The first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt make their debut on Netflix this weekend, bringing a one-of-a-kind animated series to the streaming service. The series follows the adventures of Diane Dunbrowski (Lauren Ash), a hard-partying, fiercely-loyal woman from the Windy City, and the relationships she has with her friends, family, and coworkers. This includes Daniel (Rory O'Malley), Diane's nephew who decides to take a gap year before college to discover himself, and proceeds to do so by moving in with his aunt. While the idea for the series originated on social media, in the form of a long-running Twitter account run by comedian Chris Witaske, the Netflix show takes the concept and runs with it, with its ensemble cast helping create some memorable and heartfelt moments.
In anticipation of Chicago Party Aunt's debut, ComicBook.com spoke with Ash and O'Malley about their work on the series, the show's approach to Chicago culture, and about the pressure of bringing a cult-favorite character to life.
ComicBook.com: For Lauren, what has it been like to portray a character that fans have such a distinct voice for in their heads? Because I know for me, reading CPA's tweets, your voice is such a good approximation of the voice that I had in my head.
Lauren Ash: Oh, that's so awesome. Thank you so much for saying that. That means a lot to me. It's such a joy. When that Twitter account first started, it followed me because I lived in Chicago doing the Second City Mainstage there for a couple of years. And it was so funny, I obviously followed back, and I was like, "I must know this person." So I started to send a DM to say like, "Who are you? Who's behind the curtain?" and then I deleted it — and this is not a joke — because I didn't want to ruin the magic. I was like, "I want to believe she's a real lady."
So the full circle moment was when my buddy, Jon Barinholtz, revealed to me that it was Chris Witaske who was behind the Twitter account, and that the two of them, with Katie Rich, were making it into a show. I screamed. I was like, "Oh my God, of course!" And then I was just like, "I want to be her," and I'm so lucky that they let me.
The dynamic between Daniel and Diane really shines across the season. How did you find that dynamic? Did you guys ever get to record together, or was it all separate because of COVID? Because it really feels very familial in the actual show.
Rory O'Malley: It was separate because of COVID. I recorded all the episodes in my garage right here and had to learn how to be a amateur sound engineer, basically. So that was definitely challenging. But we've all figured out how to get through the last year and connect with each other over video. So getting to have that connection with Lauren and the cast that way, by reading through the script and hearing each other's voices and performances when we were doing the recording made it a lot easier.
The show is packed to the brim with very specific Chicago references. Were there any that surprised you, either because they were so specific and you did know them, or because you didn't know them?
Ash: It never ceases to amaze me how deep the cuts can go, and how also the animation is accurate. Like, when they showed Gibsons, I was like, "Oh my gosh! That's what it looks like!" It was such a treat for me, as someone who has lived there and loves Chicago so much. I think that that's the kind of cool dichotomy, is that there's going to be people who love Chicago and are going to be delighted by these Easter egg almost type things. But then, people who maybe don't know anything about Chicago are going to get like a real crash course, which is amazing.
But there was, I mean — again, top to bottom, there's always something in every episode that would make me laugh, because I was like, "I can't believe that they've gotten that in there!" But here we are, you know? Here we are.
What do you hope viewers take away from the show, both people who are from Chicago and people who have never been?
O'Malley: I hope they can take away that the Midwest culture is about celebrating family, and that extended family is very, very important. The relationship between an aunt and a nephew or a niece is very specific, and it's a specific kind of love story. And I hope that people everywhere can see how important that dynamic is between aunts, uncles, and nieces, and nephews.
The first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt are set to be released on Netflix on Friday, September 17th.