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Not My Job: 'BoJack Horseman' Creator Gets Quizzed On Centaurs

Sep 2, 2017
Originally published on September 2, 2017 9:46 am

Raphael Bob-Waksberg had a friend who liked to draw people with animal heads, so he did what anyone would do: He created an animated TV show about a washed-up '90s sitcom star who happens to be a horse, sold it to Netflix, and now BoJack Horseman is so successful it's been banned in China. The fourth season debuts September 8.

We've invited Bob-Waksberg to answer three questions about centaurs.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we ask interesting people about things they're not interested in. It's called Not My Job. Raphael Bob-Waksberg had a friend who liked to draw people with animal's heads. It was weird but somewhat compelling. So he created an animated TV show about a washed up '90s sitcom star who happens to be a horse, sold it to Netflix. And now "BoJack Horseman" is so successful, it's been banned in China.

MO ROCCA: Wow.

SAGAL: The fourth season debuts on September 8. Raphael Bob-Waksberg, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BOB-WAKSBERG: What a pleasure.

SAGAL: It's a pleasure to have you. So it is an unusual name, Raphael Bob-Waksberg. I've always wondered about that - if that was just...

BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah. Well, it's a hyphen. My mom's last name is Bob. My dad's last name is Waksberg. Every time I try to get a ticket at will call, they say last name. And I say, Bob-Waksberg. And I see them looking under W. I go, no, Bob-Waksberg. And they go, no, last name. And I go no, my last name is Bob-Waksberg. And...

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: Look under Bob. And they find it. And they go, oh, Bob-Waksberg, I thought - and I go, yeah, I know what you thought. This happens literally every time.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Sounds like you can get a good 24 minutes of situation comedy out of that.

BOB-WAKSBERG: That's my next show is just a guy with two first names.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Exactly. I was going to ask you to explain the show for people who don't know it. But we had heard that your elevator pitch - that quick thing where you explain your idea - was so compelling that Netflix was, like, yes. We will hand you, someone who's never had a TV show, all this money to make our first original comedy.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Well, it wasn't an elevator pitch. It was an hour long. But yes, they - I don't know if we have time to go through it.

ADAM FELBER: Oh, it was a very slow elevator.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: It was a very long elevator ride, yeah.

SAGAL: You just leaned on that stop button and hit it with your body as you said, let me tell you about our show. Well, let me ask you to help me out as I do it. "BoJack Horseman" takes place, first of all, in a universe where some of the people are animals. There are people with horse heads and animal heads and cat heads. And, sometimes, they act like animals. But mostly, they act like people. And the hero is this sort of washed-up, wealthy guy who was the star of a really successful '90s sitcom...

BOB-WAKSBERG: Yes, called "Horsing Around."

SAGAL: Called "Horsing Around."

BOB-WAKSBERG: About a horse who raises three human kids.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: And now he's washed up. And he's a misanthrope. And he just lives in the Hollywood Hills, and he complains about everything.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: But basically, like, you know, the life after "Mr. Ed."

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: You know, where did that guy go?

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So when you pitched this show, how did you explain how this world works - that some people are animals and some people are not?

BOB-WAKSBERG: You know, it's funny because when you when you pitch it back to me, it sounds much weirder than I always thought it was.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: It never struck me as being particularly odd. It's just - yeah, it's a world. And there's animals, like our world, except all the animals stand upright and wear clothing and talk and are very sad all the time.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROCCA: Do they have animal bodies or just animal heads?

BOB-WAKSBERG: No, they have human bodies but animal heads...

ROCCA: So it sounds like that...

BOB-WAKSBERG: ...You know, which is the most natural thing in the world.

FELBER: It is.

ROCCA: It sounds, like, a really kinky costume ball, like a...

BOB-WAKSBERG: Exactly. It's like that. But it's funny.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Exactly. You have had an amazing - I won't say, luck. I'll say success - in getting really great actors to appear on your show. Will Arnett plays the lead. He's, of course, fantastic. But you've had cameos from everyone, like, Stephen Colbert to...

BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...Anjelica Huston to all kinds of great people. How did you manage to do that, especially when the show was young and yet to be acclaimed?

BOB-WAKSBERG: Well, let me tell you. So we have this amazing casting director, Linda Lamontagne. And I've picked up a few tricks from her. And there's three tricks I've found for getting really good people to do animation.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Number one is get Naomi Watts. And then after she does it, everybody else wants to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Because every time we put the offer out, we send the script. And we also send, like, here's all the other people who've already done it.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: And so we had an actor in the first season who I think saw the list of names, said yes and then didn't read the script until they got in the booth.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: And they looked - took one look at it and said, well, I guess if Naomi Watts is willing to debase herself with this nonsense, I can, too.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: That's number one.

SAGAL: Get Naomi Watts. All right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah. Number two is you find really famous, successful actors who have 14-year-old sons.

SAGAL: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Because then they want to be on the show because they want their kids to think they're cool.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Now, one of the things I actually love about the show is that, as we pointed out, BoJack the character was on this '90s sitcom.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah.

SAGAL: And there are occasional flashbacks to the '90s sitcom. In fact, I discovered just today if you go to the "BoJack Horseman" website, you can hear the theme to "Horsing Around," which is amazing. You must have loved '90s sitcoms.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Oh, I loved them. I mean, I grew up on them. Like, I think there's an amazing power in those shows - and that sometimes they can be cheesy or feel maudlin or insincere. But I also think it's something nice to have that warmth. And, you know, you can kind of escape the conflicts and ambiguity of the real world.

SAGAL: Right. And you - inspired by that, you decided to make a show about a depressed, borderline alcoholic who destroys everything he touches.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: Well, that's - you know, I think that it scratches a little bit of the same itch in a way.

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Sure does.

SAGAL: What is it like to work for Netflix as opposed to - I mean, have you ever gone into Netflix and said, we want this person to die in this horrific way or this horrible scandal to be erupted? And have they ever said to you no? Or is it, like, Netflix...

BOB-WAKSBERG: They never say no. I mean, sometimes, they push back. Or they'll say, are you sure you want to do that? And then we say yes. And they say, OK, if you're sure.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROCCA: That's almost like Los Angeles parenting.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Neigh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So your show is, of course, "BoJack Horseman." We're going to ask you about the other kinds of horsemen, centaurs. Answer two out of three questions about centaurs, and you will win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of Carl Kasell on their voicemail. Bill, who is Raphael Bob-Waksberg playing for?

KURTIS: Shannon Costello of Minneapolis, Minn.

SAGAL: All right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: I'm your boy, Shannon. I'm - I apologize already. I'm going to do my best.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Centaurs have captured the imagination of many people over the centuries, including the rich and famous, including which of these people? A, billionaire Paul Allen, who has funded a genetic engineering project to create a real centaur...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, baseball player Alex Rodriguez, who allegedly commissioned a painting of himself as a centaur for his own bedroom...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, rapper Kanye West, who gave a dancer a $70,000 retainer to be available to play the front end whenever Kim wanted to wear her centaur costume?

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: Hold on. He paid a dancer to play the front end? So Kim was the back - I get it.

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: I - you know, I know almost nothing about sports. So whenever I hear anything involving sports, my go-to move is to kind of nod and agree. So I'm going to guess it's the sports one...

FELBER: Right.

BOB-WAKSBERG: ...Which is B.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right. It was, in fact, Alex Rodriguez.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

BOB-WAKSBERG: All right.

SAGAL: According...

BOB-WAKSBERG: Home run.

SAGAL: Homerun. Very good. Touchdown. Three points. According to an anonymous ex of A-Rod's, he had two - not one but two - oil paintings of himself as a centaur in his bedroom. But you should know that Mr. Rodriguez has denied that. All right. You did well with that one. The next question is, there is a thing in this world called a centaur eggbutt snaffle.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What is a centaur eggbutt snaffle?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Is it A, a legendary pro wrestling move performed only once by Ric Flair...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a pro football play involving the running back actually leaping up and riding on the shoulders of an offensive lineman...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, just a pretty boring piece of equestrian equipment?

BOB-WAKSBERG: I think I'm going to guess it's a boring piece of equestrian equipment.

SAGAL: Sadly, that's what it is. With an interesting name...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: ...It turns out that...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...An eggbutt snaffle is a kind of bit for your horse's mouth. And this one is made by the Centaur company.

BOB-WAKSBERG: That - I think that's the least popular snaffle flavor.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last question. At this point you're going for perfect, Raphael. As you might have guessed, some people's interest in centaurs goes beyond the platonic.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Oh.

SAGAL: Which of these is the title of a real work of centaur-themed erotica available on Amazon...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...as a downloadable Kindle eBook? Is it A, "Half Man, Half Horse, All Love..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, "The Gift Horse?"

(LAUGHTER)

BOB-WAKSBERG: You know, I think if it's me - if I'm picking out...

SAGAL: Yes.

BOB-WAKSBERG: ...Which one I would want to read...

SAGAL: Of course.

BOB-WAKSBERG: ...I think I would go for the subtlety of "The Gift Horse."

SAGAL: "The Gift Horse." You're right because all of those are real works of centaur erotica.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Raphael Bob-Waksberg do on our show?

KURTIS: Well, he was a winner in two out of three, but he got three out of three. He won.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Raphael Bob-Waksberg is the creator of "BoJack Horseman." The fourth season debuts September 8 on Netflix. Raphael, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

BOB-WAKSBERG: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you we love that show. Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF PATRICK CARNEY'S "BOJACK'S THEME")

SAGAL: In just a minute, we show off our magnetic personalities in the Listener Limerick Challenge game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.