Review: Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! is improv comedy at its finest in its Sydney debut

Following on from performances in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as fitting in some time for the show’s host Scott Aukerman to appear on ABC’s The Mix, The Project and more, the cult TV and Podcast series Comedy Bang! Bang! made its much anticipated debut in Sydney last night, in front of what had to have been a sold out crowd. Along for the ride came show regulars Paul F Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black) and Mike Hanford alongside Aussie actress and comedian Claudia O’Doherty (Love), who was the guest playing the role of “herself”. But more on this later.

The anticipation built early for the show, with punters – many of whom thought the show was starting at 7.30pm on the dot – lining up for blocks to enter the venue. It turned out that only the doors would be opening at 7.30pm and it wouldn’t be until 9pm that the Comedy Bang! Bang! live podcast experience would begin. To help get the crowd ready, however, local stand up comedian Ray Badran gave the packed crowd good reason to have arrived punctually. He proved a hilarious start to the night, delivering some terrific lines about his nasally voice, Spongebob Squarepants, a child named after the “Sweet Dreams” lyrics, giant toblerones, stolen pizzas and wheelchairs at airports. His style definitely struck the right chord for the night, getting the entire crowd in hysterics – the only downside being that we’d have to wait another half an hour to keep that laughter going. But when the show did start, that laughter lasted for almost two and a half hours.

Mike Hanford came out first, a regular of the podcast and one of the TV show’s writers, to deliver a stand up routine. He “tricked the crowd” on the history of the venue, talked us through some book endings, gave us an impression of Owen Wilson opening a Russian Doll and wrote a song live with a girl from the crowd. It was far from a traditional stand up set, and was admittedly hit and miss – but it seems to have been designed well in this way, setting the tone for the night’s enviable brand of improvisational comedy.

With Hanford finished up, it was time for the main show to begin. The basic premise of the live show version of Comedy Bang! Bang! is that it’s a live recording of the podcast, which sees host Scott Aukerman – who has made a name for himself through this Podcast and spin-off TV series, as well as for being behind popular comedy series like Between Two Ferns – interviews a person of note, who appear as themselves, alongside a line-up of Comedians who appear as characters. What happens is unscripted, and in the case of this evening, saw Scott and his four guests – who he gradually introduced to the set – beautifully play off one and other and go down a variety of roads – some involving incredibly, deliberately drawn out stories (see Mike Hanford’s Calvin Redding unnecessarily detailed bank robbery), and others surprisingly… let’s say, perverted, for lack of a better word (Lauren Lapkus’ Traci Rearden and something involving feet and orgasms?).

Since you’ll soon be able to listen to this performance as a Podcast online, I won’t go into too much detail into everything these comedians talked about across their two and a bit hours on stage, but after Aukerman welcomed everyone to the show and talked about bad martinis and Baz Luhrmann, he welcomed Claudia O’Doherty to the stage; a “good friend” who was our “person of note” for the evening. The Sydney born actress and comedian has recently made a name for herself in the US appearing in shows such as Love and Inside Amy Schumer, on which she also serves as an Emmy Award nominated writer. As the resident Australian taking part in the show, she also went on to act as something of a translator for the night, ensuring that the American cast knew when they were talking about something that Australian’s didn’t know about – while she was naturally hilarious herself. She told stories of meat pies, winning competitions and sung a song for us, “Claudia of Glebe”.

Paul F Tompkins, also known as that guy you’ve seen and heard in just about everything, was added to the stage next, as his oft-performed (and much enjoyed) character, Dame Sir Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber – You know, the guy that did Cats! – delivered plenty of hilarity (not to mention some spectacular theatre puns). Then there was Lauren Lapkus‘ Traci Rearden (aka Twaci Weawden), who gave us all a lesson in sex, butt piercings and foot orgasms. And finally, Mike Hanford returned with his character Calvin Redding, a hay salesman who’s allergic to hay, and somehow spent nearly half an hour “not saying a single interesting thing”.

By this stage the cast, now two hours into proceedings, were in hysterics – especially Paul F Tompkins – and Aukerman, often with his head in his hands as Redding detailed a bank robbery and his processes for selling hay, ultimately seemed to think having the guest (who he suggested had only appeared on the program once in the past) was a huge mistake. But the crowd could not get enough – and as the stories kept dragging on, and the five comedians on stage played off each other, it proved to be the pinnacle of humour for the night. The night ended with a hilariously set up musical collaboration – a moment that showed just how great it is to throw a bunch of comedians on stage, with little rules to what you can and can’t do, and let them roll with it. The more of them we had on the stage, the better it got. Throw in the jetlag and they were all probably losing their minds a little bit by this point as well.

The Comedy Bang! Bang! live experience is one unlike any other. It’s improv at its finest, and most unpredictable. And though it’s great to sit and listen to the show as a podcast, there’s nothing that equates to being a fan of the series and seeing it performed live. They play well with the crowd, couldn’t be more enjoyable playing off one and other and ultimately provide their audience with a joyous night of comedy.

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This performance of Comedy Bang! Bang! took place at Sydney’s Metro Theatre on Sunday, August 28th. The Australia tour finishes up tonight (Monday, August 29th) at Perth’s Astor Theatre. Grab yourself some tickets HERE.

The headline image comes from Ray Badran’s twitter page. You can see the original post HERE.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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