Fridays get funny with IFC comedy explosion
BY FRAZIER MOORE June 13, 2012 5:26PM
Show host Scott Aukerman (left) and his sidekick Reggie Watts share the laughs on their late-night talk show “Comedy Bang! Bang!” |AP
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:53AM
NEW YORK — Back-to-back, IFC is presenting what it bills as an anti-talk show (“Comedy Bang! Bang!”) and an anti-game show (“Bunk”).
Anti this, anti that — but what they’re clearly for is laughs.
It all starts at 9 p.m. Fridays with “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” the inconveniently punctuated twist on late-night talk hosted by Scott Aukerman, based on his podcast of the same name.
“CB!B!” is an absurdist blend of banter between Aukerman and his guests, along with sketches, filmed shorts (such as a hidden-camera “gotcha” expose called “Tsk-Tsk Attaboy” that’s dumb enough to fit on “Dateline NBC”), and other flights of fancy (in the midst of one interview, Aukerman excuses himself to go feed the meter for his car, parked outside in a futuristic world at war).
Fluffy-coiffed Reggie Watts serves as the beats-generating one-man-band and affable sidekick. And in a stark departure from talk-show orthodoxy, no one is plugging anything.
Befitting Aukerman’s status as an alumnus of the brilliant “Mr. Show,” “CB!B!” is tightly formatted and jammed with comic elements, yet loosey-goosey and demented. While many of the bits are carefully prepared, “any time I’m talking to guests — even when Will Forte comes out as a deranged airline pilot — all of that is improvised,” says Aukerman, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, where his series is produced.
Improv is also the name of the game — literally — on “Bunk,” the companion series that follows at 9:30 p.m.
“It’s a game show where none of the questions have answers, where the prizes the contestants are playing for are imaginary, and the scoring is random,” says emcee Kurt Braunohler, proudly adding, “I choose the winner arbitrarily.”
Braunohler, an improv performer and stand-up comic, presides over a trio of contestants each week who, by trade, are also up-and-coming comedians.
Ethen T. Berlin, one of the show’s creators, was frustrated “that all of the really funny ideas that we had we couldn’t do because of the restrictions of, like, legality,” as Braunohler recalls. From that came an insight: “What if we did a game show where we didn’t have to worry about things being right or wrong? What if things could just be funny?”
Over a bowl of corn chowder at a Manhattan diner recently, Braunohler explained that he turned to comedy after opting against a career teaching philosophy and after a dismal stint working at a bakery where the manager sold marijuana on the side, “so I was supposed to look out for the people who came in to buy weed from him and let him know they were there.”
Besides his solo stand-up act, Braunohler co-hosts a weekly variety show at a local club with his partner Kristen Schaal (“30 Rock,” “The Daily Show”), with whom he has also done some comedy shorts posted online.
“So many ideas that television seem to be too traditional for, can do well online,” he observes — where, in some cases, they prove their appeal and then migrate to TV. “Online is changing what is allowed to exist on TV.”
Aukerman, with firsthand experience (his “Between Two Ferns” was also recently adapted as a special for Comedy Central), agrees.
“TV is taking note of the really great humor that’s out there in these podcasts and in these Internet videos, and they’re hoping to capitalize on it,” he says. “The challenge for them is, not to turn it into something that’s no longer recognizable and not even funny.”