Netflix unveils its new animated comedy series “Chicago Party Aunt” on September 17th, and it’s a double doozie for local audiences.
The irreverent, downright debauchery comedy pushes the boundaries of political correctness and crams as many Chicago-centric inner jokes as the runtime allows.
“Chicago Party Aunt” was created by Chris Witaske, who grew up in St. Charles; Jon Barinholtz, who grew up in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood; and Katie Rich, who grew up on the South Side.
It follows the misadventures of quintessential Chicagoan Diane Dunbrowski (voiced by Lauren Ash), whose quest for an endless good time leads her, her family, and friends into all manner of mischievous procrastination.
The comedy series is based on anonymous posts by Witaske’s “Chicago Party Aunt” Twitter account. I met him recently for a Zoom interview.
Q. In “Chicago Party Aunt” you have characters spitting out syllables like bullets from a Thompson submachine gun on Valentine’s Day. Who is helping you put this in place?
A. The Writers’ Room is made up of a lot of people from Chicago or people with Chicago roots. We come up with an idea and we start to launch it, to flush it out. We try to get into as many chicagoisms as possible. I think we have done a good job in this regard.
Q. You have a show that takes the phrase “Siskel and Ebert” and turns it into a naughty sex metaphor. Have you ever come across an idea that you thought was hilarious but there was no way to get it into the program?
A. Netflix has given us carte blanche. You can do just about anything you want. But there are things that we come up with and say, “We sure can’t do that. We can’t go.”
Q. Like what?
A. Hey, my parents are going to read this. They subscribe to the Daily Herald!
Q. I understand that you based your original Chicago Party Auntie Twitter account, and now the TV show, on two of your aunts. If this is true, do they know it and do they still accept you as their nephew?
A. Yes. I started this as a Twitter account in 2016 and based it on two of my current aunts. And so far, they haven’t denied me yet. In fact, I think it’s a source of pride.
Q. How did growing up in St. Charles shape you as a person?
A. My father is very funny. He took me to my very first Second City show when I was 13. I looked up on stage and thought to myself, “This is what I want to do with my life! I had very supportive parents who supported me. … I have always been the class clown. My parents encouraged him.
Q. If Netflix had been a regular movie studio or a conventional network, you wouldn’t have been able to throw out all the Chicago-specific references, such as TV meteorologist Tom Skilling coming to the rescue in a helicopter. How did you handle this?
A. It was the great balance. When we sat down we said 1) This must be hilarious. 2) It must be a love letter to Chicago, the city we all love. 3) It must be universal enough that the people of Singapore know what is going on.
No matter where you’re from, you’ve got a party girl aunt in your life who says inappropriate things at the Thanksgiving dinner table or buys beer for teenagers. Everyone knows a person like that. And if they don’t know this person, then they probably are.
Q. How did you decide to choose Lauren Ash to be the quintessential Chicago Diana?
A. We auditioned over 100 women to find our Diane. We had a lot of different views on her. We had great Chicago accents. But when we heard from Lauren Ash, who’s in “Super Store,” she brought him out of the park. She has Chicago roots. And we knew her from “Second City”, so it worked out perfectly.
Q. Isn’t she from Canada?
A. I think Chicagoans and Canadians are very similar. They are very nice. They’ll buy you a beer. If you ask them for directions, they will accompany you to where you wanted to go.
Q. What’s the best thing about Chicago?
A. I don’t think you’re going to find people like the Chicagoans anywhere else in the world. They are just nice, kind and ready to have a good time. They love to eat, drink and be merry. I came back for a week and was able to throw the first pitch in a Cubs game. I felt so at home, back in town. There is no other place like it.