Comedian Chris Witaske’s “Chicago Party Aunt,” a raucous, beer-loving Twitter personality with more than 54,000 followers, will make its debut on Netflix Friday. The new series, which is loosely based on Witaske’s own experiences growing up in the Chicago suburbs, is what the comedian calls “a love letter to Chicago.”
Witaske, who began taking classes at Second City when he was just a teen, isn’t the only person on the show with ties to Chicago. His creative partners, Jon and Ike Barinholtz, were born and raised in the city. Viewers may also recognize the voices of other Chicago greats, such as Laurie Metcalf and Amy Poehler, who guest star on the animated series.
“We all grew up watching John Hughes movies and stuff,” Witaske said. “So, we want this show to have a heart, to not just be, you know, wild and funny. I think we did a good job.”
WBEZ’s Reset talked with Witaske about finding the perfect Chicago accent to voice the Chicago Party Aunt, Diane Dunbrowski, and the many reasons why he considers Chicago “the best damn city in the world.” Here are some of the highlights.
On what inspired Chicago Party Aunt, Diane Dunbrowski
Chris Witaske: We wanted to make it the most Chicago sounding name ever. I started doing this Twitter account back in 2016. I had moved to L.A. and I was feeling kind of homesick — and I also had a lot of time on my hands in between auditions because I’m an actor.
So, I lived in the city for many, many years. I grew up in the burbs and I’ve seen a lot of women like [Chicago Party Aunt] throughout my life. I have a lot of Chicago Party Aunts myself. I also worked at my sister’s restaurant for many years and so a lot of Chicago partying has come through that place.
I just started tweeting out jokes and all of a sudden [Chicago Party Aunt] gained a following and now we’re going to be streaming all over the world.
My show will be a lot like The Crown but with way more Van Halen. Coming September 17, only on Netflix! pic.twitter.com/jHgCY8N2ra— Chicago Party Aunt (@ChiPartyAunt) August 26, 2021
On what viewers can expect from the show
Witaske: Diane lives in Wrigleyville. She lives in one of the rooftop buildings where you can see into Wrigley Field from the roof, though her and her sister Bonnie grew up on the South Side. Her sister then moved to the North Shore to kind of get away from Chicago. But Diane stayed true to her Chicago roots.
But the world is changing around her right now. You know, it’s modern day. And so her, you know, old dive bar is turning into a green juice shop and she’s getting a new manager at the salon she works at. And it’s changing names. It’s going from Sky City Sports Cuts and Clips where she worked for many years to now a New York company has bought it out called Burrow. And that’s where her new manager comes in, who is played by Rupal. So, a lot of stuff is changing in her life and we will see if Diane is able to evolve with the times.
On finding the perfect Chicago accent (spoiler: Diane is voiced by a Canadian!)
Witaske: A good friend of mine named Lauren Ash, who has, you know, just been a working actress for the last many, many years. She was on the show Superstore and I first met her in Chicago, where she was on the Second City mainstage. And we worked together there.
We auditioned like 100 different women for this part and when we heard Lauren’s audition, she just nailed it. She gets the character, she gets the funny, she gets the heart. And she really hit the Chicago accent out of the park. So, she definitely won out the part.
On what people get wrong about the city
Witaske: I think Chicago gets a bad rap in the news and a lot of that is certainly justified. I mean, there’s a lot of sadness that happens in the city, but I think there’s also a lot of joy. I hope that our show is able to showcase that a little bit and show that it really is a great city, a great place to be from. The people are so great and it’s really a beautiful city. I think it just got voted the second most beautiful city in the world by somebody.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Press the “play” button to hear the entire conversation.