Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the madcap creator of the surreal animated Netflix TV series “BoJack Horseman” — featuring an anthropomorphic equine ‘80s sitcom star trying to mount an ill-advised latter-day comeback, urged on by his human and animal showbiz chums alike — seems surprisingly normal in casual conversation. “Then again, what is normal, exactly?” he asks. “We all think we’re the baseline for it.” Still, the series, co-created by his illustrator pal Lisa Hanawalt, is often jaw-droppingly inexplicable: for example, offering up a foul-mouthed female hip hop phenomenon that’s also an orca. The same mind that imagined this universe has been busy on other fronts, too. On Amazon Prime, he and Kate Purdy launched the program “Undone.” As the publishing house Knopf has issued his first short story anthology, “Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory,” Bob-Waksberg appears during Litquake 20th anniversary programming, running Oct. 10-19 throughout The City.
So you originally hail from Palo Alto?
Yeah. I’m a proud Bay Area boy! Growing up there was pleasant and mostly comfortable. I remember I had a girlfriend in college who came out to meet my family. And she looked at the weather report, and it was perfect every day. And she said, “Where am I? Pleasantville? The Truman Show?”
The strangest aspect of “BoJack” is how quickly you get accustomed to the hybrid aberrations, like a waiter with a cockatiel head.
This all started because I wanted to work with Lisa, who’s also a Bay Area native. We went to high school together, and she was just drawing these incredible animal people on her own and posting them online. I was really entranced by them, and I wanted to create a world where they could live. Plus it fulfilled my dream of finally getting to work with Lisa after all these years.
Did you ever go too far on “BoJack”?
Sometimes. Part of the show’s learning curve was that I had to be my own censor, because nobody else was going to stop me. So there were jokes where I thought, “Can I get away with this?” And once I realized I could, I thought, “Well, should I? Maybe I should be the one to say no.” That really changed the way I thought about the show.
And now you have a book.
I’ve been working on these stories for 10 years now. Then three years ago Knopf reached out and asked if I had a book in me, and I said, “I think I might.” And it turned out I was writing a book about love and its inherent compromises, and also the joy and magic of it. And the central question of the book is, is it worth it? And it makes compelling arguments on both sides of that question, so it’s ultimately up to the reader.
IF YOU GO
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Someone Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
Presented by Litquake
Where: Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 16