Music Feature

The What-What on Comedy Bang! Bang!: Coming to Philadelphia August 9

by Jen Cantin
Oddball comedy podcast and TV show to hit Philly with a whole lotta improv and who knows what else.

Photos by Chris Ragazzo/IFC

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Comedian, writer and producer Scott Aukerman, known for his work on alt-comedy landmark Mr. Show with Bob and David, will bring his latest comedy powerhouse, Comedy Bang! Bang!, to the Trocadero Theatre on August 9th at 8 p.m. Those unfamiliar with the so-titled podcast may not know what that is. And those with less-than-adventurous comedy tastes who have happened to spend an hour or two in its throes may also still be thoroughly confused.

Comedy Bang! Bang!, formerly Comedy Death Ray, is a completely improvised podcast that features one comedian/actor acting as his or herself and another (or two) acting as fictional characters or wildly exaggerated versions of celebrities. Aukerman interviews the guests seeking their outrageous imaginary anecdotes and leads them in games with arbitrary rules. Why would you want to sit and listen to people you may or may not have heard of make stuff up that has absolutely no bearing or consequence to anything?

Because it’s hilarious.


Transition to Television

IFC thought so, at least, when they approached Aukerman about transforming the weekly insanity into a TV show. The podcast is “really meant to be a little more ephemeral than the TV show,” Aukerman says via conference call. He explains that the feel and aesthetic are supposed to resemble a traditional talk show, “but at the same time, it looks like it’s in a grandpa’s basement.”

The show premiered on June 8 and mirrors the podcast in its fully improvised interviews replete with stylistic awkwardness, magical realism and general nonsense. Big names such as Amy Pohler, Michael Cera and Paul Rudd have appeared as themselves, while Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Show) played a clairvoyant version of the star of TLC’s Cake Boss and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) played a former child champion bird-caller. Musical comedian Reggie Watts is Aukerman’s bandleader and deadpan sidekick who provides an improvised, sing-rapped soundtrack via keyboard effects and a loop track.


Bang! Bang! Live!

Aukerman has hosted a weekly live performance of what would become Comedy Bang! Bang! in Los Angeles for 10 years now, but besides a few festivals this is the show’s first time on the road. The tour features some format changes and a rotating cast, regrettably sans Watts.

Philly’s lineup includes Tim Heidecker (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), James Adomian (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), Kurt Braunohler (BUNK!) and any of Aukerman’s other comedian friends in town that night.

“Not only is every comedian going to do prepared material, but we’re also going to show stuff from the TV show,” Aukerman says. “And the last half of the show is going to be a totally improvised podcast-type recording entertainment experience. So, it’s going to be different in every single city.”

To this end, Adomian, “an amazing impressionist [who] plays a lot of different characters from Huell Howser to Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura” according to Aukerman, will immediately jump into one of his alter-egos on the spot.

“We hope to have a big spinning wheel where he spins what character he is going to do on that particular night and then he has to immediately go into it,” Aukerman says.

As far as Aukerman’s own improv prowess, “I have a heavy sense of dread hanging over me right now as the tour approaches, but I’m sure it will result in a fascinating experience for the audience,” he says.

If you miss out on the madness or want a taste of what other cities experienced, recordings of the last half of each show will be available shortly after they take place.

“That way, people can feel like they’re following us on tour, a lot like if we were Phish or the Grateful Dead,” Aukerman jokes.

Alternately, satiate your wild curiosity with more than 150 podcast episodes, new ones premiering each Monday, and catch the TV show Fridays at 10 p.m. on IFC.

Comedy Bang! Bang! Live! at the Trocadero Theatre August 9, 8 p.m.

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