For the time being, Bryan Cook and Josh Androsky’s brilliant live show Reunited is just a live show. They don’t get recorded for a podcast and aren’t being filmed for Comedy Central or Seeso. I really hope it stays that way. The beauty of this show is its of-the-moment nature. You really do need to be there to appreciate how chaotic, silly, and stupidly smart it can be.
If you missed it last year, the concept is that we’re watching a reunion of the cast of a beloved TV show. They get together onstage for a panel discussion and to read through old scripts and reignite old feuds or love affairs. The trick is that the TV show being celebrated is completely fake, made up by Cook and Androsky. And the cast members are all comedians who have no idea what the show is about until they’re onstage. It’s the perfect improvisational tightrope walk that would lose much of its sting if made available for repeat viewings/listenings.
The chances of this edition of Reunited being something special were raised not only by the level of talent on the dais, including Patton Oswalt, Eliza Skinner, and local boy made good Ian Karmel, but the concept of the show as well. The fake show being celebrated was Hot Cup o’ Chat, a sitcom created by Steve Bannon that gives a behind the scenes look at a FOX And Friends-style morning show.
That helped open up the floodgates for a lot of brutal commentary about Bannon’s unique physique: Philip Seymour Hoffman after an allergic reaction to cheeseburgers and heroin, a junkie’s head on top of five rotting pumpkins, and Michael Shannon if he pulled a Super Size Me but only ate cigarettes. And there was a lot of ironic fun had with conservative ideology, FOX News viewers, and religion. You know, a good ol’ fashioned comedy show in Portland.
As they do with every edition of Reunited, Androsky and Cook played to the strengths of their chosen guests. They particularly loved giving Skinner a chance to show off her solid freestyle rapping skills, by having her character go on from Hot Cup to a lucrative career as Christian hip-hop artist MC Put The Christ Back In Christmas (The MC Stands For More Christ). She batted away their outrageous prompts to perform her “famous songs” that connect oral hygiene with Holocaust denial with ease. It also gave Oswalt an opening for the best throwaway line of the night: “Fo’ Shoah.” (Though it must be said that for a lot of the show, Skinner looked positively bored. She spent part of it checking her smartphone and bolted from the stage when it was over.) Karmel also had plenty of chances to shine as, in this small universe, his character went on to be a pitchman for notoriously shoddy products. Cook and Androsky tossed him some prompts and he ran with them. From his spiel on the benefits of asbestos: “If you’re anything like me, you’re always on fire.”
Like any mostly improvised show, not every joke landed, and the other guests on the show, Gareth Reynolds and Nick Vatterott, weren’t given much to work with, but the hit count was pretty substantial. And really no one would have minded if the balance was even further off. There’s something unassailably delightful about watching a bunch of funny people happily try on a new persona and spend time throwing one another under the bus. And that’s really what Bridgetown is all about, isn’t it? Comedians finding new ways to be assholes to each other.