At the beginning of every season or half-season of Comedy Bang! Bang!, it seems like the show takes the opportunity to make very slight tweaks to what is already a great formula, in an attempt to make the show even better. As we get into “James Marsden” we’re starting to see some really fantastic ideas that aren’t necessarily major, but are already making this half of the season pretty excellent.
The last episode started with Scott apprehensive of Reggie leaving, after his fantastic goodbye episode. Last week’s entire episode focused on Kid Cudi and Scott not exactly seeing eye-to-eye, and Cudi trying to win over Scott. Of course by the end of the episode, Scott and Cudi decide to finally be partners. “James Marsden” brilliantly starts with Cudi saying how much he hates working here and decides to give his two week’s notice, before Scott ignores him and goes on his own little tirade. It’s such a small addition, but I imagine it’ll go over incredibly well with his eternally-high audience watching on Netflix.
Kid Cudi’s performance is also very interesting, considering about half the time, he’s at Reggie” “I’ll go along with anything” mentality, but as the episode starts off, he’s going for a common man mentality that I really like. When Scott claims that he’s always wanted to be the greatest magician that ever lived, and shows that he accidentally cut off all his fingers trying to do a trick, and used to carry pictures of other little children pretending to be magicians when he was younger, Cudi reacts exactly how he should: like Scott is an insane person. It’s great that Cudi can go with the flow, but I also love the idea that he’s now too deep in a situation that he can’t get out of, with a boss that probably has mental problems.
There also seems to be a stronger focus on telling an entire story throughout the episode, not only through a larger narrative, but also between Scott, the guest and the character guest. In “James Marsden,” Scott is visited by a great wizard named Stephen Dorff (played by Chris Parnell) who wants Scott’s help to save his own realm. Since Scott has no magic skills, he figures the way to the top is to latch on to a super talented partner, and promises to help The Wizard Dorff if they can do a big magic trick together at the end of the episode.
James Marsden’s appearance leads to Scott fawning all over him, asking if Enchanted was a film, or if it was Scott’s reaction to watching James’ performance in said film. Early on, he asks if James can be his best friend and says that every person on earth is just a shittier looking version of James. This overreaction to James becomes even funnier with the appearance of Mister Celebrity (played by Brett Gelman) who says that backstage, Scott mentioned that James is only good for a “screw and a snooze.” Clearly Scott didn’t say that in the world of this show, but it is funnier considering how much Scott clearly loved James.
Gelman is as always absolutely crazy, but hilarious while doing it. Mister Celebrity claims to be a huge source of celebrity gossip, but in typical Gelman fashion it’s not that simple. He’s actually escaped from a mental rehabilitation center after trying to kill a cab driver and has only been in Hollywood for a day and a half. When Gelman gets way too friendly and James tells him to “fuck off,” it causes Gelman to go on a great downward spiral that is the highlight of the episode.
More than last week’s installment, “James Marsden” does have a few tiny moments that don’t exactly fit in, but both work well regardless. An appearance of David Bronzifield, a magician who thinks it’s cheating if Scott uses actual magic, doesn’t really go anywhere. However a parody of The Walking Dead called The Shaking Head gives us Scott’s best Rick impression, as Cudi constantly shakes his head while Scott lists all the people in their group who are now dead.
Already, this season’s minor tweaks are contributing to this show’s constant improvement. It’s not easy to improve upon such an excellent formula, but with every new batch of episodes, Comedy Bang! Bang! seems to find a way to make it happen.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.