Writer, performer, podcaster, and impressario Scott Aukerman has created a show called "Comedy Bang Bang" on IFC which premieres tonight at 10pm. In the same way that his "Comedy Bang Bang" podcast is not a simple interview podcast, "Comedy Bang Bang" the TV show is nothing like a TV talk show. Yes, there's some chairs on a set, and yes, there is musical accompaniment by surreal musical humorist Reggie Watts, and yes, there are comedians/performers as guests - but what they talk about is not limited to their next film or TV project, and how they talk is not limited to expected human language. Is the show a parody of a talk show or is it its own "thing"? How many talk shows take off into other locations, times, and dimensions? Perhaps "dementions" is a better word. The show is absurd, surreal, but most importantly, funny. Aukerman kindly gave us a few minutes to chat late last week:
What was your philosophy when making a TV "version" of your podcast? They seem to be very different things.
Scott Aukerman: My philosophy has always been Help Ever, Hurt Never. The podcast has always been a long-form improv conversation that can last over an hour. We don't plan anything out and just go where it takes us. The TV show obviously has less time, but also for the TV show I didn't want to do a filmed version of the podcast. I didn't want to put cameras up and have a live studio audience. I really wanted to do a really fun and visual show and do the talk show I've always dreamed of doing and IFC was really supportive of that. They are different, you could enjoy them both, or one or the other separately.
You really explore the medium of television to its fullest (breaking the 4th wall, time looping, locations). It reminded me of the work of Ernie Kovacs (from 50+ years ago), you manipulate time and space, you do everything that you can. Was he an influence?
Scott Aukerman: In the same way that he influenced David Letterman or Steve Allen, I think I was influenced by people who had done more surreal-type stuff that you don't see on normal talk shows. I was a huge Letterman fan growing up. I would tape his show every night and then watch it when I got home from school. It taught me so much about comedy and gave me my personality in a certain way. So when I got the opportunity to do my own show I thought, I could do a "normal" conversational talk show but the show I was passionate about doing was creating the sense that anything could happen. I really get to do anything I want to do on this show, it's a dream come true. The writers have all said that its the perfect show to work on because we can do anything.
Is the show throwing a challenge out there, to the viewers? Are you daring them to go to these strange places with you?
Scott Aukerman: When we put the second episode online, a lot of people have talked about how challenging the show is and I've never really thought about it that way. I was just doing what I thought I would want to see on a TV show. Somebody asked me how I had met Reggie Watts, which was when I saw him at a show - I didn't know what I was seeing. I think I even left the show saying, "I didn't really like that very much." It was so new to me that my mind couldn't process it correctly. It took a second viewing for me to go "Nooooww I understand what's happening, and it's genius." People who find the show too challenging - wait, look, we're not talking about War & Peace here, it's a stupid comedy show - I hope they give it a second chance. What I hear about the podcast is, "I listened to it once and I didn't understand it. I listened to it a second time and now it's my favorite thing."
Because of what you want to do, you're not doing a lowest common denominator, broad-style comedy TV show.
Scott Aukerman: In shows that I've worked on or tried to get off the ground, you make so many compromises on the way, with the network, with the star, you end up with a show that you wouldn't have wanted to be a part of at the beginning. Because this show stars me, it will all come back to me, and I will be blamed for things that people don't like. Because of this I wanted to swing for the fences, I'm going to do the show that I always wanted to do, I'm going to use the ideas that other networks made me cut out of the shows I was doing for them. The great part of this is that I couldn't be more proud of the show and the way people are responding to it is clear that they like a show where compromises haven't been made, they can see the freedom that the network allowed me. IFC has been incredibly supportive.
The approach to the show also seems very American, very jazz like, a freedom to it, a tone of improvisation to it, that makes the show unlike Monty Python or "Kids in the Hall." I mentioned Ernie Kovacs, who was also into jazz, and also improvisational broadcaster Jean Shepherd, a broadcaster that your podcast reminded me of.
Scott Aukerman: I've always described my show as bio-digital jazz, which you'll remember from the Tron movie that just came out. A lot of the language of comedy is jazz related, like riffing and improv. There is a certain magic where someone throws something out and another person capitalizes on it and adds to it. I think the structure of jazz in there. Now, I'll kill you if you ever describe my show as jazz ever again. That just makes it sound arty and pretentious and terrible. But taking your question seriously, there is something to that.
So you have 10 episodes done and 2 are online, can you give us a hint about something to look for in the remaining 8?
Scott Aukerman: I think episode 10 will blow your mind. I don't want to give any more spoilers but episode 10, if you are a comedy fan, you will be very interested in that episode.
"Comedy Bang Bang" premieres tonight at 10pm on IFC. For more information on the show, be sure to see their web page. Also check out the Comedy Bang Bang podcast.