First of all, [SPOILEES!] that’s no mini-skirt. That’s a skort. The title lies! Trust no one! YELLING!
Yelling is inevitable when Giles Duggard (James Adomian playing a Gordon Ramsey facsimile that reprises his appearance on podcast episode 212, “Comedy Bleep Bleep”) barges in and commandeers the show in an attempt to save it from bankruptcy.
Cut down from the podcast’s free-wheeling long-form loopiness, Comedy Bang! Bang!’s television format has carved out its own strengths over the past three seasons. It’s especially deft at spoofing light lifestyle programming, from the first-episode wine-tasting aside with Guy Benoit to last week’s Fieri-noir. (Even Ditch It Or Pitch It, a rambling sketch that lacks punch, hits its HGTV-style notes with perfect… well, pitch.)
It’s no surprise Talk Show Rescue works so well as a framing device. What is a surprise: the whole expletive-laced makeover! Scott and Reggie are as blind-sided as the viewers by Duggard’s arrival. That’s central to his method: “I barge past security onto the sets of private talk shows and film my show during theirs,” bringing his whole crew with him to the rescue.
And just in time! Under its cheery façade, the Comedy Bang! Bang! set is in shambles, dusty and crawling with spiders. (“Oh, and other kinds of bugs!” Reggie helpfully interjects.) Giles Duggard berates Reggie and Scott, interrupting interviews and taped segments and peppering the audio track with blustering BLEEPs as he condemns every aspect of the show, displaying special contempt for Scott’s interview technique. “Comedy Bang! Bang! is losing money due to a host of problems, beginning with its host problems.” No wonder profits have been steadily dropping for three seasons. This bleeping show is a bleeping disaster!
Perhaps living under Neptunian rule drags down earnings. It can’t be easy to thrive in a pelt-based economy. Parodying ESPN’s 30 for 30, Sporty 4:40 details how Jerry Pickens (Larry Miller) and his dream to own his own major league baseball team led to humanity’s enslavement by the Neptune Martians, and showcases another of CBB’s great stylistic gifts by taking a simple premise and spinning it out to its most extreme, absurd conclusion. (“Oh, that’s why we’ve been enslaved by the aliens!”)
Sporty 4:40 builds from its modest beginning to a peak of preposterous doom with beautifully efficient logic, making it one of my favorite pre-taped segments in the show’s history. It gives Reggie a chance to leave the sidelines, always a treat, and even delivers a few moments with The Earthlings’ center fielder Fred Dumphrey (Jerry Minor, who plays Mailman Manny), whose understated humor dovetails in seamlessly.
Also a favorite: any Paul F. Tompkins appearance, though I found the Werner Herzog forehead and wig weirdly distracting. (“Weirdly” because the unpolished costumes usually feel like part of the joke; I’m not sure why this one didn’t work for me.) Tompkins channels a prim severity that strips away both the depth and the whimsy of the real Herzog and leaves only the abrupt, mannered grimness of his pronouncements.
Tompkins appears as Herzog while Adomian plays a fictionalized Ramsey-esque character. I suspect this decision was driven by the need to frame Duggard’s show-within-a-show using title cards and interstitial images, not by, say, fear of Gordon Ramsey’s wrath. And really, wouldn’t Herzog’s impassive gaze intimidate more thoroughly than any spittle-sprayed invective the celebrity chef could dish out?
These two tiers of masquerade highlight the chimerical nature of Comedy Bang! Bang!, where actors plug fake projects alongside real ones, where Reggie and Scott are best friends one week and glaring enemies the next. It’s a reality populated by sentient couches and taxidermied animals where Scott can still be astonished to learn a puppet is a living creature. CBB’s weird confluence of truth and pretense grows larger and more unstable with every glimpse, like the fugitive ruined world fleetingly shown outside since the show’s inception, and here expanded into a coherent chronicle of Earth’s downfall.
Well, that got dark. As Werner Herzog said tonight, “My goal is not to depress but merely to inform.” Or both. Sure, why not both?
- Homeofthe Whopperman. This restaurant is a disgrace! You’re not running a bleeping fast-food franchise here—oh, you are? Carry on, then.
- The title of this episode feels calculated to cause an internet conflagration. Alison Brie, black mesh top, mini-skirt. BOOM.
- In the Talk Show Rescue intro, Fred Willard is among the hosts suffering Giles Duggard’s blistering scorn.
- When Duggard takes over Scott’s seat and eases Alison Brie into her Bruce Springsteen elevator story, Scott shoots several head-shaking looks to the audience. On the surface, it’s just mugging to the camera, but its implication—that he intentionally prefaces his guests’ anecdotes with summaries and disdains Duggard’s soft-soap approach—elevates a comical aside to a grace note.
- Here’s the end. Are you ready for the end? The talking car says “Hey!” and we fade to black. That’s an ending. All other versions are absurd.