As much as a framing device can be fun on a typical episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, a lot of the time it can be more of a distraction. But rarely is an episode elevated by a framing device as near-perfectly as “Kathryn Hahn Wears Ripped Jeans and Black Heels.”
The connective tissue of “Kathryn Hahn” is that the entire episode takes place in a 1995 training video called “How to Host.” This could’ve easily turned into a parody of these types of videos that fill YouTube, but instead the episode is an earnest idea presented in this particular style and it works incredibly well. The Scott that we know as the host of Comedy Bang! Bang! the TV show is dorky and awkward enough to make the video work and fit it in with the CBB aesthetic. “How to Host” ends up nailing the tone, by feeling like the editor behind it was rushed or had no idea what they were doing, while still nailing every single one of its jokes.
“How to Host” does what typically every episode’s gimmick of CBB should do, by giving everyone in the show something to do within the idea that is presented. Far too often, these two sides to the show don’t mix, but “Kathryn Hahn” allows both sides to integrate seamlessly.
“How to Host” is filled with perfect little moments that continuously prove the genius of its ideas. Scott’s acronyms are that blend of idiotic and incredible that CBB does so well. For example, Scott’s ABCS of Hosting:
Ayy! Constantly Continue Connecting
Be constantly continuing to connect
C? You did the other two things, didn’t you?
We also occasionally get equally great “Host Trivia Facts”, such as “James Corden is a backstabbing weasel and can burn in hell.” The idea of “Kathryn Hahn” has the potential for some great meta humor and the episode relishes in it, bringing the return of Reggie in a training video Cudi watched once entitled “How to (Band) Lead.” Reggie states in the music video that no matter what, the bandleader must pretend to be the host’s only friend and if you hate him, just pretend, then goes on for an unnecessary verse about how coffee will help you get through the boring show you’re on.
“How to Host” always connects to the episode at hand. Kathryn Hahn is asked to help explain the “Rule of Guesting,” which is to always answer every question, no matter how personal. She also helps Scott by being one of the show’s most difficult guests, who will try to scam you when giving change on the air. This leads to an employee incentive reward program for staff snitches and the Sicilian kiss of death for employees who work with the scamming celebrities. Rest in peace you piece of shit Eric. Cudi will miss you.
“Kathryn Hahn” is also boosted by one of the podcast’s greatest new characters in it, with Mike Hanford’s John Lennon. Hanford’s approach to Lennon is basically to know as little about Lennon and The Beatles as possible, which always leads to some great slips. Hanford feels the need to point out that he “used to play guitar in the European rock band The Beatles” and remind us that Ringo played the drums. Lennon is matter-of-fact about how he came back to life and seems legitimately surprised that he never really thought about running into Yoko yet.
In a surprise little twist, “How to Host” ends up being Scott’s video will, written by his mom, and likely to be used when he dies from autoerotic asphyxiation. Scott gives hosting duties to Slow Joey, and we then discover the video is also part of Slow Joey’s video will. Who cares if it doesn’t make a bit of sense, it’s a strange conclusion that comes out of nowhere in an episode that nails so much.
“Kathryn Hahn” is probably as close as Comedy Bang! Bang! has come to a perfect episode, combining the usual episode points with a narrative structure that couldn’t be more fun. Scott, Cudi and even a returning Reggie all are at the top of their games, while Hahn and Hanford are among the best guests and characters that the show could ask for. “Kathryn Hahn” has a level of dedication to its idea and a laugh ratio that most episodes don’t have, establishing the height of what Comedy Bang! Bang! can be.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.