Comedy Bang! Bang! didn’t use up the whole green-screen budget last week after all, and they didn’t use up all their early-’60s references in Josh Groban’s previous appearance. In the season finale, “Josh Groban Wears A Blue Blazer And Shiny Black Shoes,” it’s Christmas at the Comedy Bang! Bang! studio, and nothing says Christmas like a Christmas beach party!
What’s that? A lot of things say Christmas better than a beach party? Yeah, that’s true. But when Scott finishes his mulled wine and burns the polystyrene cup, he tips the scales of climate change just enough to bring sea levels up, making the studio beach-front property. And a beach means a ’60s beach party, complete with peppy pop music, a surfing competition, and a mop-topped member of the British Invasion.
No beach party is complete without a dreamy ingenue (Katheryne Penny), and when Scott sets eyes on Ahoop (“It’s a parody of the name Annette. Her parents were MacArthur-grant award-winning satirists”), he’s done for, daddy-o. As he so eloquently observes, “There’s something about seeing a young teenaged girl in a bikini… I think I’m in love!”
Scott lays all his cards on the table with his teenaged crush, eager to play up his Magic: The Gathering cards (“Or wait, is it don’t tell?”), his thin, wispy physique, and his inability to stop ogling her body long enough to listen to her complaint that most men are too busy ogling her body to listen to what she’s saying. It’s all going super-nifty until a rival for Ahoop’s affections shows up: The Beetle (Scott Aukerman), a gap-toothed, long-haired, adenoidal musician who gets the beach bunnies swooning with a song about lexical differences:
And you may ask me why do I say “chips” instead of “fries”
My answer is, and I sure hope this comes as no surprise
’Cause I’m a Brit
Ooh yeah yeah yeah
Yeah, I’m a Brit
Ooh yeah yeah yeah
Scott Aukerman looks like he’s having a sneering, snickering blast playing The Beetle. This nasty character is straight out of a 1960s sit-com send-up of The Beatles and lesser mods. He’s not quite The Rutles and not quite The Redcoats, but he’s in the same zip code (and what I call “a zip code,” you call “a postal code,” or somefink like ’at). The Beetle swoops in and sweeps Ahoop off her feet, sending Scott back to the show.
Scott greets his guest, Josh Groban, saying, “You’re a wonderful singer, a wonderful actor, and you can charm the pants off of anyone you meet.” It sounds effusive, but gosh darn it if it isn’t true. He never falters, he delivers his lines with both conviction and emotional immediacy, and he twinkles while he does it.
No one’s ever sounded so doggoned can-do while spieling off a long list of things he can’t do, and Groban sells every twist and turn of the Just Joshin’ and Noël segments with the conviction of a pro and the freshness of an improviser. He and Scott Aukerman give those silly premises every ounce of reality they can handle. But maybe the best moments of his appearance are the quiet, intimate ones, like the nicknames they use for each other: “Scottser, what gives, man?” “I’m sorry, Joshster.”
It’s easy to see why Comedy Bang! Bang! has relied on Groban’s high-wattage smile and cheerful presence to anchor both their season-three mid-season finale and this season finale. Paradoxically, the comfortable appearance of connection between host and guest frees up Scott for beach blanket buffoonery; he can leave Groban’s side without seeming to strand him on the sofa.
And that’s the logical path that leads to a surf competition between Scott and The Beetle, and then to Kid Cudi warning Scott of an approaching shark using the private sign language Scott hasn’t even learned yet (#gesturish), and then to Scott punching out the shark, and then to him returning from the briny depths to spike the bloody remnants of the shark’s head onto the sand because, sure, why not?
The disconnect between talk show and beach party makes the whole episode feel a bit disjointed, no matter how strong the segments, but “disjointed” is how a beach party movie swings, man. “Josh Groban Wears A Blue Blazer And Shiny Black Shoes” is a sing-song extravaganza, with Ahoop crooning “It’s Still Christmas To Me,” The Beetle strumming “I’m A Brit,” Josh Groban singing praises to a fax machine, Sullivan’s Bikini Christmas album (“rose-colored glasses not included”), Scott and Ahoop’s “Boy, What A Pair,” the tinny tones of a transistor wafting over from the beach party, and strains of Christmas carols piping over the set reminding us it’s Christmas, no matter how sunny.
This is definitely a Christmas episode, not a holiday episode, but whatever you celebrate, surely we can all agree that Kid Cudi has the right idea how to celebrate:
Everyone likes to open presents naked, and everyone likes to exclude Josh Groban, who just moments ago was so warmly embraced in the spirit of the show, from their heartfelt holiday greetings. Groban’s sniveling plays over the entirety of the end credits, demonstrating once again that Comedy Bang! Bang!’s greatest attribute is its attention to detail and its dedication to taking a bit as far as it can go, and then a little bit further.
When season four’s 40-episode order (doubling the previous two seasons’ orders, and quadrupling its season-one run) was announced, I wasn’t sure even Scott Aukerman and Comedy Bang! Bang!’s stable of smart, energetic writers could keep up, but this season has been remarkably solid. With the departure of Reggie Watts and Kid Cudi’s introduction, it’s seen the emergence of a new dynamic between host and band leader, and a new TV friendship. The show has maintained its humor, continued its occasional ambitious framing stories, and deepened its mastery of the details that make Comedy Bang! Bang!’s preposterous world so rich and interesting. All in all, it’s been a whale of a season, or, um, a decapitated shark of a season.
Merry Christmas, Cudi. Merry Christmas, Scott. Merry Christmas and happy season finale, everyone. Not you, Josh Groban. Not you.
- Scott’s onscreen credit: Stock Ingstufferman
- Update: Kid Cudi tweets that this season finale marks his last episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! It’s sad to see him go after such a sweet, winning half-season, but the last change worked out well, and I trust this one will, too.
- Josh Groban compliments Kid Cudi: “Walking out to that music is the edgiest I’ve ever felt.”
- “What is this, a Tom Petty song?” Oh, Comedy Bang! Bang! callbacks, I love you most of all.
- Speaking of which… “Oh, Scott, that was beautiful! Do you really have a lot of money?” “I mean… compared to all the people on this beach?”
- “See? Normal pistol; starter pistol.” Groban looks so happy to demonstrate the difference.
- Returning from credits (this week, with snowflakes and waves added), Scott changes from a plaid shirt to a blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt under his sweater—just the thing for a Christmas beach party.
- The set dressers and costume department trick out this episode in tints of blue, orange, yellow, and gold to coordinate with the existing color scheme. That can’t be easy when you’re working with vintage (or vintage-looking) swimsuits, towels, beach accoutrements, and Christmas decorations, but they pull it off beautifully.
- That’s the end of the season for Comedy Bang! Bang! From LaToya Ferguson and me, thanks for reading, and we hope to see you right back here for season five!