How Did BoJack Horseman Get Jessica Biel to Endure So Many Jokes About Herself?

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Photo: Netflix

All of your favorite emotionally damaged humans and animals return for the fourth season of BoJack Horseman. Also back: Jessica Biel!

The real-life Biel voices herself on the Netflix animated series, and in season four, BoJack Biel takes on much bigger role: After emerging as the vicious ruler of a celebrity mob that’s trapped underground, she throws her name into the race for California governor. While BoJack’s humor tends to aim at Hollywood by way of absurd “Hollywoo” jokes about streaming services — like the running gag about a “What Time Is It Right Now?” website making a TV show — but the show’s Jessica Biel bits land with a much more specific kind of barbed humor. It’d all seem pretty mean if, you know, Biel herself wasn’t in on the joke.

In “Underground,” for instance, Biel tries to take charge after Mr. Peanutbutter’s house falls into a sinkhole and she’s told, “Settle down, you future hard Jeopardy! question.” The only reason why she’s there in the first place is because “Jessica Biel just really loves getting photographed at fancy fundraisers.” When the house is later saved from the sinkhole, she moans, “No, please! I’m important down here!”

The celebrity-as-terrible-version-of-themselves cameo has a long history in pop culture, including pretty much every time Entourage attempted to make jokes about Hollywood. Much like those sorts of cameos, the appeal of BoJack’s Biel comes from watching her say things that are impossible to imagine anyone saying to the real Biel’s face, much less pitching to her as a role. In “lovin that cali lifestyle!!,” she hawks her very own perfume brand called “Bielist,” which sounds exactly like “B-list,” as in the tier of celebrity. The bit recalls James Van Der Beek’s great, repeated self-humiliation on Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, only more cutting and precise.

Meanwhile, in reality, the actual Jessica Biel has transitioned away from her Biel-iest roles — remember New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day? — and into more interesting fare. She’s doing fascinating work on USA’s The Sinner, in a leading role that about as far from her BoJack character as possible. In fact, Biel is so busy that she wasn’t available to talk about BoJack Horseman when Vulture reached out for an interview. You better bielieve she’s started a new stage of her career.

BoJack Horseman’s Jessica Biel Jokes Get Intense This Season