This weekend will see the premiere of the first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt, an adult animated series that will be making its worldwide debut on Netflix. The series follows Diane Dunbrowski (voiced by Superstore's Lauren Ash), a hard-partying, fiercely-loyal woman from the Windy City, whose relationships with her family, friends, and coworkers create plenty of wild adventures. Long before the animated series was announced, Chicago Party Aunt had already gained a bit of a cult status, thanks to the long-running Twitter account of the same name. The account saw Diane poke fun at Chicago icons and culture in an incredibly raunchy and endearing way, and even run for mayor of the city back in 2018.
At the heart of Chicago Party Aunt is actor and comedian Chris Witaske, who (up until the series' announcement) was secretly running the Twitter account for several years, and co-created the television adaptation alongside Saturday Night Live's Katie Rich and Superstore's Jon Barinholtz. All three also lend their voices to the series' cast, with Witaske portraying Diane's ex-husband Kurt, and Rich portraying Diane's coworker, Zuzana. Ahead of the series' debut, ComicBook.com got a chance to chat with Witaske and Rich about the experience of translating Chicago Party Aunt's unique world for television, and finding the series' blend between incredibly specific and universal humor. We also spoke about some of the Chicago celebrities that did (or didn't) make their way into the show, and what could be in store for a potential Season 2.
ComicBook.com: It's so cool to get to talk to you guys. I've been a huge fan of the account and the lore that she has created. For Chris — I know this character has been your baby for so long. I remember when you even called into the local news to announce that she was running for mayor. What has it been like to pass her voice onto other people and to have so many other people be involved in bringing her to life?
Chris Witaske: It's been wild. I started this in my boxer shorts in 2017, because I was bored in Los Angeles. Now, we've employed a hundred people and it's going to stream in 190 countries. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this would happen.
Going off of that, with you voicing Kurt — Kurt has such an interesting lore on the periphery of the Twitter account itself. What was it like to bring him to life and make him a full fledged character as well?
Witaske: That's what was so fun about this whole experience, fleshing out these characters — and even Diane. Because the Twitter's just a lot of jokes, but to bring her to life and to flesh out her world with all these characters, including Kurt, that was what was so fun with this great team of people.
This show is so incredibly specific in its love letter to Chicago culture. My boyfriend and I were sitting there watching the screeners and just pointing at the TV every single time we caught a reference. What was it like to find that balance of being so specific, but also so accessible at the same time?
Katie Rich: Well, you want the specifics, right? You want specifics because, even if you don't know what they are, they'll translate. But the main thing was that this character herself, Diane, that's a universal character, right? Everyone has a party aunt, no matter where you are. So that was really the way we tapped into the universality of the show. But — sometimes luckily — not everyone who worked on the show was from Chicago. We did have to get reigned in every once in a while, [and be told] "No one's going to know what that is. Please stop. This is your fourteenth Mark Giangreco reference. No more honey. We're done."
Witaske: We've got to get them in there.
Rich: No we don't. No one's asking for that.
I did love the Tom Skilling of it all. That was so perfectly done. That was incredible.
Rich: You get one local news person.
Skilling is a perfect one. Going off of that, were there any references that were almost too obscure, other than Giangreco? Something where it got left on the cutting room floor because it was almost too niche?
Witaske: There were a lot. I kept trying to pitch Tony Kukoč, who was from the 1990s Bulls. I kept trying to jam it in there and it was like "It's too niche. People in Brazil are not going to know who they are."
Rich: Yeah. I kept pushing "purple-lining", which I brought up earlier just as a little naughty thing. And that was like, "I don't know if that's going to translate."
As I said, even though the show is so specific, the core themes of it feels so universal. What do you hope viewers take away from it — both people who are from Chicago and people who have never been to Chicago?
Witaske: We wanted it to have a lot of heart, too. We all grew up watching John Hughes movies that are funny as hell, but also have pathos and heart. And so I hope that people laugh their asses off, but then also are like, "Aw, that was sweet." Not in an afterschool special kind of way, but like, you know.
Rich: We want people to have a nice time. It's a nice escape. It's just a show that is fun and funny. And, like you said, has a lot of heart. So we just hope you can spend twenty-two minutes with us and just forget everything and just laugh.
Could we potentially see Diane run for mayor? That was such a huge thing in real life, and it feels like it's perfect for the show.
Witaske: We've got some loose ideas for a potential Season Two. And let's just say that one's pretty high on the list.0comments
The first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt are set to be released on Netflix on Friday, September 17th.