'Bob's Burgers' Voice of Gene, Eugene Mirman, Reflects on 200 Episodes

Q&A
Artwork © 2020 by Fox Media LLC.

"This is me now!" Bob's Burgers' gutsy 11-year-old Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman) has admitted on more than one occasion. And whether he's dressing up as "Beefsquatch" or playing a musical Hans Gruber, the risky, identity-exploring, music-loving middle brother never fails to make us smile. We love whichever "me" that Gene is bringing to the table. So, in celebration of the series' 200th episode, we had a quick chat with Mirman about his fun and wild character.

The milestone episode, airing Sunday, November 15, is titled "Bob Belcher and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Kids." It centers on a devastating course of events that leads to the restaurant's flat top grill breaking down, inconveniently during a really busy town event. And if the title is any indication, we think we know who the main suspects are.

The episode also involves a hilarious town-wide sculpture contest, in which matriarch Linda enters a cringy-looking mermaid statuette. And don't worry, Mirman confirms, "Yes, there are musical moments" in the installment. Would it be a major episode of Bob's without some singing, after all?

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To celebrate, Mirman breaks down what it's like to play Gene, his favorite moments, and more.

Congratulations on 200 episodes! How does it feel to have been playing Gene for so long now?

Eugene Mirman: It feels amazing. It’s such a fun show to work on. I’ve known the people, we’ve all known each other for years even before making this show. So it’s just a joy to get to collaborate with friends for so long.

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To get into some background on the character, Gene is named after you, right?

Yes, it's true. No one calls me Gene, except for on that show, and maybe a teacher from ninth grade, but yes, Gene is named after me. [Creator] Loren [Bouchard] cast all of us in the roles he imagined us for on the show, and then we all worked on a demo together.

Gene is the most out-there of the Belchers. He’s a free-spirit, very into pop culture. Are there things that you’ve incorporated into the character that you yourself love?

What’s funny is there are so many absurd references to '80s TV shows that I grew up on and not a modern 11-year-old. Or references to foods that I love that might be slightly unusual for a kid in a seaside town to really like. So yeah, some of that makes it through. Gene is, not so much what I was like as a kid, but more what I would be like if I was a kid right now. If adult me was a kid, I think he’d be a little Gene-ish.

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You’ve mentioned in other interviews that “O.T.: The Outside Toilet” (Season 3, Episode 15), with Jon Hamm voicing a talking toilet, is your favorite episode. Is that still true?

It’s one of my favorites, it was really fun to do. "The Bleakening," the hour-long Christmas special [in 2017], was really fun, but there’s a lot of them. A lot of [my favorites] are scenes and moments. I think it often depends on the episode I remember the best. But I do watch them all when they air. It's really fun to see, especially since it’s been a while since we recorded it; I don’t necessarily remember [the jokes]."

And you’re a father. Has your child seen Bob’s Burgers yet?

I think my 4-year-old has seen it a little and definitely thinks it’s my favorite show. So I think he’s just like, "Yeah, that’s the cartoon that dad loves." He’s seen it a little bit. There was an episode that he kept wanting to watch over and over that involved Gene being in a giant robot, it was the restaurant turned into a giant robot fighting a lizard that farted [Season 10, Episode 19, "The Handyman Can"], so my son was like, ‘This is the kind of cartoon I’m talking about.’

Does he understand that it’s you as Gene?

I don’t know how much he fully gets it. But also, it’s not like I sit him down every day to be like, "We’re watching Bob's Burgers and you have to understand everything that’s happening." And he's sort of like, "I’d much rather be watching [Ask the] StoryBots." And I’m like, "You’re right, that’s probably going to teach you about electricity, and we should be doing that."

Have you ever actually eaten a Bob’s Burger? Some of them are pretty crazy, but some sound delicious.

Yes, I have. We’ve done a handful of shows together as the cast, doing standup and reading a couple of episodes together, and I think it was near Philadelphia, for our catering, that they had made a bunch of different sliders of the Bob’s Burgers burgers and it was really fun.

The rule the writers have for all the jokes is that they all have to be things that you can make and would hopefully taste good. So, the puns are never, "There’s broken glass in this burger, burger!" That’s not a pun, really, but you get the spirit. [Laughs]

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What's your favorite Gene musical moment?

There’s a lot of toss-ups. I will say, I love "Word Hard or Die Trying, Girl" [Season 5, Episode 1]. The thing that’s so fun for me about the music is that I can’t sing, and I’m terrible at it. The way we record all the songs for me is that I do a line at a time, and they edit it together, so it’s like I’m singing. Bob’s Burgers creates the illusion that I can sing badly, and I am actually worse than that at it. It’s the higher-end of my register, but it’s also just me yelling.

Do you have a favorite improvised line?

Yeah, I think there’s a few moments. One is, there’s a scene where the family is all in the bathroom and Louise is making Gene look like Bob [Season 3, Episode 12]. Originally, it was very short, but it ended up with the whole family in there arguing and talking, and that was largely improvised and very fun. There’s also a scene, I think it’s in an episode where Gene and Bob have an argument where Bob is stuck in the walls, and Gene says that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was written by Salman Rushdie [Season 1, Episode 2]. And that was something Jon [H. Jon Benjamin] and I improvised at the time. It aired like a year later, and I was like, "Oh my god, it made it in!"

The cast usually records these episodes together. Has coronavirus changed that?

Yes. We would record normally in different cities but would read the scenes all together. Now, we are in our own homes, largely in our closets, recording. We had recorded about half of the season that’s airing now before the pandemic, but we’ve been recording stuff now, whether it’s ADR or whole episodes, from home. We still get to improvise, but alone. I do look forward to it being safe for people to gather and going into recording studios again.

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There was supposed to be a theatrical release for the movie this year, which is now scheduled for April 9, 2021. Have you recorded anything for that yet? Can you say anything about it?

We have started recording it. I probably am not supposed to say much. It would be fun for me to make up things right now that are all untrue, but I think I can say that we’re recording it. I don’t think that’s a secret and, if it is, sorry, everyone!

Bob's Burgers, Sundays, 9/8c, Fox