It’s fitting that a show about two bird-women besties who can survive anything together would survive the unthinkable; in this case, Tuca & Bertie Netflix cancellation in 2019. Though the streamer said goodbye to the show, it’s coming back for a highly anticipated second season on Adult Swim. And Lisa Hanawalt’s bright, silly, and gently introspective comedy is stronger than ever.
“I felt like my man was getting acquitted of a case, and we’ve just gone to it and made some beautiful babies,” Haddish said about the Season 2 renewal announcement. “That’s what I felt like. Then we’re doing it, me and Adult Swim in a relationship, man.”
Just about everything around Tuca & Bertie defies expectations. The animated series follows two bird-women in their 30s, an age group that isn’t typically captured on TV. As they walk through their colorful animated world, nothing is as bright and fun-loving as the world they inhabit. Plot lines revolve around recovering from repressed trauma, the anxiety that comes with admitting you need therapy, and dealing with the financial pressures of family. It’s the rare show that can bounce between being laugh-out-loud funny to gut-wrenchingly somber at a moment’s notice. Ahead of Tuca & Bertie‘s triumphant return Decider spoke to series creator Lisa Hanawalt and stars Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong about what’s in store for two of our favorite best friends.
“In my gut, I knew it was going to happen. I had heard very early on that Adult Swim was interested in the show. It took a long time to get everything closed,” Wong said. “But the show’s really undeniable. It’s a fantastic show that there’s nothing like it. And Lisa (Hanawalt), most importantly, she’s such a powerful, incredible, and creative showrunner and she really wanted to tell more stories. She said that from the beginning… she didn’t want to just do 10 episodes. She has many ideas for these two characters, so I was just really excited for it to finally have it.”
Though Wong is a fan of Adult Swim, Tuca & Bertie is the first time she’s been on the network. “Of course, I love Rick and Morty. One of my favorite things when my kids go to sleep is to eat gummies that just go to town and watch that show, so I’m really proud to be working with them,” she said.
There’s also another reason why Haddish and Wong were thrilled about Tuca & Bertie’s return. Though according to Wong there have been “conversations over the years”, this is the first project that’s become a reality for these real-life friends.
“There’s been a lot of roller coaster excitement about possibly doing something together, and then it never works out. This is the only thing that’s ever really worked out,” Wong said. “She’s so busy, and I don’t get to see her that often. So it was also this great excuse to just see each other and work together. That’s another reason why we’re so happy to go for another season.”
The two were actually able to see each other a couple of times during the pandemic. Once was when they both went to Yellow Springs with Dave Chapelle.
“Oh we got fucked up,” Haddish laughed. “[Chapelle] was rapping on the dance floor. It was crazy.”
“He was freestyling on the dance floor, all kinds of dance battles. We chanted Bertie-ertie-ertie,” Wong added.
The duo’s actual friendship has influenced the series. “Her and Tuca have a very different dynamic, but it’s just nice for us to have this range in the show and then have this range in real life. I feel really lucky and honored and relieved and excited that it all gets to keep going and growing,” Wong said.
As exciting as Tuca & Bertie‘s renewal was, it did require Hanawalt to change the show a bit. For the first time her team had to deal with a standards and practices department to ensure the comedy was on-air appropriate. “We just had to bleep a few swear words. You can only say ‘shit’ five times per a half hour of comedy,” Hanawalt said. “But we’ve gotten some nudity in. It was fun to argue, ‘Look at all the nudity on The Simpsons. Yes, it is mostly men’s asses, but I don’t think a female ass is all that different.’ Stuff like that. So it’s kind of fun to fight back against it and win. But it’s not that different. I think things can be just as funny with limitations.”
When it comes to creating Tuca & Bertie, the story always comes first. Hanawalt makes sure that the story structure can stand on its own before she adds the “frosting” of jokes. “You can always add a burp,” Hanawalt said. But whereas last season predominantly dove into Bertie’s repressed childhood trauma, this season is shining its introspective lens more on Tuca.
“This season I wanted to get more into Tuca and what makes her click and her loneliness. As she’s trying to find a partner, she’s realizing Bertie doesn’t provide everything she needs as far as company goes,” Hanawalt explained. “I wanted to get more into the backstories of both of them. You meet both of their parents later in the season.”
“It’s about Tuca’s loneliness, but also Tuca discovering who she is. And I’ve lived that life, Tuca’s pain,” Haddis said. “She’ll love anybody who’ll love her. I’m not necessarily that way, not yet. I’m two days away from being like ‘OK, bring all that, whoever wants some let’s go’. Two heartbreaks, two heartbreaks, you know what I mean?… I do have bouts of loneliness but I’m very good at finding people to not be lonely with or be lonely with. Are we all lonely? Let’s be all lonely together, you know? I will make the best out of any situation, I’m very good at that. And Tuca is not necessarily the best at that, but she tries. She just wants to have fun and not be in a place of sadness. She won’t even deal with her emotions. Straight up, she’ll put them in a jar. She’ll put her feelings in a jar and stuff it behind the toilet. I’ve done that in the past and that usually turns out bad. And it turns out bad for Tuca too. But then it turns good when she starts confronting those emotions.”
But just because Tuca is getting more of the spotlight that doesn’t mean Season 2 will be ignoring Bertie’s struggles. This installment will see Bertie try to grapple with her past sexual abuse and continue to struggle with sexism in the workplace. “You just learn how to deal with trauma hopefully better or using different mechanisms. But that’s something I like about the show. It’s not just wrapped up and done. It’s still lingering and it still affects her life,” Wong said. “That story isn’t just wrapped up. Like, Pastry Pete comes back.”
This season will also deal with Bertie’s feelings of being pushed aside once her best friend gets into a serious relationship. “There’s not a lot of ways to talk about how hurtful that can be, so that’s what I love about the show. It really makes me feel less alone. Even though they’re birds, even though there’s snake trains, even though there’s boobs on a building, it’s so relatable,” Wong said.
It’s this emotional relatability that Hanawalt has perfected, especially when it comes to Tuca and Bertie’s friendship. “They’re so supportive of each other. I think that’s the main thing,” Hanawalt said. “I never want one of them to be super grossed out and bitchy towards the other one. They’re always trying to boost each other up, but sometime their own anxieties get in the way.”
Season 2 of Tuca & Bertie premieres on Adult Swim Sunday, June 13 at 11:30/10:30 p.m. New episodes premiere on Adult Swim Sundays.