When Comedy Bang! Bang! debuted on TV, many of the die-hard fans of the podcast it was based on made a fuss. While it certainly shared Scott Aukerman’s comedy sensibility and many of that show’s characters, it’s still an entirely different beast, a hybrid sketch/talk show where sometimes you can’t quite tell what is scripted and what isn’t. The podcast is almost entirely improvised and has a freewheeling style that’s tough to imitate, but the best episodes of Comedy Bang! Bang! are the ones that get their disparate parts to flow together well.
I really liked the Fantastic Voyage/Innerspace spoof that bound this episode together, even though it was very silly stuff that didn’t really have a connection to anything. Scott has a cold, so a team of crack medics (played by Christopher Meloni, Aukerman’s wife Kulap Vilaysack, and Echo Kellum of the late Ben And Kate) get into a shrinking spaceship to go kill the virus. It didn’t have any bearing on Aziz Ansari’s appearance or the arrival of Fabrice Fabrice (Nick Kroll) but we kept cutting back to it and it served as the button for the episode, tying it all together without even having to try too hard.
Aziz Ansari was best when he was the most low-key, either talking about his parents’ real jobs (gastroenterologist/office manager for said gastroenterologist) or replying to Reggie Watts’ query with an utterly straight face. “Do you think cats can be seen in thick fog?” “Depends on the thickness of the fog, the size of the cat, the color of the cat, time of day.” The gastroenterology discussion, which leads (perhaps inevitably) to some butt talk, felt the most conversational and unscripted, which is a good look for this show to have. Its spoof of the conventional talk show style is fantastic, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to cut through the irony for a second.
Another thing that’s nice about Ansari’s appearance is that he doesn’t play himself as a self-important jerk, which can be such a common angle for special guests to lean on when they’re playing themselves. There’s a whole extended bit about Ansari’s entourage (including an over-zealous security guard played to great effect by Cedric Yarborough) but at no point does Ansari begin to fake-preen. Instead, he explains in detail his pitch for an emoji movie which delighted me and, I’m sure, all iPhone users watching at home.
Fabrice Fabrice is one of my favorite Kroll characters (who, it must be noted, did not appear enough on Kroll Show) and his few appearances on the podcast are all must-listens (if memory serves, he’s definitely on episode 89 with Harris Wittels and episode 107 with John Mulaney). It’s rare to have a character who’s pretty much universally fun and sunny but still disrupts proceedings and weirds everyone out. Fabrice is a craft services coordinator clad in purple camouflage and stickers—at one point Ansari asks him if he’s going to war with Grimace from McDonalds.
Fabrice is such an absurd character with seemingly otherworldly presence, a gift to Kroll as an improviser since he can say pretty much anything and make it work. He did craft services for That’s So Raven, and he also loves the Baltimore Ravens because he thinks they are made up entirely of Raven-Symone clones. When pressed on this, Fabrice says he covers his eyes when the players take their helmets off, to “preserve the mystery.” Sure! Makes as much sense as the Smoke Monster hogging the cheese at the Lost craft services table, or his slam poem about marsupial soup that Scott declares “factually correct.”
The part of Comedy Bang! Bang! that’s the most jarring are its remote sketches, which are always slow-building pieces of exquisite nonsense that hinge on little shifts from normal to, by the end of the sketch, very crazy. I think it’s this stuff that really confused die-hard fans in the first season, but it can be really, really funny stuff, and the hidden-cam bathroom feature “Soap Or Dope” had me laughing pretty much from the beginning. It managed to be gross but not too gross, and slip in an surprise appearance by a “ghoulie” without going off the rails.
Scott’s onscreen credit: Flip Flopperman.
- Loved Kulap’s outraged “noted feminist” and Echo Kellum’s repeated adage that things were right up his alley.
- “I’m bruised. I'm battered. I'm close to death. This kind of thing is not up my alley. In other words: it's right up my alley.”
- Scott has a friend named Denzel Talvish. “I’ve met Denzel, through a friend,” Reggie says. “Scott. Scott Aukerman. You.”
- According to Fabrice, Edgar Allen Poe definitively told us that crows are crazy.