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Out With a “Bang! Bang!”: Scott Aukerman On Ending His Innovative Comedy Series

Comedy Bang! Bang! is ending its run on IFC with tonight’s finale. The creator and host talks about what he’s leaving behind.

Out With a “Bang! Bang!”: Scott Aukerman On Ending His Innovative Comedy Series
Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts [Photos: courtesy of IFC]

It’s the end of an era. Tonight, Comedy Bang! Bang! will cut to (fake-)commercial for the final time.

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The show always felt like one of those wonderfully divergent TV series that gets cancelled after its first season. Instead, it made it through five years and 110 episodes. Adapted from the podcast that bears its name, which will go on to outlive it, Comedy Bang! Bang! is an unapologetically silly and smart fusion of talk show parody and late-night sketchfest, which also sent up the conventions of nearly every kind of TV show in between. It will be sorely missed by a dedicated legion of mostly collegiate goofballs, but at least the show is ending on its own terms.

The creator and host of CBB, Scott Aukerman, had his work cut out for him in deciding the right note on which to end a show so rooted in TV parody. Having seen the episode, it would be hard for Co.Create to argue that he and everyone else involved, including Paul F. Tompkins and Nick Kroll, hadn’t nailed it. In advance of the finale, which airs tonight and IFC at 11 p.m., Aukerman spoke with us about going out with a bang.

Tony Hale, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Scott Aukerman[Photo: Roger Snider/IFC]

Co.Create: The final episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! hinges on the idea that you are, well, all out of ideas. Is this one of those situations where there’s a little truth in jest?

Scott Aukerman: A little bit. It’s definitely something that comes up: Are we copying The Simpsons or are we copying ourselves? It would come up a lot in the last couple seasons. One time one of our writers said, ‘What if we did an episode where . . .’ and she pitched something and I said, ‘Not only have we done it before, but you wrote it.’ It does happen. So I thought it was an interesting idea to tackle in the final episode. I thought, I really didn’t want to do a huge production for the final episode because I think sometimes TV shows can do that and it comes out very challenging and it’s not giving you what you like about the show. So we did that with the second to last episode, made a big, ambitious production with lots of in-jokes.

With the final episode, I just wanted to just make a funny episode where you’re laughing a lot and it kind of reminds you what you like about the show. But I’d also never seen a TV show tackle that problem of, ‘Hey, we’re out of ideas.’ And because the show has kind of been about the conventions of TV and has been really metatextual and broken the fourth wall a lot, I thought we should embrace it in the final episode. I think we could have kept doing the show for more seasons, but I just thought it was a funny way to address the elephant in the room.

When did you know that this would be the series finale and how did you decide how to handle it?

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We were in the middle of producing the first 10 [of a 20 episode fifth season] when the final word came down. And I’d let the network know, not an ultimatum, ‘Hey, I would love to know by a certain point if we need to write a series or season finale, we can’t delay it any longer after this point.’ So they were kind enough to let me know about it when it came to that time. But we still wrote an extra episode in case anything changed, kind of hedging our bets. The biggest regret I had about it being the final season was that Al Yankovic had just gotten here and was doing such a great job and really breathed life into the show, that I was like maybe we should do one more year.

But they let us know in time for production in order to go ahead with my plan of the last two episodes—the big production number and the one where we’re out of ideas. So we had about two weeks to write those last two episodes as we were still filming the first ten. We reached out to some writers who have left the show: Paul Rust wrote some jokes for the finale, and so did You’re The Worst’s Eva Anderson. So we had a ton of alts and other side things in the finale that everyone pitched on and I’m proud of how it came out.

Scott Aukerman, Paul Sheer, and Carly Rae Jepsen[Photo: Greg Gayne/IFC]

Is there anything you’d been meaning to do throughout the series that you finally did?

I think the whole season has been that. Getting out every last thing that we could before we had to go. The second to last episode is definitely that. It’s a sequel to an episode in the third season, and it’s one that when we made that first episode, I said it would be fun to do a sequel, and I tossed out the bare bones of what that episode was and then thought, ‘We should do that right before the end of the show,’ so that’s something I’d been keeping in reserve. The spinoff episode is something else we’d been talking about for years, and it was just if we’re ever going to do it, we have to do it now. A lot of the season has been that.

A lot of people have taken characters from your podcast and gone on to reprise them on the TV show and in some cases start new podcasts. Comedy Bang! Bang! has become kind of a talent farm. Has that been intentional?

I’ve always really liked working with people and when we used to do the Comedy Death Ray show every Tuesday. One thing I noticed about live show in L.A. is that they all mined from the same talent pool. The shows at the time were say Un-Cabaret or the Largo show, and they all kind of used the same people, the same 35-45 year old comedians who were already established. So I really wanted to do a show where we kept bringing in new young talent and if you look at the lineups over the years, I posted all the lineups of Comedy Death Ray over 10 years online, we tried to have really well known established people like your Bob Odenkirks and Louis CKs and Patton [Oswalt], mixed with new comedians who couldn’t get into the other shows because they didn’t have TV credits yet but were fantastic. Some of them had only been doing comedy for six months but we were like, ‘You know what, you’re funny, get up there!’ Harris Wittels was one of those people. I think if you look at the lineup, I think the first time he did the show, he’d only been in L.A. for a month. I think Louis CK saw him at Comedy Death Ray and said ‘You’re really funny, come open for me.’ And that’s what I always wanted to do: provide a place for up and coming talent but also it was really something that benefitted our audience. You have to use new people. And that’s what I’ve done on the podcast and on the show.

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Scott Aukerman, Rashida Jones, and Reggie WattsPhoto: Chris Ragazzo/IFC

You’ve also went a step further this year and taken on executive producer role to help launch new shows like Take My Wife and Bajillion Dollar Propertie$. Is that something you’ll be doing more of in the future?

I’d always, in addition to developing new talent, I’d always really wanted to help people make their own shows. That’s really fun for me, to produce stuff. I’m very proud of those first two shows. They’re so great. We also have another show we helped develop that’s coming out in England on SkyAtlantic called Sick Note. We developed it here in the states for a network but then the network turned it down so they took it to England. And I’m proud of that one too. I really enjoy producing. We have a few more things coming out next year. It’s definitely I don’t feel like I’m going to go away from being on camera, but I like helping people realize their visions.

What are you going to miss about making Comedy Bang! Bang!?

What I’m gonna miss is just the anticipation of people watching it. And I really love making every episode different and being excited about ‘Oh boy, this Friday the episode where Al does a Family Ties riff and we blow up a head comes out. I can’t wait for people to watch it.’ Or ‘The upside down episode comes out on Friday, and I can’t wait for people to see what we achieved with it. It was so hard to make!’ That’s what I’m going to miss. Seeing people get excited about these ideas and consuming them.

When we started the show, I had it in my head that it was going to be a hit. And when it became what I guess they call a cult hit instead of a normal hit, it was disappointing because you look at other indie comedies that break through to the mainstream and you go ‘Gosh, I wish that my show could be widely recognized as something that’s good.’ But also we were making such a niche show and such a show for comedy fans that—I get it. I hope that comedy fans of all ages will find out about the show and watch it one day. I hear about it all the time. ‘I didn’t know what this show was and then I watched one episode and binged through the whole season.’

And then maybe one day Netflix will ask you to revive it.

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Maybe! Maybe in a year we’ll do more. I have no idea.