise Belcher), Eugene Mirman (Gene Belcher), Dan Mintz (Tina Belcher) and John Roberts (Linda Belcher).

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Because we're delightfully perplexed by the idea of a live tour of an animated show, we talked with comedian and actor Benjamin, who in addition to being the family-man Bob Belcher is also the nasally voice of the promiscuous, hard-drinking spy on FX’s Archer.

Culturephile: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
H. Jon Benjamin:
Oh. We’re done?

[Laughs] Not quite yet.
Okay. We can continue for a little bit. But I’m not gonna lie, let’s wrap it up.

So you’re coming to Portland—
Yes. Coming back to Portland.

You’ve been here before?
Yes. Three years ago. But this is a big reunion.

What were your impressions at the time?
Sad. Melancholy. A place steeped in the history of blood and toil. No, I like Portland very much.

So you’re doing a live in-person show here to promote an animated show?
Yes. It’s a real riddle within a riddle.

Is that weird to you at all?
Well, no. Everybody in the show is a live performer, along with being a cartoon character. We’re not just one thing.  We’ve done this live show once before, in the Midwest. Maybe Chicago. Everyone performs a comedy set. And then the creator of Bob’s Burgers comes out to much fanfare. Well… a smattering of applause. And we read some scenes and do stuff from the show. So it’s kinda like a little bit of everything for nobody.

Bob's Burgers Live!
Crystal Ballroom
May 10 at 7 p.m.
Are you guys all in the same room when you record the voices for the show?
It varies. There are people who live in New York, like myself. And then most of the people are in LA, where the show is produced. So we are kind of like the kid’s table here in NY.  We have limits on what we can eat. Everything’s done on the cheap here, where in LA it’s a bounty of riches. People get what they want and they’re all assholes and they live it up and enjoy themselves and all the money is flowing through the system. And we’re in some shitty studio in the Flat Iron District. Suffering. Bad Air. Exhaust fumes. And a lot of construction.

That sounds absolutely miserable.
And we only get like one Rice Krispie treat per session.

To share?
No, everybody gets their own. But that’s it. It’s not a lot. And the sessions sometimes last over three hours. It’s pretty bad.

The cast of 'Bob's Burgers': (from left) Dan Mintz (Tina Belcher), Eugene Mirman (Gene Belcher), John Roberts (Linda Belcher), H. Jon Benjamin (Bob Belcher), and Kristen Schaal (Louise Belcher). Standing: creator Loren Bouchard.

Let’s talk about your voice. Did you ever imagine your voice would be as famous as it is, between Bob’s Burgers and Archer?
I didn’t predict that, no, that’s for sure. No. I don’t think my voice is that great. It’s hard to like your own voice. So I can’t, like, speak on it. I have to hear it all the time.

Why do you think other people like it?
I don’t know. It’s tapping into something in their childhood probably.  A guy who yelled at them.

Do you do any other voices?
[In a high-pitched boys voice] Yeah, I do this one.

Never heard that before? That’s the kid from Newsies.

[Laughs] I remember that kid.
No, you mean like impressions? I never really did that. There’s people on Bob’s Burgers that do that, like John Roberts and Eugene Mirman, and people who are exceptionally good at mimicry. But, I can only do this voice, and then a little more Jewish than this.

If you could be the voice of any animated character ever, who would it be?
Uh. Wow. There’s been a lot of it, right? I would say… Wasn’t there a Disney cartoon that had a Nazi in it? Like in the 40s? Yeah, that guy. Hey, I would’ve taken the work. “Anything you say, Mr. Disney!”

So, getting a little weird here. Not quite sure I’m with you on this one.

Do you watch a lot of TV?
Yes. It’s starting to fill my nights now. And my mornings. Sometimes my mid-days. I have that lifestyle where I would say to the people who are in jail, “You think you’re in jail. I’m actually in jail.” But that’s philosophical.

What do you watch?
I don’t really watch a lot of animation. I watch a lot of South Park, which I have on DVD. Mostly I watch sports—a lot of basketball and baseball. And as far as shows, Game of Thrones! And The Killing. That’s another one I watched. In its entirety. I watched a season in four days.

Which Game of Thrones character do you identify with the most?
[Laughs]. The fat guy. The fat one. The fat, dim one. What’s his name?

The guy on the Wall? [Samwell Tarly]
Yeah, the guy who’s always f**king up. He seems like the guy in the first part of Full Metal Jacket. The guy who blows his head off [Private Pyle]. He’s always holding everyone up. But I just saw the last episode, where he ran away with the girl. So maybe he’ll be alright… wherever fat, dumb people live.

So, drinking. Archer drinks a lot. Do you?
Very much so. Beer, wine, whiskey, bourbon, Slivovitz. It’s a Russian or Polish spirit of some sort. No, mostly just beer and wine and bourbon.

How much of Archer is you?
Certainly none of his professional qualities. I can relate a bit to his sense of inheritance and his juvenile attitudes. I definitely have a lot of that going. And some of the things, like his voice messages, prankish, annoying things that he would go to no end to keep continuing to create, I’ve done in real life, prior to being Archer. So that was fun to discover that Adam had wrote that, without knowing that I had already done that.

You enjoy annoying people?
Yes. It’s how I interact.

What about Bob. Have you ever worked in a burger joint?
No. Only restaurants. A friend of mine worked at a burger place similar to Bob’s in Cambridge, MA called, uh, Bartley’s Burgers. It was family-run and the sons worked there. And Loren Bouchard who created Bob’s Burgers is from Massachusetts. Now I’m wondering if there’s a connection. The guy who ran it was a real kind of a surly Boston guy, and my friend worked there and he hated that job. No offense to Mr. Bartley. But I think he like peeled potatoes or something. Kitchen duty.

Last question: what’s your favorite joke?
[Ed. Note: The rest of this conversation is not appropriate for this blog. Ask Benjamin about it at the show].

Bob's Burgers airs on FOX on Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

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