Friday, 10 June 2011

Comedy Bang Bang

Podcasts are one of that strange phenomenon’s that the internet throws up, to those familiar with them, they can take up hours and hours of your week and inspire slavish routine obsession with them, but mention them to anyone else and you’ll get the reaction “What’s a podcast?”

 When I unthinkingly mentioned them in a class I got this very question and the best response I could instinctively give was they’re like pre-recorded radio shows on the internet that you download.
Of course they can be anything you want them to be as there’s no real set medium, no rules and regulations they’re bound by, So in a way its independent radio.
Comedy Bang Bang (formerly comedy death ray radio) has, over time become my favourite weekly comedy show of any medium. It’s hosted by Scott Aukerman who’s probably known best for his work on Mr Show. If you wanted to give it a description that wouldn’t quite be accurate, but would give you a good enough idea of the content; you could say it was like an American Monty Python for the 90’s. Although actually it was a lot better than that sounds.

 Guests from the world of comedy are invited on, the usual format is to have one or two people to talk about their work, and then another comedian comes on as a character but still with the conceit that it’s an interview show.  Along the way they’ll often have games such as “would you rather” “who said it” or just general improve scenarios. Despite how this may sound they usually end up subverting the usual clichés of improvised comedy. In the case of “would you rather” Listeners are asked to provide “would you rather” scenarios and the guests are then invited to ask further questions of this scenario. This is where it really excels as Scott’s responses usually twist around the original premise of the question by adding additional information that defeats the point of the original question entirely. And what’s great here is then you have guest appearing as themselves and characters bouncing off each other in creating surreal dialogue and ideas that spiral out of control.

There are many favourite characters on the show; Paul F. Tompkins is one former Mr Show alumni whom I rate highly in his own right as a stand-up, but his character work and rapport with Scott Aukerman on this show seems to have been a revelation. He usually appears performing warped portrayals of Ice T, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Buddy Velastro aka Cake Boss. (I assumed cake boss was a fictional character at first, but as it turns out it’s from a reality show about a chef who has to make unusually shaped cakes for his clients, and he’s always in a race against the clock to have it ready on time.) Other noteworthy guests are James Adomian for his performances as Huell Howser and Jesse Ventura he also made a superb one time appearance as Christopher Hitchens. I’m always endeared to Americans that can actually do British Accents that avoid the most obvious clichés of sounding like they’re in Dickensian London. Andy Daly and Nick Kroll also have a whole range of their  own original creations and Seth Morris has a character of Bob Ducca, who plays Scott Aukerman’s fictional ex-stepfather. He always brings something unique by putting more pressure on Scott to be more active in the scenarios rather than just asking the questions. He himself has a newly launched short daily podcast on where you can download comedy bang bang and many other podcasts.   A mention should also go to Jon Daly for his one-time character of Bill Cosby Bukowski. A strange combination of – as you may have guessed Bill Cosby and  Poet Charles Bukowski. It’s an inspired idea that works best of all when the character is probed by Scott.

You never quite know what you’re going to get each week but whether it’s just a pleasant comedy discussion programme or hilarious character-driven comedy it’s a delight to listen to. In over 100 episodes (of which tend to be around 75 minutes) I could probably count the number of bad episodes on one hand and even those still have their moments.

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