Chris Witaske and Katie Rich spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the upcoming Netflix animated series, Chicago Party Aunt.
Witaske and Rich join Lauren Ash, Rory O’Malley, RuPaul Charles, Jill Talley, Ike Barinholtz, Jon Barinholtz, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in the cast. This cast features so many improvisers who originated out of the Chicago improv scene at Second City, iO, and the Annoyance!
Chicago Party Aunt was created by Chris Witaske, Jon Barinholtz, and Katie Rich. Witaske, Barinholtz, Rich, Ike Barinholtz, Dave Stassen, Will Gluck, Richie Schwartz, Chris Prynoski, Antonio Canobbio, Ben Kalina, and Matt Craig serve as executive producers on the series.
Netflix launches the first half on September 17, 2021.
Long time no see!
Katie Rich: How are you?
Chris Witaske: It’s good to see your face!
Likewise! What was the inspiration for Chicago Party Aunt?
Chris Witaske: Well, I started it on Twitter in 2016 and it was me sitting on my couch in LA bored out of my mind, waiting for my next commercial audition and missing home. I started it as just a fun, creative outlet and now it’s going to be streaming all over the world.
There’s this whole Chicago improv reunion in the Chicago Party Aunt cast!
Chris Witaske: Exactly! That was our goal and it’s been a dream.
Were there any improvisers that you all wanted but couldn’t fit in?
Katie Rich: I don’t think so. We were able to get some pretty amazing people so think we’re pretty happy with the cast of characters and fools that we got to be a part of this.
Chris Witaske: When you have a TV show, it’s easier to get people to do your stuff. (Laughs)
Is there a Chicago landmark that you all tried to fit it but couldn’t find the right place?
Katie Rich: I don’t know. We were able to get some—we have Guthrie’s in there, which we were very excited about. We have The Wiener’s Circle in there. There’s a lot of pretty Chicago-specific things we were able to fit in there.
Chris Witaske: Our hope is that when we do season two, we’re able to get more and more niche with locations (Laughs).
Katie Rich: A lot of stuff is gone. I was gonna say the Punkin’ Donuts but that’s gone.
When you walk down the Mile, there’s so many stores that have closed because of the pandemic.
Chris Witaske: It is wild. I was just back in town for a week and yeah, the amount of stuff that’s closed or the amount of new stuff just blew me away
Katie Rich: We’ve got some good stuff in there.
Let’s talk about Matt Craig. I come from improv and he’s one of the few that I know in animation. At what point did you reach out to him about being a showrunner?
Katie Rich: Well, just that we had someone who spoke our language and was a part of The Second City community and the Chicago community. The fact that he had been working in animation for years was it was kind of a no-brainer, right? We were so excited to make that connection and that that was able to happen because there’s a shorthand, right, with people in improv that it was so great to have our captain also know how to speak.
Chris Witaske: I think it was—we said early on, Oh, we wish we knew a great Chicagoan who had a ton of animation experience and then it’s like, wait a second, we do!
Katie Rich: We do!
What made you think of Lauren Ash for the lead role?
Katie Rich: Lauren, also having spent so much time in Chicago, and just Lauren has that quality about her that she shares with Diane in that she is honest, she’s bold, but she’s so loving and so joyful. Lauren really knows how to have a good time so that was also very, very important for Diane to be someone who you could say that about.
Chris Witaske: We auditioned a lot of people. We probably heard over 100 different voices and when we heard Lauren’s, it was like, Ah, there it is!
Have you started breaking story for season two?
Chris Witaske: Not yet.
Katie Rich: From your lips to G-d’s ears.
Chris Witaske: Yep, we’re gonna see how season one goes. Now, the first eight come out on September 17 and then another eight will come out who knows when. And then, the future is we’ll see.
How else have you been?
Chris Witaske: We’ve been great!
Katie Rich: Good! I’m just so excited for this to happen!
Chris Witaske: I don’t know about Katie but I really miss the old improv days. We started in Chicago doing comedy at Second City, iO, and the Annoyance and I really miss those days. The show has been great because we can kind of relive them in a certain way.
Katie Rich: Yeah, I agree. We don’t have our clubhouses anymore.