Gabby was not alone. Or Shel: We really liked the idea of a very old tortoise. Then Sharon did a really funny accent for Tabitha that we thought was great. Jennifer Crittenden: It was a struggle because you want to make a realistic sort of world for the animals, and they also have to live near George Clooney to get Max the pig, so we figured somewhere in Los Angeles, Los Feliz — sort of a wild Los Angeles is what we were imagining. And then Bento, our animation studio, had a lot of shows they needed to keep going, so they figured out really quickly how to get everything on Zoom. Oh, and there’s also Chief (Nat Faxon), the St. GA: Clea went to her and was like, “There’s a whole show now!” And she’s — [Allen shakes head]. CD: Well, I love playing Elsa, but I was really scared at first because it is so different and I have no musical ear, so things sound in real life very different than they sound in my head. We sent them to Tim Simons [who played Jonah on Veep] and said we were working on something without him and we hoped he felt jealous. JC: Oh, yeah. We love Elsa. The comedy centers on Honey, voiced by Lisa Kudrow, who leads regular group therapy for all the pets in her Los Angeles neighborhood. She’s one year old, and then I have a three-year-old, Hugo, who is a Great Dane kind of mix, and he’s —
GA: So handsome. Cats and dogs are a no-brainer, but you’ve got a wide spectrum of animals.CD: I mean, we always wanted to have a wide spectrum right, guys? So I saw a coach and he put me in a booth and was like, “Do three different reads of this line.” I would do it, and he’d be like, “Come and listen to it.” In my mind, I was doing a whole range of things. I was so excited because it was this whole other way of thinking and writing that I wasn’t used to, because four-cameras is so fun, but it’s so limiting. JC: You know what, Twig is still not impressed. On The Simpsons the way they did it when I was there, the showrunner directed the reads, the showrunner did the edits, they did everything, and so we were just a happy staff of writers. We didn’t want it to just be cats and dogs. That was super fun, and we loved it. CD: I still worry about it. I got her DNA done, and she’s 25 percent Siberian Husky, so that’s why she has the blue eyes. And then Twig is very catlike, very aloof, very strange, very complicated. GA: No, Clea is so good. When I went to single-camera, that was really expansive, and mind-opening, just being able to think that way. It’s kind of how I felt on a smaller scale when I first started writing for single-camera after writing for four-camera. He’s the sweetest. GA: When have you been bad at a table read? All I want to do is make her happy and meet her needs and please her, I just love her so much. Tell me if I’m wrong about this, but I’d imagine it was easier to get back to work during the pandemic because animation is easier to proceed with under those circumstances.GA: Yeah, we didn’t really skip a beat. Take it down a notch. He has issues. He’s very doglike. GA: Twig is really the reason we’re all here. He played it and they all sounded exactly the same. JC: She’s so cute. Tags: Honey wants to bring him in to shake up the group and maybe see how it is to interact with a wild animal. Photo: FOX
When Clea DuVall, Jennifer Crittenden, and Gabrielle Allan worked together for the first time, it was on a show about stubborn, self-involved, psychologically imbalanced political animals: Veep. But Jen hates him. We always thought that Tim would be an amazing raccoon. It was one of those things I wished I kind of hadn’t seen. I was wanting to go to therapy with one of my cats. Thankfully, we had broken a lot of our stories, so we were in a rhythm and knew where we were headed, which was great. JC: I’ll just chime in too — even though I worked on The Simpsons, I was not prepared for what it was like running an animated show. And then at the beginning of the pandemic, we rescued the muttiest mutt, and she’s just an angel. JC: We knew Tony would be funny as both Diablo and Max, but we didn’t know how it was going to be logistically. I still am like, I’m the worst one. GA: She really hates him. And I was like, what if there were a show about going to therapy with your pets? Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel like we were like, how do we get all these fantastic people that we just worked with in the show? Did you have people in mind for the voices as you were creating these characters?GA: Well, maybe not when we were creating them. I mean, anything is possible in animation, literally. GA: Oh, Frankie. Now the three are working together again, on a new show that’s also about stubborn, self-involved, psychologically imbalanced animals — except these ones are literally animals. The therapy-seeking menagerie of Housebroken. Pilot is like the cat version of Mia, and Twig is the cat version of me. So of course, Nibbles lives in a school and she’s tormented by all the students. This is so crazy. Wait, time out. CD: Oh my God. He’s very needy. We knew we wanted Clea to be something, we knew we wanted Sharon to be something. It stuck in my head. JC: We knew Clea. It was totally his fault, he is such a jerk. CD: I guess now that I’m saying that out loud, I’m basically just a complete narcissist. Does not give a shit. So we went from there and brainstormed and created the rest of the world together. JC: He was driving drunk. We were just like, you have to be Elsa. GA: The only animation I wrote was when Jen and I did a polish of Shrek 4. JC: Aww. She doesn’t speak, but she’s there. We were really excited to work with Sam again, from Veep, because he’s so funny and such a wonderfully nice person. Then we thought it would be really fun to have animals with the more issues, the better. Clea, I think the idea for Housebroken originally came from you. She has an underbite and that was sort of the visual inspiration for Diablo. Jen, I know you have dogs, right?JC: [Shows one of her dogs resting.] That’s Frankie. CD: And also in episode five. Getting into animation is even more. Everybody went home March 13, and then like March 15, we were up and running. GA: He’s a bit of a douchebag. JC: You’ve never been bad at a table read. GA: She’s really cute, and so sweet. Did we have anyone in mind? The humping the Croc [thing] we got straight off the internet because we just thought it was so funny, and also so sad that he’s putting so much love into this inanimate object. Really?JC: Everybody who has tortoises is saying it’s really true: “We love him but he’s so pervy.” Our editor has a tortoise, he says that. I’m really obsessed with him, to the point where I think the rest of the people in my household are like, you two should relax. Housebroken, an animated series that debuts Monday night on Fox, was co-created by Crittenden and Allan, who act as showrunners, and Duvall, both a writer and the voice of a corgi named Elsa. Gabrielle Allen: Well, they hump everything. The group therapy angle really came from them. So I pitched that idea to them and they were like, but what if it was a group of animals all together instead of just one animal at a time? There were glitches, obviously, that we had to work out, the kinks of doing it all online, but we didn’t shut down. You know, on The Simpsons, it was fantastic and I loved it and everything was possible and all that kind of stuff. He’s a raccoon. He’s heavily featured in episode five. I feel like that’s impossible in your situation, as a co-creator of the series.JC: She still worries about it. JC: She’s the new one. Is that real? I mean, between Clea’s need to please Twig …
CD: Yeah, my desperate need to please Twig. You had these initial conversations about the show on the set of Veep, right? It’s really fun and really freeing in a way that I’ve never experienced in live action. That would be so much fun. But he’s so unbelievably cute, he looks like a stuffed animal. GA: It’s so different. But there are so many things that just, as a writer, you don’t get to do and you don’t get experience with. How did you come up with the different kinds of pets to include? JC: He and Frankie are in love. He’s like a totally different person. I’m trying to remember, have you done animated voice work before?CD: No, this is my first time. GA: Oh, that’s right, she’s in episode five, too. JC: One of our first brainstorming sessions was at a café, and we worked and we ate and we took pictures of ourselves. So before we end this, let’s go around the Zoom horn and have each of you tell us about your pets.CD: Pilot is the most handsome cat. And we thought that Clea would probably be a cat because she has two amazing cats, and the whole idea started with her talking about her cat. CD: They’re from the same litter and I picked Pilot, and Mia, my partner, picked Twig. Here, there’s so many layers and jobs and points at which you can make choices that change the whole tone of the show. So it was a complete learning curve for me as well. His name’s Carter in the show. Clea, how was that process for you? JC: I really do. Tim Simons plays a character who comes into the fourth episode. But he taught me how to listen, and how to think about the lines in a different way. We didn’t know that tortoises were so horny before we started researching and writing, so that was a pleasant surprise. Bernard who co-habitates with Honey, and a tortoise named Shel (Will Forte), who, in the first episode, gets into an intimate relationship with another tortoise that turns out to be a Croc. Yes, as in the shoe. That includes Diablo (Veep alum Tony Hale), a terrier with anxiety issues; Nibbles (Bresha Webb), an equally rattled hamster; Chico (Sam Richardson, another Veep alum), a cat who is overly dependent on his owner; Tabitha (Sharon Horgan, also an executive producer), a sophisticated Persian cat; and Max (Hale again), a pig who tells everyone repeatedly that he belongs to George Clooney. JC: Who thinks she’s going to get fired. Is that right?Clea DuVall: Well, it was an idea that I had that I pitched to Jen and Gabby, who then made it a thousand times better. CD: Yeah, she’s not. I actually worked with a coach before we did the first records and first table reads and stuff because I was just like — I’m also so bad at table reads just in general, that I was like, I can’t —
JC: None of this is true. CD: Table reads are not my thing. GA: And he did. When I started writing on Scrubs, we would do these fantasies and pop-aways and all this sort of stuff. When he does Max, his whole body changes. But I saw a video of a tortoise humping a Croc and making all these sad noises like eee, eee. That’s really cute. We got right back in the room [on Zoom]. It’s a fantastic challenge. Then every time she pitched jokes for Elsa, the fake service dog, she was so funny. But as far as the day-to-day details of animation, I was exposed to very little. Everyone at Bento Box [the animation studio] was so patient with us and really helped us. Oh, yeah: We also talked about how horny tortoises are in real life. They asked us at the beginning to continue to think more visually and that has been an adjustment. Jen, you had written for an animated series before on The Simpsons, but Gabby, you had not, right? Elsa’s so good, and so real and heartbreaking. She’s a rescue. Then it was kind of wide open. GA: And Tony. Look at that face. Then we have a little ten-year-old terrier who’s 12 pounds and she bosses everyone around. Every time we’d look it up to see, there’d be more [videos]. It’s true! Gabby, what about you?GA: I have a six-year-old Cockapoo that we rescued after he was in a horrible car accident. When you say you got it off the internet, was there a news story?JC: Ten years ago I think, there was a video — I don’t know how viral it went. And I was like, okay, so, some work to do. DuVall, Crittenden, and Allan recently got on a Zoom call with Vulture to discuss how they conceived Housebroken; the fact that DuVall constantly worries about getting fired from a show she helped create; and how their own pets made their way into the series. Was it an adjustment? I was really nervous because I was like — I didn’t want to get fired because I thought that would be pretty awkward.