“Here’s to staying positive and testing negative! – Toast by Diane Dunbrowski, aka “Chicago Party Aunt”.
Embrace the clichés, Chicago.
The Netflix animated series “Chicago Party Aunt” is a bawdy, exuberant, wacky, hilarious and surprisingly warm love letter to Chicago (and the Chicago area) of deep pizza and images of “The Fridge” on the fridge, of Wrigley Field and the House of Blues, of Gibson’s and Rosebud, of Malort, Ribfest and Chicago Marathon and CTA Holiday Train plans.
And oh, the characters you will meet! Since the heyday of Bill Swerski’s Superfans on “Saturday Night Live,” we’ve only heard so many people talking with such broad Chicago accents and behaving so stereotypically in Chicago – but the satire is executed with wit and affection, and we’re too busy laughing and nodding in gratitude to even consider being offended in the least.
Based on the insightfully entertaining Twitter account created by Chris Witaske, a native of St. Charles and former Chicago writer-actor, “Chicago Party Aunt” gives her alter ego a name: she’s a Diane Dunbrowski (voiced by Lauren Ash in a terrific performance), a part-time middle-aged hairstylist and full-time party girl who squeezes her “mom body” in too tight jeans, even treats a weeknight like it’s New Years Eve, is fiercely devoted to all things Chicago sports and is inclined to make comments such as “Sucking face with a hike is the essence of Halloween” and “[Chicago’s] the bridges are like the Viagra gas station. You have four or five minutes before it really goes up.
With relatively simple animation and bright colors setting the tone, “Chicago Party Aunt” follows a sitcom-like format, each episode is 23 or 24 minutes long and features stand-alone adventures – but there are also storylines going on, and we get to know and love the key players a little better in each chapter.
Diane lives in a loft in Wrigleyville so close to the Cubs’ field you can see the stadium lights through her windows. Not that she could afford such a place; she’s there thanks to her suburban and Judgment-based sister Bonnie (Jill Talley), and Bonnie’s milquetoast husband, Mark (Ike Barinholtz), who own the property and are about to sell it when Bonnie has doubts and makes a proposal: Diane can stay there, but her nephew Daniel (Rory O’Malley), who is gay and shy and uncertain about his future and has decided to postpone her studies, will move in, and it’s up to Diane to s ‘take care of Daniel and help him find his way. Oh, Bonnie. Haven’t you learned anything about being Diane’s sister all these years?
The wacky and adorable supporting player cast includes Witaske as Diane’s ex-husband Kurt (twice), who proudly flaunts a Ditka mustache and works for the TSA at Midway Airport; Jon Barinholtz as Mikey, the refrigerator-sized son of Diane and Kurt, who was hit in the head with a ball or puck at virtually every major sporting venue in Chicago; Katie Rich and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as friends and co-workers of Diane, and RuPaul as Gideon, a newcomer from New York who is transforming the barbershop into something modern and holistic, much to the horror of Diane.
Various episodes of “Chicago Party Aunt” take place in locations as familiar as a tailgate party at Soldier Field before a Bears-Packers game; the Field Museum, site of the annual awards known as “The Beefys” honoring the excellence of Windy City; and Roscoe’s Tavern, where Diane attends a Halloween costume party. Sometimes the puns are bordering on tacky, but they’re still pretty good, like when Diane mentions “The Ghost of Christmas Pabst”, or when there is an accident and we are told, “We Looks like a steamroller took him down the road to Manhattan, “or when we visit” Osco Jewelers “, LOL. Many Chicago referrals (Styx, Jim Belushi,” Chicago Med “) also have national recognition, but when Diane pulls into Binny’s parking lot, or there’s an animated version of some local weather forecast legend, it sounds like jokes are all ours.
Through all of Diane’s crazy adventures, from her penchant for messing things up with her extended family to her refusal to admit that we are no longer in 1995, we sometimes cringe at her behavior, and we often understand why she gives back. everyone crazy – but there’s also something adorable about her too.
Perhaps this is because almost everyone has an aunt in Chicago in their life, whether she is actually an aunt or not.