Early on in F is for Family season 3, Frank Murphy (Bill Burr) takes his wife and kids to a drive-in theater with new neighbor Chet Stevenson (Vince Vaughn) and his spouse. The scene is an important one for the new neighbors’ budding friendship, but it’s also rife with much of the crude, biting humor that Burr’s Netflix series is known for. Frank is constantly yelling at his kids, a creepy resident is spying on other people’s cars in the background, and at any moment, it feels like everything could just go completely off the rails.
Except it won’t, because unlike other adult-oriented animated series like Rick & Morty and Adventure Time, F is for Family goes out of its way to stay as real as possible - despite the fact that it’s a cartoon. According to executive producers Michael Price and Peter Billingsly, Burr is the man responsible for this.
“Bill is a huge part of that,” says Price. “I worked on The Simpsons for many years. The staff there was really funny, so the first instinct was often to try and think of the funniest things to say or do. Sometimes we'd go a little crazy with it, but not with F is for Family. In the writer’s room, Bill always acknowledges that something is really funny if it is, but he always wants to make sure it's real. He wants to make sure we stay grounded with who the characters are.”
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Bill Burr talks F is for Family season 3
“I'm the guy that tries to keep it tethered to reality, basically,” says Burr. “I do this, I would say, because so that it doesn't get too absurd.”
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with absurdity in comedy. The genre is rife with it, especially when it comes to family-centric sitcoms. And if it’s a cartoon like The Simpsons or Family Guy, then absurdity can easily be built into the show format itself. Nonetheless, Burr errs on the side of avoiding it with F is for Family.
“Once stuff gets too absurd, at least when I watch things, then I don't care about the characters,” he explains. “It's just a comedy preference. The comedy I find really funny is whenever it goes down the way it really goes down. I mean, there's plenty absurdity in the show, but it’s just more of the tertiary characters. It's not the main characters.”
So whenever the comic beats involve the stalker-y aspirations of the car-peeping neighbor, Mr. Goomer (Trevor Devall), then the more absurdity the better. But if Frank, his wife Sue (Laura Dern), and his kids Kevin (Justin Long), Bill (Haley Reinhart) and Maureen (Debi Derryberry) are involved, then not so much.
“I think you connect with people more, the more real it is,” says Burr. “If you make them laugh their asses off and it's real, then people will connect with it more. But if you make them laugh their asses off and it's over the top and absurd, they just go ‘that was fun’ and move on. It’s when you get them to relate to stuff that I think you can better connect to the audience. That comes from the comics that I watched when I was growing up.”
Yet that doesn’t mean things will get silly, as they did toward the end of season 2 with the foiled terrorist plot at the airport Frank works at. Between the exploding people and the laugh-out-loud weirdness of season 2’s conclusion, viewers can rest assured that F is for Family season 3 will keep up the pace.
“The great thing about our partnership with Netflix is that, if anything, they're pushing us to go as far as we want,” says Billingsly. “So whether it’s the darker humor or some of the profane language we use, they're very supportive of it. They’re often pushing us to do more, so that’s been nice. They're not constantly putting the shackles on us and saying, ‘Jeez guys, you're going awfully far here.’”
F is for Family season 3 release date
F is for Family season 3 streams Friday, Nov. 30, on Netflix.