What’s a “Comedy Bang! Bang!”?
Los Angeles comedians know it as a perennially sold-out stand-up showcase at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Comedy nerds will tell you it’s one of the most popular comedy podcasts. And IFC viewers know it as a wacky, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”-style talk show.
“Comedy Bang! Bang!” is all of the above, and now it’s going on tour — with creator Scott Aukerman at the wheel. Since the former “Mr. Show” writer created “Comedy Bang! Bang!” as a stand-up show 10 years ago, it has slowly morphed into his own personal brand.
Ahead of a show at D.C.’s Howard Theatre on Wednesday, here’s a primer on the “Comedy Bang! Bang!” world.
“Comedy Bang! Bang! The Podcast” began as a radio show in 2009, and last year, the weekly show hit 10 million downloads. Each episode is framed around a celebrity interview (guests have included Jon Hamm, David Cross and Paul Rudd), but because of Aukerman’s “open-door policy,” anyone can show up and derail things. Most of the time, it’s one of Aukerman’s comedian friends in character, such as Paul F. Tompkins as Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, James Adomian as Jesse Ventura or Andy Daly as demented theater director Don Dimello. The podcast is completely unscripted, with games that give it some semblance of structure. Someone like “Patton [Oswalt] is on my show often because he likes to do what we do,” Aukerman says. “He wants to sit there and not talk about himself and be really funny.”
The TV Show
Since its debut in June, the IFC version of “Comedy Bang! Bang!” (Fridays, 10 p.m.) has brought the spirit of the podcast to TV, adding scripted sketches (a la “Mr. Show”) and visual elements. Aukerman says his bizarre take on the talk show format (with Reggie Watts as the house band) exists in “a parallel universe” to the podcast; there are subtle nods for longtime fans, but knowledge of the podcast isn’t required. “I didn’t want anyone to feel like they need to know anything, or have any inside information,” Aukerman says. Fans of Zach Galifianakis’ Funny or Die series “Between Two Ferns,” which Aukerman directed, will notice a similarly dry aesthetic. As on the podcast, Aukerman’s interviews are unscripted, giving such guests as Amy Poehler; Seth Rogen; and, in Friday’s first-season finale, Tenacious D, a chance to flex their improv muscles.
The Live Tour
Aukerman’s first-ever tour wraps up in Vancouver on Friday. “The live show [tries] to be the best of each kind of facet of the ‘Comedy Bang! Bang!’ brand,” Aukerman says. That means stand-up comedy, scripted bits, clips from the TV show and an improvised podcast taping. In D.C., he’ll be joined by “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” co-creator Tim Heidecker and ace impressionist James Adomian. The highlight of each show is the podcast taping, with different guests in each city. Aukerman joked that Adomian — who can do characters as far-ranging as Christopher Hitchens, Paul Giamatti and American Apparel’s Dov Charney — would spin a wheel to determine who he’ll play each night. Aukerman’s podcasting network, Earwolf, is selling the podcast portion of each live performance ($2.99, or $25 for all 14 shows). “People can feel like they’re following us on tour, a lot like if we were Phish or the Grateful Dead,” Aukerman says.