The late night talk show is one of the most iconic and well-known genres in television. For decades, viewers have tuned in every night to be entertained by the likes of Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and many others. With the genre’s enduring popularity and the obvious similarities that exist within each new model, it seems it was only a matter of time before someone came along to parody the format. That someone is Scott Aukerman, who serves as the host and eternal straight man of the hilarious mock talk show Comedy Bang! Bang! on IFC. The spoof is a tough thing to do well, but Aukerman succeeds wildly, creating a show that is unlike anything else you will find on television.
Comedy Bang! Bang! works because it largely follows the same formula of shows like The Tonight Show and Late Night while also finding its own voice within the format. Celebrity interviews, banter with the band, and comedic sketches are all present, just as audiences have come to expect, but none are done in a way that viewers will be used to seeing. Real celebrities like Seth Rogen and Alison Brie appear on the show as slightly fictional versions of themselves, and the interviews are both bizarre and intentionally uncomfortable in a way that gives these stars a chance to have some fun with the generic nature of typical talk show banter. Sketches often start as a light-hearted parody of a show or movie before quickly taking a turn for the hilarious and ridiculous. The show knows what it is making fun of extremely well, but it also knows what type of show it wants to be and does not allow itself to be limited by expectations that come along with lampooning.
Like any late night talk show, the responsibility of making Comedy Bang! Bang! work falls primarily on the shoulders of Aukerman, who proves again and again that he’s up to the challenge. Aukerman’s comedic background is in improvisational and absurdist comedy, and he brings that energy to Bang! Bang! with purpose. He’s gloriously strange, sure, but he’s also great at keeping a straight face, seemingly oblivious to the madness that is constantly happening around him. One-man band Reggie Watts also deserves credit for the show’s success; he can often mine humor in something as simple as an oddly timed chuckle or slightly bored facial expression.
Ultimately, the greatest strength of Comedy Bang! Bang! is that it is not afraid to be weird. Too many comedies on television opt to stick to the most broad and agreeable humor in an effort to appeal to the widest audience. It is always refreshing when a show disregards the need to please everyone, and Comedy Bang! Bang! seems to take great pleasure in finding humor in the atypical. Not all of the jokes on the show land, but even one zinger can outshine the bland bulk of of sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory.
Ten years ago, a show like Comedy Bang! Bang! would never have lasted more than a season, but channels like IFC, FX, and Comedy Central have allowed for the range of comedy on television to expand so that off-kilter shows are able to be bold and original without the constant threat of cancellation. Comedy Bang! Bang! is currently airing its third season, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. And thank goodness, because Aukerman has created one of the most absurd, smart, and funny shows on television.