Last week I caught up with Scott Aukerman, host of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and IFC TV series, which began it’s second season on July 12th.
How do you describe Comedy Bang! Bang! ?
Well it’s supposedly a talk show, but it’s actually a sketch show. It’s like if a sketch show were wearing a Halloween costume as a talk show, but it’s really a surreal kind of demented take on a talk show where I will talk to celebrities but I also talk to comedians portraying fake celebrities, and there’s a lot of sketches and a lot of crazy things happening. My co-host and band leader Reggie Watts and I just try to keep a straight face throughout the entire thing and keep the show going.
How is it working with Reggie Watts?
When we were talking about what we wanted to do with the band leader position on the show, someone suggested Reggie and I knew ‘oh yeah, that’s exactly the right idea.’ I mean, it kind of fits in with our show. His style, if people don’t know him or haven’t seen him, he basically loops noises that he makes to make music and he does it all himself, we don’t need a band. That was one reason why we decided to hire him, because hiring 14 people in a band is expensive, and hiring him is less expensive, so you know, always go with the cheaper option if you’re making a TV show. He’s really great to work with, we have really similar senses of humor, and I think the friendship we have on the show is really kind of deeper this year and people are really going to be invested in what happens in the shows with us.
How does your version of a talk show compare to what is becoming a densely populated genre in late night TV?
I think talk shows have gotten more safe over the years. I’m really inspired by the Late Night with David Letterman show back in the mid 80’s and late 80’s, all of the 80’s really. That was a really crazy show like our show. In fact, someone told me the other day that a lot of the early Late Night with David Letterman writers have been watching my show and were talking about it at a party recently saying how we’re sort of doing what they were doing back in the day, and I thought that was such an honor. I think talk shows in general have gotten kind of safe and kind of boring and I’m not doing anything too crazy in order to stand out, I’m just doing what I think a talk show should be and hopefully other talk shows will catch up.
How big of an influence has ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’ been for the show?
When we first started the show, we decided we wanted to make fun of everything and every type of show that had a host, so we were making fun of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, we were making fun of talk shows definitely, The Jerry Springer Show, but Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was kind of a thing that we were also doing our take on, and his aesthetic really inspired the show. At first we were doing sort of a take on it and now it’s kind of become the aesthetic of the show. The great part about it is Pee-Wee Herman himself has endorsed it and he appears on the show this year, so it’s kind of like how David Letterman was inspired by Steve Allen and kind of did a lot of stuff that he used to do on his show. We’re doing the same thing with Pee-Wee Herman, but Pee-Wee really likes what we’re doing and likes it enough that he appears on the show this year.
What’s the process like of transitioning from a podcast to a TV show?
It’s definitely difficult to do both at the same time and a lot of people were saying ‘oh, you’re doing 20 episodes this year, are you going to stop doing the podcast?’ I didn’t see any reason to do that, the podcast is the reason why I got the TV show and people love it and I love doing it so why would I stop. I didn’t even stop, I increased production on it. We’re putting out two episodes a week a lot of weeks now. I think the podcast is better than it’s ever been as well, so it didn’t suffer in quality at all when I started doing the TV show this year. I’m really proud of the fact that I’m putting out a lot of really good stuff, I think, and some people like both the TV show and the podcast. Some TV watchers don’t even know that there is a podcast out there, and some podcast listeners don’t know that there’s a TV show, so I just like to put out a lot of cool stuff and have fun. The more stuff you put out and the more you have fun the more chance there is for people to hear about it and get hip to what you’re doing.
What’s it like working at IFC?
IFC is really great because they’re an emerging comedy network, they haven’t been doing comedy all that long. They have Portlandia and that was their first big hit in comedy. So it’s kind of like the wild wild west, not the Will Smith movie, but the actual location and time period from back in the 1800’s. They are free to experiment at this point, they haven’t kind of figured out ‘what they want do’ which kind of ruins a lot of networks. When networks figure out what their aesthetic is then sometimes the experimentation goes away, but IFC is a lot like FOX when it first started right now. When FOX first started you have ‘Married…with Children,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Get A Life’ starring Chris Elliott,’ they had all these weird, experimental shows, and it’s really exciting to be there right now because they’re willing to take a lot of chances. I mean, they’re making 20 of my shows, which as far as I know, no other network offered to do, and by the way, if there are other networks offering, please let us know, because I’ll take other offers and we’ll start a bidding war I guess. As far as I know IFC is the only one who agreed to it.
When you’re not working on the show, how do you relax?
I listen to a lot of music, I like to read – I read comic books, I’m a big comic book fan. I have a wife and a dog and I usually try to kiss them once a day and ONLY once, and they get really excited for it because sometimes it gets almost at midnight and they haven’t had that one kiss, so they’re like ‘oh boy, it’s coming!’ and just the anticipation and the look of anticipation on my wife’s face when she knows one single kiss is coming, it’s so amazing. Then sometimes I’ll do it first thing in the morning and she’s kind of let down because she goes ‘eh, I’m not going another one today,’ and she has to slog through 16 more hours, but hey – ya know that’s her process, she knew it when she married me, she gets one kiss a day and no more than that. I think that really keeps a marriage fresh.