There have only been a few weeks between the third and fourth seasons of Comedy Bang! Bang!, so what has changed? Recently, host Scott Aukerman stated on the podcast that the third season hadn’t been as consistent as he wanted it to be, and I’d definitely agree with that assessment. Right out the gate, Season Four seems to be taking the best elements of what worked in Season Three, and making those things tighter—all to fit in more seamlessly with the CBB aesthetic.
The third season ended with a duo of great movie references, with the Christmas finale being a Die Hard homage, and the episode prior a fantastic Back to the Future parody. Season Four continues this with a Princess Bride parody, where Creed Bratton of The Office reads the story of Comedy Bang! Bang! to a young boy. It’s a much looser parody than the previous episodes, but by the end the episode evades another one of the series’ occasional problems with tying all the random bits together into one larger idea.
Now that the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show is now in its fourth year, there’s a whole new level of characters and references that the show can rely on. I love that the podcast has its own corral of characters and ideas that can be slightly referenced on the show or on the podcast, and can be immediately recognized by fans. This episode starts with its most overt Princess Bride reference, showing the medieval beheading of Scott by a sheriff, played by Matt Besser. Of course Reggie Watts comes to Scott’s aid, along with a quick rundown of cameos from the TV show’s characters, like Jason Mantzoukas’ Emeril Legosi, Eric the PA, the doorbell repairman and whoever Jimmy Pardo is portraying. It’s a quick and welcome reminder that there’s now a whole realm of characters that the show can work with.
Comedy Bang! Bang! always works best when it has a great combination of guests. The first episode back we get Ty Burrell—an admitted fan of the podcast—and one of the best guests of the TV show and podcast, and Nick Kroll as Fabrice Fabrice, who somehow has not made an appearance on Kroll Show. Ty Burrell’s appearance almost reminds me of Jon Hamm’s appearance on the show, not just because he’s appearing alongside Fabrice Fabrice, but because he’s a fan and clearly gets the idea of what the hell is actually going on on this show.
One sign of a great combination of guests is the frequency with which you can see the guests and Scott almost breaking into laughter. Scott was constantly trying to hold it back when he was whispering a private conversation to Burrell, and Burrell could barely hold it in whenever Fabrice Fabrice did anything at all—an understandable problem. #RIPelmo #RIPpaulgiamatti.
As much as I like that Comedy Bang! Bang! can go anywhere and do anything, I do often worry about how the show’s TV and film parodies fit into a certain episode. I had this same concern with “Dane Looker,” Scott’s new detective show, wherein people can’t get over the fact that his name is also his occupation. It’s a great bit, but it works perfectly with the episode’s conclusion, where we discover Dane Looker has been looking for The Bedtime Story Bandit, or the man who has been reading the story of Comedy Bang! Bang! all along. It’s not a big concern, but it is fantastic when every element of the show ties together. without any segment feeling like it could have just been taken from any other episode and thrown in.
The fourth season of Comedy Bang! Bang! doesn’t bring around many big changes from the last. Everything just feels a little bit stronger when tied together, and the set seems to have better lighting. With just these small, incremental improvements, Season Four is already off to a incredibly strong start.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.