Even as Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! continues to build momentum as an IFC talk/sketch series and Earwolf podcast, the earliest incarnation of the brand, a long-running live show originally named Comedy Death-Ray, ended its weekly run at UCB LA in late November. Most in the comedy community assumed the multimedia forerunner was simply shifting its focus (plans for a TV production and distribution company have since been announced), but the question remained: what show would assume the popular CBB's place on the Tuesday-night lineup?
“CBB was a huge part of UCB, and its departure has absolutely left big shoes to fill not only for UCB, but for the comedy community at large,” says UCB LA creative director Alex Berg. “CBB was more than just a comedy show; it was a place where comedians could come try something completely bizarre just to see how it felt in front of a crowd. It didn't feel like a comedy show where people were trying to pander to network execs to shore up their prospects of landing a sitcom with a way-too-hot wife and a wacky neighbor. It felt like a comedy show where comedians were doing bits for other comedians. It was like having a laboratory dedicated to researching new ways to do comedy, and we couldn't have been happier to have had that show at our theater.”
Enter Midwest transplant (and one of LA Weekly's 12 L.A. Comedy Acts to Watch in 2013) Cameron Esposito, whose Chicago-based Standup Mixtape performances were released biweekly throughout 2012 as a minimally-edited Underground Communique Records podcast. After approaching ASpecialThing Records co-founder Ryan McManemin with the idea to produce something similar in L.A., the pair took the pitch to UCB, home of Doug Benson's AST podcast Doug Loves Movies. The result: Put Your Hands Together, a live show seeking to establish a new genre of comedy podcast.
“There are a billion podcasts out there, but they are interview or chat shows, sketch shows, game shows,” Esposito explains. “There has yet to be a consistently produced stand-up podcast where the comics actually tell jokes.
“The podcast will merge the showcase format of a Live at Gotham with the audience interaction, well-rehearsed bits and new jokes never told before that make alt rooms — and UCB specifically — so rockin.' We will also mix in some green-room interviews. The goal is to bring the listeners the experience of a high-caliber live show via earbuds.”
As Berg puts it, “Why shouldn't a comedy nerd in Omaha get to know what it's like to be backstage?… PYHT is keeping that same experimental feel that CBB had. It's a place where we hope to keep that feeling of anything can happen, and anybody can show up.”
While logistical concerns had previously prevented ASpecialThing from launching a stand-up-based podcast, McManemin says he and Esposito collaborated on ways to overcome potential production hurdles. “Cameron and I share pretty similar tastes in comedy, so it was an easy fit,” he adds. “Cameron is a great storyteller and is insanely likeable on stage, which is a fairly important quality in a weekly host.”
The pair will share booking duties, and though PYHT lineups will remain largely unannounced, Maria Bamford, Bobcat Goldthwait, Greg Proops, Kyle Kinane, Jimmy Pardo and Kumail Nanjiani are among those confirmed for January, with Paul F. Tompkins, Garfunkel and Oates, DJ Douggpound, Ron Funches, Steve Agee and Brent Weinbach slated to appear during the first two months.
“It's an honor,” Zach Sherwin a.k.a. MC Mr. Napkins, enthuses of being invited to appear on the debut show. “But it's just fun to be part of things. Cameron and Ryan will be figuring out what this show is and how it works in the weeks and months ahead, and it's just cool to be family and get to be around for the beginning of it all. Their comedy cred is airtight, and I am 100 percent sure that the show will be thoughtful, impeccably run and really funny.”
In addition to PYHT, UCB stage shows from Anthony Jeselnik, Andy Kindler, and Chelsea Peretti and Moshe Kasher are in development for 2013. Berg also promises new initiatives actively enabling UCB talent to translate their sensibilities to TV and film.
ASpecialThing has no immediate plans to add podcasts other than PYHT to its current roster. In addition to Doug Loves Movies, the label produces and distributes Pardo's Never Not Funny and Proops's The Smartest Man in the World.
Put Your Hands Together is at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd., Tuesdays starting Jan. 8, 8 p.m., (323) 908-8702, $5. losangeles.ucbtheatre.com