Chris Witaske is encouraging audiences to “stay positive and test negative” in his new Netflix animated comedy series, “Chicago Party Aunt.” The series was born from a parody Twitter account of the same name, which Witaske created in response to the bout of homesickness he felt after leaving Chicago and moving to Los Angeles.
“I started this Twitter account just for fun, based on a couple of my actual aunts and people I’ve observed in Chicago,” Witaske said in an interview with Screen Rant. “Then all of a sudden, it started to grow and Stephen Colbert was retweeting it. I was like, ‘I might be onto something here.’”
Audiences can watch the online persona come to (animated) life as Diane Dunbrowski, voiced by “Superstore” star Lauren Ash. Diane is the rowdy, life of the party aunt compared to her introverted, gay nephew, Daniel, voiced by Rory O’Malley (“Book of Mormon”).
After Daniel decides to take a gap year before going off to Stanford, he moves in with his raucous party aunt, Diane. She might not be great at adulting, but she has a heart of gold and old-school Chicagoan charm. Together, they have many adventures around the Windy City as Daniel learns to come out of his shell and as his aunt learns to navigate a city that has drastically changed from the one she grew up in.
Chicago itself – more specifically, the iconic Wrigleyville neighborhood – plays a big role in the show. If you’re like me and have never been to Chicago, you’ll enjoy experiencing some of that classic, albeit stereotypical, party city life through Diane’s eyes. From tailgates at Wrigley Stadium to taking a sick day to attend the Naperville Ribfest, “Chicago Party Aunt” will leave you speaking in a Midwestern accent and screaming, “Go Cubs Go!”
Speaking of that Midwestern accent, it was very important to Watiske that Diane’s was not too over the top or cartoony. To an untrained ear like my own, Ash’s Chicagoese was spot on. But someone a little more familiar might say otherwise. Witaske doesn’t seem too afraid of critics, however, and is eager to portray his city in a way that he knows it.
“So far, Chicago seems to be pumped about it… But I’m sure we’re going to get shit. If there’s one little thing that isn’t exactly right, I’m sure we’re going to hear about it.” Witaske joked in an interview with Vulture.
This series is the latest in Netflix’s slew of adult animation series, joining titles like “Bojack Horseman” and “Big Mouth,” with the latter coming from the same studio as “Chicago Party Aunt.” I can’t say I enjoyed “Chicago Party Aunt” nearly as much as I enjoyed those other shows, though. It’s a little difficult engaging with Diane, as her rowdiness borders on obnoxious at times. I also miss the subtle, understated humor of former shows in this series, which has no lack of very conspicuous physical comedy. You really get the sense that this show is a product of the over-exaggerated reality perpetuated by sites like Twitter.
Overall, this show is a lot of fun and has a lot to offer a wide range of audiences. For me, it’s definitely more of a background show – something to play after you’ve watched a really scary movie or while you’re cleaning your room.
If there is one piece of advice I will be taking into my week from Diane Dunbrowski, it’s this: “If life gives you lemons, turn that shit into Mike’s Hard Lemonade.”
Part One of “Chicago Party Aunt” is available to stream now on Netflix.
Rating: 2/5 stars