Many times over the past few years, I’ve brought up IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! in conversation with friends as a show they should check out. I’ve often been disappointed by how few of them had already seen or even heard of it. It’s one of those shows that, to those who watch it, is so forcefully funny and endearingly off the rails that it feels ubiquitous, like everybody’s seen it—how could anyone be missing this?
It might be because Comedy Bang! Bang! wears on its Scott Aukerman sweater sleeve the fact that it’s a show by and for comedy nerds, and oftentimes that means it’ll take a comedy devotee to really appreciate it in a way a casual audience can’t or won’t. The jokes can be quick, but can sometimes drag on for a beat too long. Sometimes they’re not even that funny, and that’s what makes them hilarious. The panel interviews are largely improvised, and improv isn’t always easy to watch. At least, you can’t watch it the same way you do most of what else is on TV.
Nothing else on the air today really feels like Comedy Bang! Bang! As the show enters its final season (or rather, the second half of season five, the first two episodes of which air tonight), it remains at its absolute best… so long as you’re not a devout stan to the Reggie Watts and Kid Cudi eras. But then, who could be disappointed with Weird Al Yankovic as bandleader?
What might be confusing about the show to outsiders is what it actually is: It’s a late night talk show, sort of, but the couch guests are real celebrities playing exaggerated or tongue-in-cheek versions of themselves. However, the interviews are largely improvised and you get real laughs at genuine moments, so perhaps they’re more real than the rehearsed conversations of traditional late night.
The panel segments, however, as genuine as they may or may not be, are really just sketches in a sketch show based on a non-sketch show format… That sounds like a convoluted mess, so it makes sense that some might not fully understand what’s going on, but to those who do, it’s gold.
Not many alternative comedy shows last 110 episodes, which will end up being Comedy Bang! Bang!‘s final tally. Before it goes forever into the IFC archives, we have 10 new episodes left to appreciate perhaps one of the most important comedy programs of this decade.
The final 10-pack of airings has a lot in store, and thankfully, it seems like they’re going to be as absurd as the previous 10. The subplot of one episode features an as-light-as-possible dabbling in politics, with Aukerman summoning some of America’s great folk heroes to learn the secret of how to make the country great again. Elsewhere, our host hasn’t run out of biting questions for his guests: “Let’s say that it’s The Purge: How would you murder me?” There’s also still plenty of classic host-bandleader dialogue to be had: In response to Weird Al saying, “I hadn’t thought of that,” Aukerman got really real for a second, savagely but non-menacingly firing back with, “Of course you didn’t, Al: You thought ‘Bad’ rhymed with ‘Fat.’”
Comedy Bang! Bang! presents a lot at once or in quick succession, but for fans who have enjoyed keeping up and laughing along, this is the end of an important force, one that both bubbled sarcastically under the mainstream and helped define it, regardless of whether or not you’ve even heard of the show. Farewell,
Scott Aukerman Series Finaleman.
Featured image: IFC