At the 2012 Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, the stars of “Bob’s Burgers” gathered for a live table read. It was one of the first such public performances for a cast that includes comics Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, and Dan Mintz. Afterward, H. Jon Benjamin — who voices the burger-mongering patriarch of the show’s title — called creator Loren Bouchard.
“He said that it was really fun and that the audience seemed to really like it,” Bouchard says. “I had never heard him express enthusiasm about anything, so I took that as an incredible sign.”
Live shows have since become a regular supplement to a series that, with its eighth season set to premiere this fall, now ranks among broadcast’s longer-running comedies — in the same league as CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and ABC’s “Modern Family.” The performances, often strung together on national tours, have offered viewers a chance to see stars perform in and out of character live, a rarity for any television series.
A key feature of that series has been its original songs, more than 100 of which are featured on an album released last month on Sub Pop records and boasting the utilitarian title “The Bob’s Burgers Music Album.” Music from the album will be front and center Sunday in a live show at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.
“Loren is an amazing leader and a really special creative guy,” Scott Greenberg, CEO of Bento Box Entertainment, the animation studio that produces the show for 20th Century Fox Television. “The live show is really about supporting his vision as a creator.”
Featuring the show’s cast, musicians, and guests including the band El Vy, the Father’s Day event at the Orpheum will be half comedy show, half concert — whereas past shows have been built around a live table read.
“Music has always been such a big part of the show,” Bouchard says. “Music and animation I think are incredibly well-suited to each other. Because this year is our album year, we thought we would swap out the table read portion of the live show and do some music.”
Early on, Bouchard and his staff decided to create a new original song, often performed by cast members, to play over each episode’s end credits. In time, the occasional musical-themed episode began to pop up. All the songs tended toward the simple and ridiculous. “The Fart Song,” for instance, sung by Mirman, begins, “When you feel like school has sucked the wind out of your sails / Remember that it’s cool to use the wind that’s in your tails.”
Mirman then continues, “Fart, fart, fart, fart, fart, fart, fart / Every fart is a work of art.” And so on.
“We set out to make childlike, joyful silly music,” Bouchard says. “Sometimes the night before we would be sending the thing over to Fox we would be working on the music, but that was part of the fun too. The music has that quality, in a way. It feels like we did it late at night at the last second — in a good way.”
Artists such as the National, Stephin Merritt, and St. Vincent took notice, recording covers. Sleater Kinney worked with Bouchard and Bento Box on a video for its 2015 song “A New Wave” starring “Bob’s Burgers” characters.
The album grew in part out of the Kinney collaboration, which put Bouchard in touch with the band’s label Sub Pop, also the company behind comedy albums for stand-ups such Mirman and David Cross. Fans of the show had long clamored for a collection of the music. But the task proved more difficult than Bouchard anticipated.
“We work for a company, Fox, that has been great for us,” Bouchard says. “But I think they would be the first to admit that they’re used to doing big things for big groups of people.” A record of short comedy songs released on an indie label is not a big thing meant for a big group of people. And those songs were performed and recorded by members of multiple unions. “When we finally got all the greenlight-type approvals to go ahead and make this thing, we found out just how many lawyers would need to be involved.” It was a lot.
But Bouchard saw the album as an important way to engage an audience that has kept the show on the air for so many years. The same goes for the live shows.
“It’s a way to be with the fans and celebrate the fans, at least kind of be in the same room with them, which is intoxicating,” Bouchard says. “In terms of having a live audience, they’re the best. It’s nice to see what jokes they laugh at in the clips we play, and the cast enjoys performing for them.”