In this second half of Season Four, it’s clear that Comedy Bang! Bang! wants to try to make things a little different. Scott Aukerman seems occasionally frustrated that this show is still going on, so why not try some new things? So far in this group of episodes, we’ve got a great new bandleader in Kid Cudi, there’ve been minor attempts at continuing the story from week to week and in “Tom Lennon Wears Black Slacks and a Black Skinny Tie,” the show goes for a more experimental approach with directing then we’ve ever seen before.
The show’s editors have gone on strike because they’re tired of having to edit footage so that it looks like Scott is sinking three-pointers at the end of shows. Since Scott points out that they perform this show flawlessly week after week after week, he decides that the show doesn’t need editors, but will instead air the episode in one continuous take.
With the exception of commercial breaks, “Tom Lennon” for the most part does go with this gimmick, even if there are a few fake-out cuts, such as when Scott sneezes on the camera, leaving the camera man to wipe away his snot from the lens. While the idea is ambitious in theory, even with all its crazy diversions, this is mostly a show about Scott talking with guests while they sit on a couch, so it’s not quite as shocking as it might sound. The camera moves around much more than usual and occasionally makes sharp turns to another person for a reaction, but it does mostly boil down to getting different angles of people sitting on a couch.
Considering the added level of difficulty in creating this episode, it makes sense that the show is comprised of Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and show regulars. Tom Lennon has plenty of fun with the idea that nothing can be cut out, by admitting that he’s been cheating on his wife with Beyoncé, only to immediately ask for this revelation to be cut. Lennon is also great when explaining his fears of being typecast, not understanding that playing 12 episodes as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple isn’t the same thing as doing the same role a dozen time. You’re just doing a TV show dude.
But the real star of “Tom Lennon” is Paul F. Tompkins as Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. Tompkins always steals the show, whether on the TV show or the podcast, and that doesn’t change here. Webber claims he has just made a new musical discovery known as “rap,” and decides he’s going to add rapping songs into all his preexisting musicals. With the help of a Cudi beat, Webber gives a fantastic rap that he will be adding to “Jesus Christ Superstar”—this is by the far the highlight of the episode. This also happens to be a great way for the show to bring the rare rap battle segment from the podcast into the show, and it does it brilliantly.
As Scott says near the end of the episode after sinking a three-point shot and bringing all his editors back, Comedy Bang! Bang! isn’t about one dumb gimmick, but about having a different dumb gimmick every week. For one episode, especially at the beginning and the Birdman-parodying conclusion, it is an enjoyable gimmick, even if its not as huge of an accomplishment as it might have been in one of their crazier episodes. CBB isn’t about the gimmicks, but it is about the great guests and characters that makes this show special, and “Tom Lennon” has some of the best that you could ask for.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.