The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel of all time, I’m hipster-appropriately obsessed with The National, and like every nerd in America, have a crush on Ellie Kemper. Comedy Bang! Bang! returns from its midseason hiatus and it was like an old friend coming home from a semester abroad. Picking up right where it left off, I was instantly back into the Scott Aukerman groove. Biases aside, the comedy is both broader and more focused than previous episodes, and it makes for one of the best episodes of the season.
Eric the Production Assistant starts the episode with a send-up of both the most recent Gatsby film and every typewriter frame device used since Stand By Me. Eric, dressed in all black and looking like a cross between DJ Qualls and Draco Malfoy, composes his masterpiece about being a PA on “that hipster TV show.” Aukerman’s interactions with kids are hilariously awkward and the show continues to get good mileage out of them.
There are joke jokes at every turn here, a mix of popular references (A Nightmare Before Christmas) and understandable parodies. Some of the abject weirdness, not all, but some, is absent in this episode, and I think the show is better for it. Perhaps that’s blasphemy, but even the doorbell repairman, with his sensitive knuckles and television commercial for a television repairman, combines physical humor with a clever premise to produce an odd but easy-to-digest bit and callback.
Reggie reading Gatsby for his book club, and all the jokes and references that came with it, is endlessly funny. “Scott, you’re worse than (flips pages) Tom Buchanan!” and the end reveal, that he is actually reading Robopocolypse, is ace. The book club gag ties in nicely to the bookends (no pun intended) of the show in a way that Comedy Bang! Bang! rarely does. I understand it might be too neat and tidy for some, but I think it gave all the jokes a little more context.
Retool The School Makeover Academy Fall Semester is my favorite sketch of the episode and not just because The National has the line of the season (“Who do you think you’re dealing with, the pussies in the Arcade Fire? The National gets their check.”). I was waiting for the shoe to drop the entire time, laughing at the literal rat infestation, sure, but, waiting for the full punch. It lands nicely with the aforementioned line from singer Matt Berninger and a great delivery of “Here you go, itemized expense report” from Aukerman. It is all brilliantly funny and the Pied Piper ending even somewhat relates to sketch! Even the animation is well-done.
Ellie Kemper, known for her work as Erin on The Office and a bridesmaid in Bridesmaids, does great work and plays nicely off Aukerman and Watts. Scott’s crush on her is funny without being too creepy and while adorable-girl-turned-hardcore skews unoriginal (see: “Natalie Raps”), it is so funny I watched it twice anyway. Kemper’s improv background serves her well and it is fun to see them have fun.
“That’s cause I’m a great actor, dipshit!” and the entire favorite movie quote bit is smart and funny and also warrants a repeat viewing. The improv movie is also great, the robot plot tying into Watts’s book reveal, and features an intense exploration of Qualthar and Becky’s relationship.
Later, James Adomian makes his television debut of his podcast parody of Jesse “The Body” Ventura and, while not as fresh as the rest of the episode, the skit still brings some fantastic lines. The Coke/Pepsi election line is especially inspired. It works so well because Jesse Ventura was actually a politician, and one could almost see a candidate saying, “I’m going to take the military industrial complex and put them into a military industrial suplex.” Almost.
I could not be happier with this episode, It is funny from top to bottom, and holds the right mixture of absurd and accessible. I’m sure we will be back to weirdness next week, but sometimes I want The Great Gatsby over Infinite Jest. It is unclear if this is a readjustment for Comedy Bang! Bang! or just a slight aberration, but let’s not try to figure out everything at once.