It’s The Perfect Time To Start Listening To ‘Comedy Bang Bang!’
The iconic podcast turns 10 this year, and it's as good as ever.
All joking a salad, Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang! is an institution.
It has launched careers, fostered communities, and inspired countless spinoff podcasts. But most importantly, is has been the most consistently funny podcast on the internet every single week for the last ten years. And thankfully, the show where Scott “talks to interesting people” is not going anywhere anytime soon.
On a typical Comedy Bang Bang!, the world’s best improvisers come in and take advantage of Scott’s “open door policy” by embodying the most absurd and silly characters so well, it might be hard for new listeners to know what is and is not reality. But usually it’s pretty obvious.
But over the years, as Scott Aukerman continues to “break off another hundo” — inside jokes, references to those inside jokes, and references to those references of inside jokes have continued to pile up.
It’s all lead to a 10-hour, podcast app breaking, 10 year anniversary special.
But with so much comedy history built up, it might seem that every year Comedy Bang Bang! might start to seem even less accessible to new listeners. Those inside jokes can get bewildering.
But don’t worry: these are the clips you need to hear and the things you need to know before you start your own Comedy Bang Bang! journey through the cosmos.
1. The Need For Nonsense
To the uninitiated, any and every episode of Comedy Bang Bang! is going to sound like nonsense.
Take J.W. Stillwater’s and Traci Reardon’s closing “sentiment off” for example.
J.W. is played by podcast king Paul F. Tompkins who you might know from the guest appearance he made on your favourite podcast, or even more likely, Bojak Horsemen. Traci is the brain child of improviser and actress Lauren Lapkus, and any recommendations for CBB! need to start with these two insanely talented and stalwart guests.
Traci is a high school girl who works at the mall and J.W. is a crime fighting vigilante and insane person from the American south. PFT’s and Laurens characters have no reason to be in the same room together, but the brilliance of Comedy Bang Bang! brings these absurd personalities together to create something great.
“You may dream big, but don’t forget to big your dreams” J.W. claps back at Traci in a now fan favourite battle of sentiments which gets funnier as each round progresses, bringing on even more absurdly banal and nonsensical appropriations of common idioms.
2. The Changing Face Of Alternative Comedy
If you are still reading this article and thinking to yourself “why the fuck do I care about this, the only thing whiter and more male dominated than improv comedy is podcasting”?
Then that is more than fair.
Considering Comedy Bang Bang! is exactly those two things combined, you might think it’s the kind of show which would be recommended by the same kind of person who condescendingly suggests you read Infinite Jest.
But that is not the case. At least not anymore.
As old favourites get their own Netflix shows, get cast as a lunatic in John Wick 3, or appear on Broadway, the show continues to evolve. New and more diverse talent has come through, making the show even funnier for it.
Great examples are Zeke Nicholson’s Bone Queef, that is – “Bone like a dog, and Queef like a pussy fart” — and Carl Tart’s The Chief characters are only two on a growing list of comedians that are changing the way CBB looks and sounds.
3. Musical Guest
Regular listeners will know, and first-time listeners would certainly be able to guess, Scott Aukerman has a background in musical theatre — and his guests consistently bring out his musical talents.
And if you are looking for a more credible source than me to sell you on the merits of giving up 2 hours of your week to listen to nonsense. Look no further than the writer and star of genre defying Broadway smash hit Hamilton, and the recently departed Sydney musical In the Heights, Lin Manuel Miranda. Miranda is a massive CBB! fan and annually joins Scott and Ben Schwartz in their acapella musical marathon.
Now if earnestly singing show tunes is not your thing, don’t worry — the musical dominated Solo Bolo episodes (just Scott and Ben Schwartz singing for an hour mostly) do tend to split even the die-hard fan base right in half.
But, it’s not just two good friends excitedly singing Disney medleys at each other — there’s also brilliant musical characters, like Drew Tarver, now of the brilliant The Other Two, who will bring you right back with his infectious parodies as downtrodden 80’s singer Martin Sheffield Lickly.
4. It IS That Kind Of Show
Despite Scott constantly reminding us that, “this is not that kind of a show”, we can always count on our favourite intern Gino Lombardo to push the comedy to a place so disgusting you never thought it would be funny.
Gino is expertly played by Jon Gabrus, who fills an otherwise morally ambiguous character with humanity and delight as he constantly reminds us — “Yes, it really is that kind of a show”. That, of course, referencing some fairly blue material.
Part of what makes Gino so endearing is how far over the line he is willing to take the joke — and Comedy Bang Bang’s format is the perfect place for this.
5. Escape from Reality
It might not come as a surprise, but the world is literally burning, income inequality is widening at rates unheard of, and the rise of hate in our political establishment is pretty frightening. And sure, Australia is in the middle of an election that could decide the future liveability our planet, as well as the human rights of thousands — but we all need a break, and inside your podcast app sits the absurdist escape you need.
The characters who live inside CBB! every week feel almost apolitical, finding humour in places so unrealistic they offer an hour-long reprieve from the suffocating reality of everyday existence.
Hopefully you will find your own favourites as you listen, because there are just too many to name. But if you are looking for highlights;
You can listen in as Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (you know the guy who wrote Cats and is now Royalty) adopts a murderous son.
Watch as Marissa Wompler, the ever eccentric Comedy Bang Bang! intern played by Jessica Saint Clair continues to Womp It Up, scream in to the microphone and create an ever expanding WomplerVerse.
Or laugh along as Scott gets in to a literal fight with Santa, while Werner Herzog, himself a fan favourite guest, records everything for his next documentary.
6. The World Needs Comedy Bang Bang!
Harris Wittels was a prolific writer and podcaster, who was the genius behind shows like Parks and Recreation, and The Sarah Silverman Program. He literally coined the phrase “humble brag”.
Wittels died in February of 2015 aged only 30. After he tragically passed away, someone uploaded every single clip of his now infamous Comedy Bang Bang! bit ‘Harris’ Foam Corner’ to YouTube.
In the episode and year spanning compilation, Harris reads jokes from his phone he deems not funny enough to say on stage. They’re so unfunny sometimes that they’re hilarious. They’re probably the perfect representation of the bizarre, sometimes “alternate” type of comedy you can find in CBB.
In the days after his death, messages from his friends, and messages from people who only heard him through their earbuds, but felt like he was their friend just as much, poured in. Almost every single one mentioned how insanely funny and absurd his Foam Corner jokes were.
In the wake of his death Scott reluctantly put out his final podcast appearance.
During the intro Scott gave a brief eulogy for his friend, our friend, and wondered out loud if there was even a point in “putting out a show this week, or even next week… or even why continue — why do this stupid show anymore”.
But like Harris always said, “Mother Fuckers just want to laugh”, and thankfully we can still laugh at Comedy Bang Bang! — because, frankly, the world needs Comedy Bang Bang!
Miles Herbert is a journalist, radio reporter, and podcast producer. He researches and writes on all things radio over at University of Technology Sydney, and insufferably tweets about podcasts at @milespherbert