For fans of the cult comedy series Mr. Show, and the IFC series Comedy Bang! Bang!, the name Scott Aukerman is already a household name – even if they might not be able to spell it (Mott Skokerman? Hot Saucerman?). But what many may not realise is that Comedy Bang! Bang! started its life not on television, but in 2009 as a weekly comedy podcast, Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Podcast! And next month, the man himself will be coming to Australia for the first time to do live recordings of his Podcast series in front of a live audience. We caught up with the man himself to talk about the Podcast, the upcoming tour and much more:
We’ve been wanting to get you down here for a long time. How long has this tour been in the works?
Definitely since last Winter, so it’s been a while.
Well I’m glad it’s finally happening. We’re a little behind on the TV show down here. We still haven’t gotten to see the new “Weird Al” Yankovic series. But how has the transition been incorporating Al into the show as opposed to Reggie Watts or the brief reign of Kid Cudi?
It’s not been that different in terms of the creative process. We did so many episodes of the show in the fourth season (40, in fact), that we rolled right into the fifth season. It really doesn’t feel like we missed a step at all. We know what we’re doing. We’re really good at it. So, Al came into a process that was very much a well-oiled machine.
As far as transitioning into his sense of humour… you know, it really aligns with the show, and he talks about it as his favourite show, and it really is something that he wanted to do. So it wasn’t really that difficult to write for him. I think I was nervous giving him the first batch of scripts, where I was kind of like “oh man, I hope he likes these”. And then he wrote back saying how brilliant they were *laughs*. I was like “OK, this is going to be easier than I thought!”. And then as far as his performances go, they’ve just been fantastic. It’s been a pleasure having him on the set. And as for the reception? People, at least in America, really think that he’s fit in really well, that the show feels right with him in it. So it’s been very exciting. I can’t wait for you guys down there to see it, because I think you’re really going to love it.
That doesn’t surprise me at all – I mean we can look back to the interviews Weird Al used to do in his own show… had the sort of material he had been doing in the 90s inspired anything you were doing anyway?
Well you know, when I was 13 I became a really big Weird Al fan. His work has definitely inspired me since the beginning of me being interested in comedy. So, I think that his sensibility has really inspired me. But we talked a little bit about what he wanted to do on the show, and we didn’t want to do things that he’d already done. And one of the reasons for him wanting to do Comedy Bang! Bang! was that he loved the show so much, and he wanted to do what we were already doing. So we definitely wrote stuff going “is this an Al sketch or is is a Scott sketch?” and quite often I would have to admit that Al would be funnier at this than me *laughs*.
We would do that a lot on Mr. Show… is this a Bob sketch or a David sketch? And a lot of times you could go “I think they’d BOTH do it really well”. But here I think Al always has the inside track when it comes to choosing between us. He’s always going to be better than me at it I think!
Though they share a name, the set up for the podcast is a different beast entirely. Do you feel more pressure for an episode of the podcast, given it’s often completely live and runs for over an hour and a half, and pretty off the cuff, than you do for the scripted 20 minute IFC program?
I think there is less pressure for the Podcast in the one sense because there is nothing I can do to prepare for it. All I can do is show up and we’ll talk briefly before it starts, maybe about what the person is going to do, but a lot of the time we don’t even do that. And then we just start. So for me there’s less pressure.
I will say though there’s more pressure from these live tours that we’re doing. Because when you’re improvising a podcast in the studio, if it doesn’t go well I can kind of say, well there’ll be another one next week, or in a few days. If this wasn’t the funniest one, another one is right around the corner. But with this tour people are paying for it, and this is their night out. Some people are getting a babysitter, and they really want this to be a great experience. So I definitely feel more pressure on the tour to make sure that we really deliver. So I would say that that’s the most pressure-filled thing out of anything that I do.
So talk us through a bit on how your live show works, and compares to what we’re familiar with on your Podcast or TV series?
It’s basically what we do on the Podcast. We do a 100% improvised show. And a lot of people when they come to see us, if they’re not familiar with the Podcast, they’ll say “well, that wasn’t improvised. They knew what they were going to say!”. But no, we are improvising 100% of it, and we haven’t talked about what we were going to do at all. So that’s what it is. I’m the host, it’s a chat show format. And the comedians Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus will come out as characters, as fake people, and we’ll just kind of talk and improvise a show, and talk about what’s going on in their lives. It’s strange how that doesn’t sound like much of a hook, “what, you guys are just going to sit there talking!?”, but people will come out saying “I can’t believe how funny that show way”. So it’s really interesting.
I think that anyone who’s familiar with you would want nothing but that.
Yeah, they would be bummed if we had a bunch of pomp and circumstance. You know the first couple of shows we did of these, I did a half an hour of pre-planned bits before the Podcast started, and the one thing I always heard was just “eh… get to the Podcast! We paid because we liked the Podcast!”
So I’m a bit of a film nerd, and in a lot of your Podcasts I like how you casually throw out film facts like how Sam Raimi always wears a suit. Do you know much about Australian film or music?
I have to confess that I don’t know much about Australian film, as far as music goes, one of my favourite singers of all time is Neil Finn, and I’ve been so into his solo stuff and Split Enz, and all the Crowded House offshoots for the past 30 years. I know he’s from New Zealand but plays Australia a lot. So I’ve always been fascinated with Australia and always wanted to go, and anytime there’s a Split Enz reunion show, I’d get really tempted to make a pilgrimage to Australia and watch the show. So I’ve definitely become more into Australian music because of that. Anytime I see that a band’s from Australia it will peak my interest. Like Hunters and Collectors, Midnight Oil, You Am I. So I’m very excited to be making my first trip.
Are there any guests you still have yet to get onto Comedy Bang! Bang! who you’re dying to have on?
You know, it’s interesting that I just one like a week ago that I’d wanted to have on the show for a long time. And that was Dana Carvey from Saturday Night Live and Wayne’s World. I’ve always loved him. I’d tried to get him on the TV show many times, and he finally just did the Podcast (which you can listen to below). And that was a big thrill.
I’ve been pretty lucky to work with most of the people that I’ve been really inspired by over the years, either with Comedy Bang! Bang! or Between Two Ferns (with Zach Galifianakis, which he co-created and directed). David Letterman is definitely somebody I’d love to do something with somewhere down the line. If he would ever leave his house *laughs*.
And I mentioned before that you’re full of fun trivia about film and music. What’s your favourite piece of film trivia?
I think that a lot of people actually don’t know that the sled Citizen Kane is named Rosebud. That’s really interesting to me. I feel like most people don’t put two and two together there. I PAID ATTENTION. What is Rosebud? Who is this? If you’re paying attention, it’s there! *laughs*
I imagine you’ve referenced Citizen Kane on the show before? You can’t do pop culture references without having that pop up at some point…
Reggie’s goodbye episode was meant to be inspired by Citizen Kane. So yeah, we’ve done a bit of that in the TV show.
Don’t miss Scott Aukerman on his Comedy Bang! Bang! Australian tour. Tickets are on sale now and the dates and details are below:
Thursday 25th August – Brisbane City Hall, Brisbane
Friday 26th August – Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne
Sunday 28th August – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Monday 29th August – Astor Theatre, Perth
Tickets are available through wearenice.com.au
Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Podcast! can be accessed via iTunes and http://www.earwolf.com/show/comedy-bang-bang/
Image Credit: IFC