While most fans know Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! from his loopily inspired weekly podcast or aggressively absurd IFC faux-talk show, the franchise formerly known as Comedy Death Ray actually got its start as a showcase at M Bar back in 2002 (it now sells out in minutes each month at UCB).
So it makes sense Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! would return to its roots with a 12-date tour across the country. We spoke to the West Coast native about his plans for touring, what to expect when Comedy Bang! Bang!'s show rolls through Los Angeles, and how to win a game of Would You Rather.
You just did your first show in San Diego?
Yeah, we did our first warm-up show about a week ago down at Comic-Con. I was really sick for it. I nearly cancelled the show, but growing up in the theater, I've trod the boards many times and there's this old phrase that we have: “The show should probably go on.” I think I'm getting it right.
So I just remembered that phrase and had a doctor come to my hotel room and he gave me an injection of — wait for it — medicine.
The show went really well. We had Paul Scheer down there and Brett Gelman and Jon Daly, I've got a rotating crew of guests coming with me on the tour. Every stop is gonna be very different.
The first show in San Diego, was that a preview for you? Were you able to think about if there's things you want to do a little different as you go on the nationwide tour?
I mean, yeah, we were sort of testing things out. Will the videos work? Will the microphones work? Now, bear in mind that every stop along the way, we're gonna have different microphones so we're gonna have to go through that every single stop, wondering when we talk into them if they're gonna work.
It was just to work out the kinks. I hadn't done the bit I'm gonna do in about a year or so, so I was trying to remember that. I remembered the whole thing. I think we're good to go.
What's gonna be happening with the actual podcast while you're out on tour?
The dirty little secret is that I can record whenever I want. I recorded them all already, but I'm pretending that they are the week that they're gonna come out. I'm pretty good at improv, so anytime people are saying “Hey, what day is today?” — I mean, I get it wrong at first, I go “What are you talking about, it's the middle of July” but then I would correct myself, “Oh yeah, it's August.”
Did you always want to take Comedy Bang! Bang! on tour?
I've been wanting to do it for a while. I've romanticized the road. From what I understand of it, it's really hard and it's really long. I've been listening to a lot of Jackson Browne to prep myself as to what I'm supposed to expect.
I've wanted to do it for a couple of years. I've had a booking agent who's been bugging me to do it for a really long time, and it's just been a matter of finding the time to do it. Now that the I'm done filming the TV show, I'm out of work, so it seems like the perfect opportunity.
So it's partly something you been wanting to do, and partly a move of desperation?
Yeah. Oh yeah. I really — I really could use some money to pay off my Ferrari.
You've been doing the podcast for three years now. How's it changed you as a performer?
I think that I've gotten more in the moment as a performer. Those early shows I would prepare more and try overthink it. And now if it's possible to underthink something, I try do that.
As a matter of fact, I'm taping a show in a couple hours and I'm realizing that I've got no idea what's gonna happen and that knot my stomach is starting to appear.
You put on Comedy Bang! Bang! every month at UCB, but have you ever done that kind of formal improv training?
No, I never did formal improv training. When I was younger and was starting comedy, there wasn't a ton of improv. There was the Groundlings, where their improv was you do about 60 seconds in the middle of a show. By the time UCB come around — which is a style of improv that I really like — I was already a master of comedy. You can't go backwards.
No, but, I really love improv and love watching it and studying it, but it's not something I ever trained for.
Which character is the fan's favorite?
Every time I put out a new show, I hear, “Oh, this is the best character of all time.” They sort of all jockey for the number one position. It's a race between Paul F. Tompkins doing Cake Boss or Andrew Lloyd Webber or Andy Daly doing any number of his insane characters, like Hot Dog who joined Sha Na Na, or James Adomian doing Huell Howser and Jesse Ventura or Nick Kroll doing El Chupacabra or Jessica St. Clair doing Marissa Wompler.
The great part about my show is that it's different every week so I really love the variety of that.
What's the show in L.A. going to be like?
The whole tour is gonna be interesting, because the first part of every night is going to whoever is along with me that night doing more prepared material, and then halfway through the show we're going to reset and do a completely improvised show, akin to the podcast.
For the L.A. spot there's probably gonna be more guests, but at this point we have announced Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation, along with Harris Wittels who's a writer Parks and Recreation. Fans of my podcast will know of their wonderful character work as Jack Sjunior and Bryan Pieces. We'll also have the aforementioned Andy Daly doing one of his characters, along with Nick Kroll. And James Adomian is doing the entire tour with me and will be doing that spot. Also, the host of IFC's Bunk, Kurt Braunohler, will opening for that entire tour.
You're talked about being a fan of live music — you saw six nights of Prince when he was here a while back. Where's the best place to see a concert in L.A?
Well, as I've gotten older and older and hate to stand up, my view on that has changed. I used to go see stuff at the Troubadour all the time, but my legs don't work as well as they used to. Now I really enjoy more of the seated kind of thing.
I love the Wiltern, I've been going to the Wiltern ever since 1986 or 1987. That's a really fantastic place to see a show.
And uh… let me think. The Coliseum, because I love being eight miles away from a stage.
This is a two-part question, if I can.
Sure, but I'll give you a one-part answer.
First part, what makes for a really good Would You Rather question? And second part, what's the secret for winning a game of Would You Rather?
Well, I think to create a really good Would You Rather question, you have to have to have two very disparate halves of the equation. You can't craft a Would You Rather question of, “Would your rather have sticks for arms or sticks for legs?” The imagination doesn't really run wild. You're still in the “sticks for appendages” scenario for either half.
They have to both be really different. So it's like, “Would your rather have sticks for arms, or would you rather be shot to the moon using a giant slingshot that a wolf operates?”
In order to win of game of “Would You Rather,” on my show at least, I think you have to curry favor with the judge. A lot of people, they don't pay attention to me as the judge and view me as an adversary. A gentle smile or a nice pat on the knee goes a long way.
And, again, I need to pay off that Ferrari, so any type of monetary exchange is gonna help.
You're a judge, but you're also still a human being.
I'm a human being with a Ferarri.