Comedy Bang Bang Turns 10: Weird Al, Chelsea Peretti, Ben Schwartz and More Discuss the Legendary Podcast

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<i>Comedy Bang Bang</i> Turns 10: Weird Al, Chelsea Peretti, Ben Schwartz and More Discuss the Legendary Podcast

This week Comedy Bang Bang commemorates its 600th podcast episode and tenth anniversary. The Scott Aukerman-lead production has spanned podcasts, live performances, and a multi-season TV show, representing a hyper-specific celebration of providing best minds in comedy a non-stop nonsense playground in which to find the best and worst of themselves. Comedy Bang Bang is truly a comedy institution at this point, with a long and rich legacy.

In honor of this momentous occasion Paste asked a few of the show’s recurring participants to weigh in on their favorite moments, the bits they believe will transcend time, and half-jokingly reveal their frustrations with ringleader Scott Aukerman and his brutal cabal of comedic oversight.

Before you dig in, you might want to check out the two anniversary episodes, starting with part one and then moving on to part one and a half.

Paste: What are some of your favorite moments from the show?

Weird Al Yankovic: Being on Comedy Bang Bang is such a joy. You know, I tend to get a little nervous before my concert performances because the goal there is to always do a perfect show—don’t hit any sour notes, don’t forget any words. But I never get stressed before a Comedy Bang Bang taping, because first of all there’s no real way to prepare for it, and second of all, the show embraces mistakes. If you accidentally trip over your words or say something stupid, that immediately becomes a bit. One of the show’s most famous memes, “Hey Nong Man,” came from the time Jason Mantzoukas mispronounced “Hang on, man!” and he riffed on it with Scott until it became part of comedy legend.

Mary Holland: It wasn’t my first episode, but early on, I played a character whose introduction made Paul F. Tompkins laugh for a solid minute. I was not prepared for that and it made me think I’d done something incredible. Elsewhere, at a live festival, there was an event where Ryan Gaul came out and his character was a motivational speaker who was also a con-man type. He took twenty dollars from Scott Aukerman. That will always be hard to top.

Ben Schwartz: My first episode of the podcast was me and Harris [Wittels] and I was just so excited to be there. Because this was the kind of show that only the coolest people were involved in. And from there, everything propelled me from nervous fun into the most fun. What this show created was me and everyone else just being big dummies. Just gigantic dummies. The Solo Bolos became my thing, because I’m a nerd for musical theater and everyone else here is a big fan of musical theater. Those, for me, are the performance moments where everything was improvised but… Ok, on this one show I was just screaming into Scott’s crotch. And that just kept going. That’s sometimes how this worked.

Reggie Watts: My favorite moment was probably kissing Selma Blair. It was my first on-screen kiss and she was super cool. It was one of those things where it just happened, because it was Comedy Bang Bang. It’s just one of those wacky things where you have to stop and ask “Why is this happening?”

Paste: What’s the one moment that sticks out in your memory from all your appearances on the show?

Weird Al: Oh man, there have been so many great moments, but my favorite was probably that one time when Scott Aukerman went outside and put money in my parking meter so I wouldn’t get a ticket. So nice of him!

Thomas Lennon: There was an episode we made about The Phantom of Comedy Bang Bang, where I was the Phantom of the Opera but I lived under the stage of Comedy Bang Bang. I joked about the premise with Scott and then he went radio silent. Four months later he got in touch and was like “Hey! We’re ready to go!” and I asked “Regarding what?” I’d never heard back. They just went ahead and put it together. Paul F. Tompkins was playing his Andrew Lloyd Webber character and… look, it was the most work I ever put into the least amount I’d ever been paid for a job.

Taran Killam: Scott will always hold the logic of whatever nonsense had been introduced. So when we started into a bit about horse violence, I watched him start calculating the exponential nature of how many horse corpses would be the extension of a very simple joke that we’d done. He just holds the parameters, no matter how far from left-field the impetus originated.

Mary Holland: I think about Lauren Lapkus’ Todd character, who is Scott’s nephew, more than I should. Scott once asked how old she was and she said “Middle School.” Who doesn’t love that?

Ben Schwartz: I did an episode with Andy Daly when he played the character Hot Dog. I just lost it. It was me and Andy, who I’d watched so much, and James Adomian. It was this mix of people I loved and people I loved to play with.

Taran Killam: The Harris Wittels episodes were always great. There is of course a melancholy shade to them now. They’re still so lovable. I’m sure everyone knows that.

Chelsea Peretti: Parks and Procreation with us and Adam Scott and Harris Wittels is so funny. Adam is an actor but he has a comedian’s brain. He’s an actor comedian and that has its own place. Very smart; very silly. It’s great to work on this show because it means driving to something that you consider to be work, but the silliest thing imaginable, and the most ridiculous thing you’ll experience today. Then it will be taken seriously and expanded upon.

Reggie Watts: It’s impossible to pick a single moment because the show is so dense. Nothing really exists by itself, it’s all part of this bigger thing.

Paste: What do you think makes CBB magic, or at the very least, singular in the history of comedy? What makes it so special to you?

Mary Holland: It’s so unique because it fuses together the idea of an interview, where Scott is truly interviewing both the guest and the subject, obviously. It blends the off-the-rails nature of sketch comedy with the real. Normally they don’t have to react to a robot who is also a sex alien. No one else does that. Scott is just masterful at navigating that. He still finds space for his own jokes amid that which is amazing and other.

Ben Schwartz: There are these specific worlds based around the coastal cities and their comedy in-worlds. This show gives a direct line into that but also allows everyone else an entry point to this thing that matters. You get to see how everyone plays with each other and you learn how to do that within your own world, through this voyeurism. It is a comedy that has never once let you know where it is going to go. And then Scott works as a puppet-master to line-up everything that comes from your improvisation.

Thomas Lennon: It’s a playground.

Chelsea Peretti: It’s the absolute seriousness about silliness. It’s too serious about being silly. It’s like the Ministry of Silly Walks and how he’s like “Well my walk keeps getting sillier.” Scott Aukerman is a professor of silliness. It’s good to be around quick-minded people. That’s the best part of comedy. Sometimes you have an idea of a way you want this to go, but then it’s a free-for-all for what direction it goes. That’s the beauty of it.

Reggie Watts: What sets Comedy Bang Bang apart is Scott Aukerman. Scott and the people he works with have their own language, and they use that to create a world that is over-the-top; a mix of intellectual and very, very stupid. And you need the best people in the comedy world to pull off something like that. Mostly I’d show up on stage the day of the shoots and they would say “Hey, this person, and this person, are going to do this thing” and I’d say “cool” and then we’d make it.

Weird Al: Comedy Bang Bang is like the world’s greatest comedy nerd clubhouse. It’s exciting and also somewhat daunting for me, because I’m working with the most brilliant improv comics in the business. I mean, I can think on my feet pretty well, but I never trained at UCB or Second City or the Groundlings, so I don’t have any serious improv training—it’s not my background. I just try to go with the flow and “yes and…” as best as I can, and everybody seems to make it work somehow. I will say that riffing with Scott and his guests has definitely loosened me up over the years, and made me slightly less terrified of the concept of being funny without the benefit of a script.

Paste: What’s the most difficult part of working with Scott Aukerman?

Weird Al: Okay, I know what you’re getting at here, but I am not going to talk about Scott Aukerman’s obsession with child pornography and Nazi memorabilia. The man is an artist, and people just need to cut him some slack!

Mary Holland: Hardest part: how much time do you have? The hardest part is trying to surprise him. I want to take the character in a direction he isn’t expecting and then try to throw him. Ugh. It’s hard. He’s unflappable.

Thomas Lennon: The most difficult part of working with Scott is that he’s so good. My measure of complimenting you for being good is usually either being mad at you or jealous of you. Both end in the same place. I’m mostly mad at Scott. There are so many moments where something happens and I have a difficult time parsing how and where it came from.

Ben Schwartz: What’s the worst part of working with Scott? He’s so attractive that the moment you first look at him, it’s over. It’s like the opposite of Medusa. With Medusa you look at her and you turn to stone; with Scott you look at him and then melt into butter because he’s so attractive. And smart. I’ve heard that his IQ is higher than anyone else’s. He told me that he has the highest IQ of anybody. He told me that. In the universe. The highest IQ in the universe. Smarter than Albert Einstein, but also beautiful.

Taran Killam: It’s not hard to work with Scott. He makes everything relaxed. The worst part for me was always just the drive down to Hollywood. That is just a logistics thing, you know. Scott does a great job of grabbing people and pulling them into a place where no one has to pay attention to the rules. We have to celebrate the absurd and that’s why this show exists.

Reggie Watts: He’s very exacting. He’s very loose in many ways but he has to be exacting to keep the show together. Sometimes, as an improviser, I wouldn’t totally get why a thing had to be the way it was. And that meant… at times, I became a bit contrarian. I would pretend like I didn’t understand his directions and then I’d keep doing it my way. But he’s an incredibly generous guy and he’s given me so many opportunities. But. When you work with people, different personality quirks come out.

Paste: Is there a bit you tried to make work that never came together? Something that really truly fell apart?

Mary Holland: Fall apart? That’s the hard part of a repeat character. The previous intro line of my character, when she came back… I struggled to maintain the surprises and new information without feeling like I was telling a story. Then I realized i had no idea where this was going. I was having sex with a sock or something? It went wild. My first time on CBB I leaned into admitting that I did not know what a bear was. For 45 minutes. That’s hard to repeat to similar effect.

Taran Killam: Some of what we did, like being boxing promoters for horse-boxing, didn’t betray anything. None of this made sense but Scott just held onto this, no matter what. The rest of what we did was just to add details to a dumb thing. Just spending a stupid amount of time developing the mundane parts of the worst, the dumbest characters. This became some dumb thing with no endgame, that resulted in fun characters that people love now.

Weird Al: I don’t really do characters on the podcast, so we never did any extended bits (other than beloved staples like “Would You Rather”). Of course, every now and then I’ll interject a dumb comment or attempt a joke that falls flat, but I’m not remembering any full-on disasters.

Chelsea Peretti: What fell apart? 90% of them. It’s never true that you can’t talk without knowing where it goes; it’s always a supportive environment for failure.

Reggie Watts: Sometimes I would start purposefully doing lines wrong because I was frustrated. Scenes would take too many takes and I would start doing stupid shit. It all worked out in the end, though.

Paste: Who was your favorite guest to interact with on the show?

Weird Al: Every single person I’ve worked with on the show has been amazing, but if I had to pick just one, I suppose I’d have to go with Paul F. Tompkins. He’s off-the-charts hilarious whether he’s impersonating Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber or Alan Thicke or Garry Marshall. His only flaw: he strongly prefers cake to pie.

Reggie Watts: Getting to jam with Weird Al was dope. I love that Weird Al was trying to fuck me up. He was playing accordion and I was beat-boxing, but he kept speeding-up and changing the tempo. I was like “Ok, I see what you’re doing.” And that’s exactly something I would have done.

Chelsea Peretti:You know who was really funny on this show? Uh—hold on, I’ll think of his name. I just woke up from a nap. Anyway, how is this interview going right now? I thought he was really funny.

Paste: What do you think history will remember about CBB? What will it be looked back on as at its 30 year anniversary?

Weird Al: I think that 20 years from now, Comedy Bang Bang will be remembered as that weird thing Scott Aukerman did before his tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. But don’t hold me to that—predicting the future was never my forte.

Ben Schwartz: At the 30 year anniversary, I will be 67 years old. People will worship this as the place where comedy originated from. Not from me, but from all these other people that got a start here. People like Jess McKenna who I think is such a cool talent; but this is where that whole thing began for them. This’ll be the archives of their rise. When I watch sports, I get invested in a rookie’s career because I’m rooting for their rise. That’s what I get from this show for a whole generation of comedians.

Thomas Lennon: It’s a singular thing and it has no competition. It’s a free space that encourages genius. Like our show Viva Variety, it just operates without a playbook.

Chelsea Peretti:At the 30th anniversary they’ll be saying “Hey, what show?” Or. Was that on that old network “Netflix?” And someone will ask what Netflix was and then someone else will explain “Oh, that was back before Holograms.” The show wasn’t on that platform. With Holograms. It wasn’t.

Paste: Ben, will Sonic The Hedgehog be guesting on Comedy Bang Bang and what character do you think he will play?

Ben Schwartz: So in this scenario, if I may, if I may Brock? What you’re saying is that me, the voice of Sonic The Hedgehog, I’ll be cameoing on the show but not just as me but as Sonic doing a character. Um. So. In my head, I don’t know if Sonic will ever do the show. But. If he did. He’d come in and play Knuckles, just to mess with everyone. But like, how deep does this wormhole go? How much of our audience do we alienate? With three references… that’s a hat on top of a hat on top of a chili-dog on top of a hat.


Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.

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