Comedy Bang! Bang! is a talk show—or essentially a talk show. It has a host (Scott Aukerman), a bandleader (Weird Al Yankovic), and guests (Kevin Bacon and Tony Hale, for example). It also has sketch characters, robots, murder plots, time travel and the occasional leprechaun. It’s a talk show with a screw loose, a deft and absurdist blend of pop culture and sketch comedy.
It’s also an institution. In nearly a hundred episodes over five seasons—the 100th, with guest Zach Galifianakis, is coming up July 1—the loosely scripted IFC series has featured many of the biggest names in indie comedy, either as themselves or as characters. One of tonight’s two episodes is on location in Camelot with guest Aubrey Plaza and Dave Foley as King Arthur.
Aukerman and Yankovic—the latter has recurred on the series and recently replaced Kid Kudi as the bandleader—called us earlier this week to talk about the new season.
I would call Comedy Bang! Bang! a parody of a late-night talk show. Is that how you describe it to people?
AUKERMAN: I see it as a sketch show wearing the Halloween costume of a talk show. The talk-show aspect is a Trojan horse for getting a bunch of jokes and sketches in front of people. What about you, Al? Trojan horse or Noah’s ark?
YANKOVIC: I’ll go Trojan horse.
Comedy Bang! Bang! came out of a stage show, right?
AUKERMAN: I was doing a UCB show with stand-up comedians, sketch performers and improvisers. I started doing a podcast as a way to promote the live show, and then the podcast started to become its own thing. I would have real guests come on the podcast like Zach Galifianakis or Jason Mantzoukas or Andy Samberg, and then I would have them playing fake people. The TV version of Comedy Bang! Bang! is essentially the same—a talk show with strange things going on.
You have strange things like time travel and cloning, which are the themes of the two episodes airing this week.
AUKERMAN: A lot of talk shows survive on you liking the guests who are on the couch and not much else going on, so we have a narrative storyline going through each episode. In one of this week’s episodes, I decide to clone myself. In the other, Al and I get thrust back through time to the Camelot era. There’s a strange story to follow while there are guests on the couch.
Al, you’re replacing Kid Kudi as the musical director this season.
YANKOVIC: Yeah. I do all the bumpers in and out of commercial, and I do a little intro at the beginning when Scott introduces me. I wrote about a hundred musical cues over the course of the season.
AUKERMAN: A lot of people expected Al to be playing the accordion, but he plays a lot of instruments. It’s been fun watching him compose these intricate, funny, well-performed songs. Al, I’m curious to get your takes on touring in the digital age. You’re on tour now, right?
YANKOVIC: I’m in Louisville right now, and I’ll be on tour for another three months. It used to be in the ’80s that you would tour to sell records. Today, you release records so you can tour. Most professional musicians make their money from live performance and merchandise.
AUKERMAN: One thing people don’t know about Al is that he loves money. I would often look over, and he would have this far away look on his face while he would be calculating how much money he has. I would say, “Al, you have to put that aside. We’re in the middle of a show.”
Is Comedy Bang! Bang! the kind of show where a black sedan picks you up every morning, or do you have to call an entry-level Uber?
AUKERMAN: It’s the kind of show where you drive yourself! Al drives a Tesla to work that he would not be able to afford if he only worked for Comedy Bang! Bang! I drive my Toyota Camry to work.
Scott, you toured a live version of Comedy Bang! Bang! this spring. What was that like?
AUKERMAN: It’s crazy that you can do a sold-out tour with a podcast. Before the podcast, no one outside of Los Angeles had ever heard of me. With the podcast, we were selling out 1,500- to 2,000-seat theaters doing a live, improvised podcasts. We would meet fans afterward, and there were lines outside the theater of people waiting to talk to us. We released those shows the next day on an app called Howl, and people could essentially follow the show around the country as it was happening every day. The podcast is such a great way to let people know who you are, and it’s a really unique time in comedy history.
Nick Kroll and John Mulaney were on an episode this season playing their elderly theater aficionado characters. Who else will be on this season?
AUKERMAN: Andrew Lloyd Webber [played by Paul F. Tompkins] has been on every season, and he’ll be back. Nick Kroll will be back later this season with one of his characters — Fabrice Fabrice — who has been on the show several times. Paul Rust from Netflix’s Love will do his New No-Nos character.
Al, have you ever had conversations with the networks about being an actual bandleader on an actual, live…
AUKERMAN: On a real talk show! Go ahead. Say it. [laughs]
YANKOVIC: I have played with the Roots on the Tonight show and I’m friends with many of the current late-night band leaders, but I’ve never had any serious discussions about joining a show.
AUKERMAN: I haven’t had any talks with the networks about being a bandleader. I call them every day begging to host a show, but they keep telling me no.