It cannot be said enough: When it comes to choosing episode guests, Comedy Bang! Bang! (and Scott Aukerman, of course) knows just how to exceed audience expectations. There’s no reason an episode with Lil Jon and Tom Green—two performers who are very much relics of certain eras in a lot of ways—as main guests should be great, or even really good. Both are acquired tastes, for sure, but on a show that also has Vince Gilligan, patron saint of high brow entertainment, there’s a definite dichotomy. The words “high brow” and Lil Jon and Tom Green really don’t go hand in hand.
Then again, Comedy Bang! Bang!—despite its hipster sensibilities and critical praise—doesn’t claim to be “high brow” itself. Some of the best jokes of both the show and the podcast are really dumb things in the first place. This episode alone gives Vince Gilligan the task of eating a hot dog. That’s it. However, what Comedy Bang! Bang! does try to do is fit even the most unlikely of guests into its weird box of tricks. The show’s goal is to make these people part of that world of hipster comedy, even if that is not their particular lane. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but Comedy Bang! Bang! wouldn’t be Comedy Bang! Bang! if it didn’t try.
It works here, amazingly well. And it doesn’t hurt that the episode is also framed with a very well-timed superhero plot. Even though the framing device is specifically the 1960s Batman series, there are enough superhero tropes that are worthy of being called into question no matter what era, such as the commissioner wanting Scott and Reggie (who have partaken in far stranger tasks, given their actual professions) to help save the day when he has a police force of “literally hundreds” on the payroll.
As for the “dreaded” guests of the episode, they both work for very different, but very effective, reasons.
Part of why Lil Jon works so well in this episode is that there’s no sign that the bizarre depiction of Lil Jon here isn’t the real deal. This is a man who made a major name for him himself in pop culture for yelling “yeah,” “what,” and “okay” with the vigor no one else would ever think to give those words. Watching this episode, all I could think is that the weird Lil Jon here is exactly how I assume the real Lil Jon is. Lil Jon doesn’t do a particularly good job at acting in this episode, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like he’s acting at all. Lil Jon’s wife probably did call him a “cork dork” for his love of wine, and who’s to say Lil Jon wouldn’t want a turtle farm when he retires? Who’s to say? That’s just the vibe that Lil Jon gives off, Comedy Bang! Bang! or not.
As from Tom Green, his turn as the flop of a villain, The Quizzler, brings up how “lame” certain comic book villains can be based solely on their gimmick. It also just happens to be with the added bonus of being a struggling performer who tries to pretend he’s something more, a concept that’s all too familiar in reality. His henchmen, G.U.S., B.O.B., and H.E.R.B., aren’t exactly the type of people you would see in real life (or maybe you would, if you frequent the Sizzler), but they work for the aesthetic. Tom Green made his career of being, quite frankly, weird, and what’s weirder than a terrible “super” villain? What’s weirder than a supervillain, in general?
The Batman-esque framing device is amazingly blatant in that Comedy Bang! Bang! way, as the episode makes Comedy Bang! Bang! Scott and Reggie’s secret “hero” identities their roles on the talk show itself, and Reggie becomes a potty-mouthed Robin. There’s even the touch of the Batman rip-off riff for the score (making it appropriate that Scott’s onscreen credit for the episode is a take-off of composer Hans Zimmer), even through the opening credits, followed by the important questions of the episode:
“Will the Quizzler wreak havoc on the show? Will Scott and Reggie be able to stop him? Will the commissioner enjoy his hot dog? Stay tuned and find out!”
The answers to those questions are “no, not really,” “yeah, kind of,” and “definitely.” Scott’s absolute detachment from the entire situation is amazing, as he would rather stick to the general weirdness of the show than the general weirdness of this terrible “villain” and trivia “master.” He really just doesn’t care? And for once, why should he? He’s just a talk show host, and this guy is a joke (though not a particular funny one).
If there’s one fault in the Quizzler gimmick, it’s that it can’t use the Riddler name (which would definitely bridge the connection between the show and the podcast, with its Riddler game) because of the existence of “actual” Batman mythology.
As for the out-of-studio bit, Bad Grads is a splendidly bizarre one, taking Scott’s typical impulse to call everyone out as the biggest dummies in the world and flipping it on its head when he himself ends up in an alternate world altogether… thanks to a Stargate. This is a world where a meatball sub is the president, which might as well be an episode of Sliders when it inevitably gets reboot in the next five years. Watching this bit, I actually began to wonder if and when Comedy Bang! Bang! would start to really incorporate these types of bits into the talk show part of the show, and lo and behold, as soon as Scott transports himself through the Stargate and back to the talk show to eat President Meatball Sub IV, he’s stopped by that world’s Secret Service as they step in to prevent further horror.
Last but not least is Claudia O’Doherty’s role as spokesperson Shandy Williams. Fans of the podcast will recognize Claudia as “herself,” Kim Cattrall impersonator and constant contest winner. The Shandy role is pretty much the same character, with her mother sending her away from Australia, this time to push Crocodile Lock hair extensions. The terrifying edge of her indigenous animal-killing tendencies being the reason behind this endeavor makes just how awkward and timid she is during her demonstration all the more amusing, as does Scott’s throwaway “hard pass” at being her friend in America.
On a real level, sometimes I feel as though I am blinded by my love for Comedy Bang! Bang! when it comes to my critical look at the show. To say this is as good of an episode as a “Lizzy Caplan Wears All Black And Powder Blue Espadrilles”—the pinnacle of Comedy Bang! Bang!, in my opinion—is probably an overstatement, if not just wrong. But I also can’t deny how good of an episode this is on every level. This is part of why the three reviewer structure (despite the vocal complaints there have been from some) can be especially important to Comedy Bang! Bang! structure. Even with its niche target audience, there are niches within that niche, and even episodes I enjoy greatly have been poorly received by Emily and David (and I’m sure the same can be said for all of us).
Basically, comedy is subjective. “Maybe!”
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Hans Zimmerman
- I might be talking out of turn, but I don’t think Scott and Reggie know how to play chess.
- Scott: “Oh hey, if you’re a burglar and you happen to be watching this show from the house you’re burgling? Well, you might be a criminal, but you have great taste.”
- Also, the Saturday Night Live style audience questions. You gotta laugh.
- Lil Jon: “People like turtles.” Everything he says in this little tangent is great, but this is clearly the message.
- Reggie: “Holy plot advancement, Scott! Who is that?”
- Shandy: “Look how good you look. I think beauty is pain.”
- Lil Jon hiding behind the couch as Reggie and Scott fight the old men just feels right.