Kelvin Yu and Steven Davis, the writers of 'Dr. Yap' on the return of Gayle and how to get to Poundtown
When we saw Linda's spinster sister Gayle (Megan Mullally), she was adorning the walls of Bob's Burgers with her paintings of animal anuses. She stops by for a visit before her Eat, Pray, Love sojourn to Indonesia while Bob is getting his teeth drilled by aspiring pickup artist Dr. Yap (Ken Jeong) and mistakes Bob's nitrous oxide-induced hallucinations for advances. Linda is counterintuitively thrilled by this, and a weekend at the ski cabin Dr. Yap can use whenever he wants three times a year turns into a French bedroom farce, if the French pronounced "jacuzzi" as "jaCOOZE." Which maybe they do?
The episode's writers, Steven Davis and Kelvin Yu, reveal everything you'd want to know about "Dr. Yap" and probably a few things you wouldn't have thought to bother yourself with. As always, spoilers and inscrutable inside references follow.
What was the genesis of this particular episode?
STEVEN: After Wendy and Lizzie Molyneux's [season one] "Art Crawl" episode introduced Tina's naked drawing of the family dentist, Dr. Yap, we really wanted to put him in an episode. Standards made us put pants on him, but we wanted him just flopping around doing his naked dentist thing.
KELVIN: The initial pitch was that Bob actually kissed Dr. Yap, not Gayle, and he was forced to deal with the consequences. It quickly became a story about kissing your wife’s sister, but before it got there we both made out with our dentists for research. Steven might have even gone further than kissing, because he has four cavities and he won’t go back, so you do the math.
Ken Jeong, who used to be a practicing doctor before getting into comedy, provides the voice for Dr. Yap. Did it feel necessary to have someone with that real-life experience embody a character with such an extensive pedigree and varied interests?
STEVEN: I might be wrong but I think they hired doctors instead of actors on Chicago Hope and that worked out pretty well. So we tried it with Ken Jeong. There really was something very natural about his bedside manner with Jon Benjamin during their dental office scenes that perhaps came from his days of doctoring. But more importantly, Ken Jeong makes Dr. Yap say some pretty harsh and sexual things and somehow manage to keep him sweet and likable. He brought this charming insecurity to the character that was really great.
KELVIN: Our initial idea was to cast the R&B singer Chris Brown because of his real-life pharmacology degree. When he passed, we went after Ken Jeong because he’s hilarious. We didn’t even know he was a doctor. I actually thought he was a professional athlete. But that’s what I assume about most Asian men, so maybe that’s just something I have to work through.
Even though the show hasn't aired all that many episodes, it already has a pretty solid stable of recurring characters and extended family members. Is it important for a show like this to establish those sooner rather than later as it's trying to find its audience, or can that only happen as the writers gradually feel things out?
STEVEN: I think it's okay to happen gradually. Let's say our family is a big ol' tasty pile of meat. We like to see our recurring characters as delicious and chunky meat sauce that we pour all over our family. But once you've had the meat with the sauce, you are gonna always want meat sauce. Right? So, characters like Teddy (played by the insanely talented Larry Murphy) are vital to the show and to our world and we just want more and more of them. And now our town has a dentist in Dr. Yap and a semi-attractive sister-in-law with Gayle. We also have a Marshmellow. What up Marshmellow fans!
What's the grossest thing you would drink for a partially digested jawbreaker? Is it safe to say that this is an insight into how important decisions are made within the Bob's staff?
KELVIN: As a staff, we decide things a lot like they do on Game of Thrones. Usually one of us gets naked, that’s first. Then we bring in a wolf or some kind of wise hobo. By then, it’s usually lunch time, so we all head up to the break room for burritos or whatever. I forgot what we were talking about. Plus I spilled Diet Dr Pepper all over my overalls. Oh yeah, we are required to drink soda and wear overalls.
STEVEN: Shout out to our sponsor Diet Dr Pepper and overalls!
With a character like Gayle, who would presumably continue to return, how much of her is on the page and how much comes from Megan Mullally running with it? Does this kind of show even lend itself to improvisation, or do things have to stick pretty close to the plan because of the animation schedule?
KELVIN: I wish I could say that the writing is what makes Gayle as hilarious and indispensable as she is, but the truth is, Megan Mullally comes into our recording studios every few weeks and sprinkles a little bit of gold all over our scripts and makes us all look good. That makes her sound like some kind of weird disco creature. Which is what I’m trying to say. To answer your question, we basically get the ball rolling and from there Megan is off and running. With an actor as trained and free as she is, there’s not a whole lot of hard work. She manages to find places to squeeze in key bits of Gayle’s insanity where we never even intended. It’s very much a joy to watch.
STEVEN: She also rolls with an entourage made up of the entire production crew from Entourage. And Turtle. He goes everywhere with her. He has dreadlocks now.
Clearly, Neil Strauss' The Game is an important element to the writing room. How does Mystery's seduction philosophy manifest itself in the show's creative process? Or the social interactions of its staff?
STEVEN: I can only answer a little bit of your question 'cause I've gotta get back to my friends in the VIP, but I seduce my co-workers from the moment I get to work until the moment I get into my Toyota Supra at the end of the day. People put a negative spin on the pick up artist lifestyle, but I just have the courage to talk directly to a female's heart. And they love it. Also, I hate women. Like I tell my MMA trainer, my rage fuels me and one day I'll sleep with the first female President of the United States and show the world what's up. You clean your room, Mom! What was your question?
KELVIN: Real talk. Before Davis and I became Bob's Burgers writers, we took a writers' seminar in the same hotel where they were conducting a weekend-long seminar by Mystery about how to pick up women. Within five minutes of talking to some of these dudes (who, by the way, were paying thousands of dollars to be in the presence of douchebag royalty), we realized we were in the wrong seminar if we were really interested in comedy. It became destiny that we would one day put that in a script. And although plenty of comedies have taken their shots, the one thing that struck us about these guys was that on Monday morning, they go back to their regular jobs with their regular lives — but now with a wealth of misinformation on what women really want. A lot of these guys seemed like decent, nice people who just wanted some guidance on how to approach a woman. That's also the weekend Steven started wearing those fat, leather watches on both wrists.
Has Eat, Pray, Love become to spinsters what The Game is to young, hopeless dudes?
STEVEN: Basically all of your problems can be solved with money, prayer, and boning strangers in foreign lands. Little known fact: STDs can't cross country lines.
KELVIN: Full disclosure: I've never read Eat Pray Love, nor have I even seen the movie. But I'm assuming it's a lot like that game F*ck, Marry, Kill. I'm also assuming it's kind of like that game Angry Birds.
With the exception of the occasional reference, the show tends to steer clear of specific pop-cultural references. Is that a byproduct of the protracted production schedule or a conscious attempt to have the show age better than some other animated sitcoms we could mention?
STEVEN: This is actually because of a very strict No TV or reading policy enforced on our show. We're allowed to watch Bob's Burgers and nothing else. Our bunks are comfortable but I do miss my wife. If she's reading this, I love you, boo. Have you been watering the plants? That's cool. I don't even remember how to talk to you. I'm planning my escape. See you soon, angel butt.
Are Persuasia and Poundtown near one another?
STEVEN: You clearly are a virgin. Come party with us.
KELVIN: It's kind of an Israel-Palestine situation so I'd rather not answer this.