The Chicago Party Aunt creators, who are behind the popular Twitter account that has over 2 million followers, discuss how they came to create the account and what their thoughts are on Netflix’s jump into original programming.
The first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt, an adult animated comedy that will make its global debut on Netflix, will air this weekend. Diane Dunbrowski (voiced by Lauren Ash from Superstore) is a hard-partying, passionately devoted lady from Chicago whose connections with her family, friends, and colleagues lead to many crazy escapades. Chicago Party Aunt had already acquired cult status due to the long-running Twitter account of the same name, even before the animated series was announced. Diane used the account to make bawdy and charming jokes about Chicago landmarks and culture, and even ran for mayor of the city in 2018.
Actor and comedian Chris Witaske, who (until the series’ introduction) had been covertly operating the Twitter account for many years and co-created the television version with Saturday Night Live’s Katie Rich and Superstore’s Jon Barinholtz, is at the center of Chicago Party Aunt. Witaske portrays Diane’s ex-husband Kurt, while Rich portrays Diane’s colleague Zuzana, and they all contribute their voices to the series’ cast. I spoke with Witaske and Rich about the process of adapting Chicago Party Aunt’s distinct universe for television, as well as discovering the series’ mix of very particular and universal comedy, ahead of the series’ premiere. We also spoke about some of the Chicago celebs that appeared (or didn’t) on the program, as well as what could be in store for a possible Season 2.
: It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to speak with you. I’ve always admired her account and the world she’s built. I know this character has been your baby for a long time, Chris. I recall you even calling the local news station to announce her candidacy for mayor. What has it been like to give her voice on to others and have so many people help her come to life?
Chris Witaske: It’s been a roller coaster ride. In 2017, I began doing it in my boxer shorts since I was bored in Los Angeles. We’ve now hired a hundred individuals, and the video will be shown in 190 countries. I never imagined this would happen in my wildest fantasies.
Going off of that, with you portraying Kurt — Kurt has such a fascinating backstory on the outside of the Twitter account. What was it like bringing him to life and turning him into a full-fledged character?
Witaske: That was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire process, fleshing out these characters — including Diane. Because Twitter is just a bunch of jokes, but bringing her to life and fleshing out her world with all these characters, including Kurt, was a lot of fun with this fantastic team.
This show’s love letter to Chicago culture is very particular. My partner and I were sitting there watching the trailers and just pointing at the TV whenever we recognized a reference. What was it like to strike that balance of being detailed while still being approachable?
Katie Rich (interviewer): So, you’re looking for details, aren’t you? You want details because they’ll translate even if you don’t know what they are. But the most important thing was that Diane, the heroine, is a global figure, right? Everybody, no matter where they are, has a party aunt. So that was how we were able to tap into the show’s universality. However, not everyone who worked on the program was from Chicago, which was fortunate at times. Every now and again, we needed to be reined in, [and told] “No one will be able to tell you what it is. Please put an end to it. This is your thirteenth mention of Mark Giangreco. There will be no more honey. We’ve completed our task.”
Witaske: We need to get them in there as soon as possible.
No, we don’t, Rich. No one has asked for it.
I enjoyed the Tom Skilling aspect of it all. That was very well-executed. That was fantastic.
Rich: You’re only going to get one local reporter.
Skilling is an excellent example. Apart from Giangreco, were there any other allusions that were nearly too obscure? Something that was nearly too specialized and ended up on the cutting room floor?
Witaske: There were quite a few of them. I continued attempting to sell Tony Kuko, a former Bulls player from the 1990s. I continued trying to cram everything in, but it was impossible “It’s much too specialized. People in Brazil will have no idea who they are.”
Rich: I agree. I continued pushing the word “purple-lining,” which I had brought up before as a prank. And I was like, “I’m not sure whether it would translate.”
As I previously said, despite the show’s narrow focus, the show’s core concepts are universal. What do you hope viewers, both native Chicagoans and those who have never visited the city, will take away from it?
Witaske: We also wanted a lot of heart in it. We all grew up watching John Hughes films, which are very hilarious but also have tragedy and heart. As a result, I’m hoping that people laugh their heads off while simultaneously thinking, “Aw, that was nice.” Not in a special afterschool sort of manner, but, you know.
Rich: We want people to enjoy themselves. It’s a pleasant diversion. It’s simply a lighthearted and amusing program. And, as you said, it’s got a lot of heart. So all we ask is that you spend twenty-two minutes with us, forgetting about everything and laughing.
Is it possible that Diane will run for mayor? In real life, it was a big deal, and it seems like it’s a great fit for the show.
Jenna! Rich: Jenna!
Witaske: We have a few thoughts for a possible Season Two. Let’s just say that one is towards the top of the list.
On Friday, September 17th, the first eight episodes of Chicago Party Aunt will be available on Netflix.