Comedy Bang Bang Podcast
The following is the first entry in a series of articles covering the booming comedy podcast scene. For the purpose of explanation, a podcast is a program-driven form of digital media (audio or video) released episodically by download through web syndication.
Crazy comedic characters, wacky conversations and downright absurdity can best describe a typical episode of “Comedy Bang Bang.” For over two years, host Scott Aukerman has put out consistently funny programming that has become one of the most listened-to comedy podcasts on the internet. First introduced under the name “Comedy Death-Ray Radio,” the show provides an outlet for comedy that has developed a dedicated following.
Aukerman has built up quite the reputation in the Los Angeles comedy scene over the years. A former writer for the influential “Mr. Show with Bob and David” sketch comedy program on HBO in the late 1990s, Aukerman co-founded the “Comedy Death-Ray” alternative comedy stage show with B.J. Porter in 2002. The weekly show became one of the most popular at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles and Aukerman decided to transition his show into the emerging podcast format on the internet in 2009.
Then-called “Comedy Death-Ray Radio,” Aukerman was given the chance to air his hour-long program on southern California’s Indie 103.1 radio station every Friday afternoon, with each episode released through iTunes as a podcast. In the beginning, Aukerman would invite his comedy friends to chat and occasionally played comedy songs during the breaks. Early guests included Tom Lennon (“Reno 911”), Kevin Nealon (“Weeds”) and pop-parody artist ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. Over time, his program evolved into an interview-based and improv comedy showcase. Guests would come on and be interviewed like a standard radio show but they would be given the chance to interact with guest “characters.” Comedians would perform an entire episode as a character, whether as a celebrity impersonation or a fictitious personality that often becomes more outrageous as the episode progresses. Such memorable re-occurring celebrity impersonations include rapper Ice-T, composer Andrew Lloyd Weber, actor John C. Reilly (all performed by comedian Paul F. Tompkins) and wrestler/former governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura and crazed actor Gary Busey (both performed by comedian James Adomian). Hilarious fictional characters include Mexican disc jockey “El Chupacabre,” (Nick Kroll), veteran theatrical director Don Dimelo (Andy Daly), and Aukerman’s ex-step father Bob Ducca (Seth Morris). Each episode relies on long-form improv, where each guest tries their best not to break character, no matter how comical the conversation evolves. The show has become a quintessential outlet for lesser known comedians to break onto the scene.
The show has also developed a series of improv games, the most played being “Would You Rather.” Fans of the show would submit a “would you rather” scenario over Twitter and the guests must ask Aukerman questions about each scenario no matter the absurdity of each scenario and Aukerman does his best to provide answers on the spot. An example of a “would you rather” question: Would you rather have a tiny Marlon Brando always drowning in your drink or a giant Marlon Brando always stealing your food? Both the guests and the listeners at home are invited to use their wildest imaginations into deciding which one they would choose. Other games include “What Am I Thinking?” and “Jukebox Jury,” where guests judge user-submitted comedy songs which most times just turn out frustratingly unfunny.
In 2010, Aukerman and Jeff Ulrich founded the Earwolf podcasting networking with Comedy Death Ray Radio as its flagship program. The ever-expanding network moved into the Earwolf studios and now hosts ten comedy podcasts with plans to produce more. Other popular Earwolf podcasts include Sklarbro Country (hosted by comedic twins Randy and Jason Sklar) and “Who Charted?” hosted by comedians Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack.
May of 2011 marked the second anniversary of “Comedy Death-Ray Radio” and with it, Aukerman decided to change the name of the podcast to “Comedy Bang Bang.” Fans welcomed the change as Aukerman believed the show had become wildly different than his original intentions two years prior and launched a new stage in its presence on the internet. Yet, those two years have been filled with hours of entertaining comedy and sometimes crazy episodes that have attracted the likes of stars such as Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Andy Samberg, Ben Stiller, and even dramatic actor Jon Hamm, who showcases his comedic chops that he proved hosting multiple episodes of Saturday Night Live.
Episodes are released every Monday for free through iTunes and streamed through the Earwolf website (www.earwolf.com).