GUESTS MUST FOLLOW rules on the popular podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! Mainly, they're to be as funny as possible, but there are other, lesser formalities. When playing "Would You Rather," for instance, everyone must wait until host Scott Aukerman closes the floor for questions before choosing between the two unusual/gross/highly unlikely scenarios the game outlines. For rule-breakers, the demerit system is capricious, as is Aukerman's quick wit—a fact that makes Comedy Bang! Bang! unfailingly funny.
Each show, Aukerman brings guests onboard (like Neko Case, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Maria Bamford) alongside surprise guests (comedians like James Adomian doing characters like the Sheriff of Nottingham, or Matt Besser as Björk). Comedic chaos ensues. With that winning formula, the podcast has garnered a televised talk show on IFC, which starts its fifth season this June. Not too shabby for a bunch of comedians improvising in a stuffy studio. The podcast has evolved over the years from a radio show in 2009 to a podcast on Aukerman's Earwolf podcast network. What was once peppered with comedic song breaks is now mostly filled with oodles of beloved characters that have bizarre and byzantine backstories.
I got a chance to ask Aukerman what guests Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus might have in store for us at the live show in Portland. "We're doing [character] combinations that've never been done before. We have little mini story arcs that are happening, where characters who have met for the first time on tour are sort of figuring out their relationship as it goes on," he says via phone. "Paul, obviously, has such a depth of characters, such a deep bench, that he's done on the show. Lauren is a little newer to the show but she has her own podcast so she has a ton of characters.
"That's what's really interesting about the tour. It's kinda like when I went to go see Prince eight times a few years ago—every show was different," Aukerman continues. "Sometimes he'd do a three-hour extravaganza, and then another time I saw him and he did 90 minutes and made us wait for an hour for the encore and all he did was come out on a bicycle and rode around the arena."
Don't worry about that best-case/worst-case Aukerman laid out. I've seen the CBB stage show, and it was far from Prince on a bike—it was funny as fuck. There's a reason for that. "When you're in a room and just doing it for yourself, it's easy to talk over each other and have a rapid pace to it," says Aukerman. "On tour, we're pausing for laughter so you can hear what the audience is responding to and hang back and let them enjoy it without immediately trying to change what's happening. I really like doing it in front of an audience for that reason, letting them steer the conversation as much as I do."
On air, Aukerman is the grumpy David Letterman-meets-spastic-Pee-wee Herman host, but as an interviewee he allows himself to be a fan when I ask about the IFC show's new bandleader, "Weird Al" Yankovic. "It's definitely quite an interesting experience working side by side with someone whom you've had such respect and admiration for. He is one of the reasons I got interested in comedy itself," says Aukerman, whose first job was writing for Bob Odenkirk and David Cross' breakout comedy series, Mr. Show.
Aukerman snaps back to host mode when I ask if we can exchange a traditional Comedy Bang! Bang! greeting. There are, of course, rules. "Knowing that once I say it, we have to immediately hang up."
Yep, I agree. "Hey, Nong Man," I say.
"Hey, Nong Man." [Click.]
Totally worth it.