Scott Aukerman On the Legacy of 'Comedy Bang! Bang!' and New Sidekick "Weird Al"
Published May 05, 2016Scott Aukerman has every right to be overwhelmed by the comedy world he created and oversees.
"We just wrapped season five of Comedy Bang! Bang! on Thursday, and I had to edit the show all weekend and then immediately start this tour," he tells Exclaim! from New York, pondering the surreal TV talk show he hosts and produces for IFC.
"When you see people with a show or succeeding, there's a lot of work going into it. They never tell you, 'You can have everything you've dreamed of, but you'll have to work 15 hours a day in order to get it.' I find it very hard to turn down work, which I have to get better at. But this is what I've always wanted to do."
Aukerman is a key figure behind the Earwolf and Howl podcast networks, he's been a writer/performer on Mr. Show with Bob and David (and its recent Netflix reboot), and gets called in to craft jokes for intense broadcasts like the MTV Movie Awards and the recent Academy Awards show. He's also the primary writer and director on Funny or Die's wildly successful web series, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.
A multi-talented comedic force, Aukerman remains best known for hosting Comedy Bang! Bang!, whose TV show is somewhat related to the popular and influential podcast of the same name. After 420 episodes, Aukerman, his crew, and frequent guests Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus are hitting the road for live shows, as the podcast celebrates its seventh anniversary.
"Yeah, it's crazy; I can't believe it's been going that long," Aukerman says. "It started as an offshoot of the live show I'd been doing at the [Upright Citizen's Brigade] theatre, which I did for ten years and I started the podcast seven years into it.
"It's been such a big part of my life and doesn't feel like it's slowing down at all," he adds. "It's just as popular as ever but, more importantly, creatively it's still firing on all cylinders and is still considered one of the better comedy podcasts out there, so I'm grateful for that."
Aukerman started CB!B! on internet radio and says it was originally intended to be a conventional interview show where he spoke with comedians, discussing their lives and work — essentially what Marc Maron's WTF evolved into. His programming manager at the station told Aukerman he'd be better off actually producing his own comedy instead, as he didn't think there was an audience who'd want to hear about how comedians come up with material and did or didn't get along with their dads.
Oh, how the landscape has changed.
Now CB!B! stands out in a crowded field of conversation podcasts, as Aukerman leads recurring and special guests through a different improvised episode (or two) every week, crafting one of the funniest and most oddball shows ever produced. They start off as innocent discussions but they're really, really not.
"Sometimes I wish I could just do a normal interview," Aukerman reveals. "It's relaxing to not have the pressure of doing a comedy interview and maybe that's something I'll pursue one day.
"I think alternative comedy has burst into the mainstream, like a lot of movements," he says of the ubiquity of comedy podcasts of any format. "Like the punk movement; at a certain point it just sounds like music because it's influenced so many people and you need to go on to something new. I'm sure because we're popular, there are comedians out there going 'That sucks, I'm going to do something new,' which is great."
Speaking of new, the aforementioned upcoming TV season of CB!B! features the show's third music director: parody maestro "Weird Al" Yankovic makes his first appearance in charge of tunage following Kid Cudi and, before him, Reggie Watts.
"Al is such a professional and works so hard," Aukerman explains. "It's his favourite show, he told me, so it's something he doesn't take lightly. He wants to be good at it and he is and it's not something that I take lightly — that someone with such a huge audience has agreed to do the show, so we've written him a ton of great material.
"It's great to have someone there in the morning who's super positive. He'd come hours early some days and just hang around the set. People are really gonna be satisfied when they see what he's doing. It doesn't feel different either; it feels like someone who really fits in is on the show."
As for taking CB!B! directly to the people, Aukerman says touring brings a whole new element to the podcast.
"I love doing these in front of an audience and there's a lot of interaction," he says. "The very first show we did in Los Angeles last Saturday, two minutes into the show, there was a latecomer and I had him come on stage to talk about why he was late. There's always a chance to interact with the audience, either literally or via their presence.
"Just the fact that they're so excited to see us adds so much electric energy to what we do. They steer the show by what they're laughing at and that makes us want to explore those things more."
See Comedy Bang! Bang! live in Toronto on May 5 and 6 at Convocation Hall and in Vancouver on May 26 at the Vogue Theatre.
Check out this interview in full via the Kreative Kontrol podcast below: