In “Schoolboy Q Wears A Patterned Bucket Hat And Glasses,” LaToya Ferguson ponders the qualities that help a guest match Comedy Bang! Bang!’s peculiar cadences, pointing out that it’s an uphill battle for a guest from outside the world of comedy.

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Eddie George makes that battle look easy. His earnest assurance and open, expansive presence dovetail with Scott’s persona—tonight, that of the nerd put upon by jocks—to make the whole show flow smoothly.

I was #blindsided by how effortlessly funny this episode is. From the out-of-studio opening sequence that establishes the framing device—Johnny Tigers’ decree that the nerds of Comedy Bang! Bang! and the jocks of Sports Circumference squash their prank war once and for all by swapping subject matter for one fateful episode—to Eddie George’s interview segment to the Sports Circumference supplements, every element worked in harmony… harmony as sweet as that barbershop “Deeeeeeeeeal” that Reggie, Scott, Steve, and Pat belt out to clinch the bet.

Of particular note is Eddie George’s in-universe improv of an apology to Scott for the (fictional) prank of putting a (fictional) snake in his (fictional) locker. It occurs just two minutes into his appearance, and the sudden depth of his sincerity, and of Scott’s vulnerability, promises that this episode will be both deeply silly and completely secure in its silliness.

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Eddie George’s Super Bowl predictions (IFC)

That brief descent into sentiment is buffered by Scott and Eddie’s string of exotic-burger jokes and Eddie George’s chyron-assisted Super Bowl predictions, both long, successful runs that hit their comic beats and let Scott, Reggie, and their guest share the spotlight—and the punchlines—equally. From fainting at the sight of the Eagles’ emblem (“Their logo looks like a ghost!”) to spiking the flowers Scott hands him, George commits to each bit with game good humor and aplomb. Overall, he’s is breezy, brimming with confidence, and a pleasure to watch.

Some of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s strongest segments and episodes center around affectionate, detailed spoofs of television formats (Talk Show Rescue and Sporty 4:40, It’s A Teardown, Spin 2 Win), and Sports Circumference continues that tradition with note-perfect set design, sound, graphics, and especially performances.

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It’s no secret I’m a fan of Cedric Yarbrough, so his consistently funny performance here is no surprise. With a few distinctive gestures and speech patterns, he transforms a sketched-out stereotype into a fully-inhabited characterization. Kyle Bornheimer has made a cottage industry of playing casually cruel bullies and smug jerks from Breaking Bad to Party Down to Marvel’s Agent Carter, and I didn’t expect him to display the same comedic acumen that Yarbrough brings to every appearance—but once again, I was #blindsided.

Their opening play, Who’s Up First?, illustrates how thoroughly and artlessly Steve Smiley and Pat Dantrick plunge into the unfamiliar world of comedy. It balances Pat’s glib recitation of a batting line-up and the reasons behind its changes (a batter with a hot streak and a knack for getting hits off southpaws) with Steve’s giddy amusement. The whole bit is an exercise in making comedy out of the absence of comedy. It’s a standard Comedy Bang! Bang! ploy, and they just plain nail it here.

Dantrick’s detailed breakdown of Flippy and Dippy’s technique in Stupid’s Arrow replicates the sometimes dry tone of sports analysis: “When you’re bonking someone on the head, you want to get that full arm extension like you see here. That way, you can put all your power into the bonking.” Smiley chimes in with both enthusiasm and precision, pointing out the slowpoke defense for the double-pronged eye attack. Their contrasting energy and affect, as well as their rapport, make them a strikingly plausible team of commentators.

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Back on the CB!B! set, newly appointed NFL commissioner Wendell Gazall explains some of his new rules for the upcoming NFL season. He wants to transform the No Fun League into the Yes Fun League by changing the rulebook and some fundamentals of the game: a new ball (“We’re going to make it blue, we’re going to make it thinner, we’re going to make it longer… It is dildo-shaped.”), a hoop where any player can score two points (“Now that I say it out loud, it sounds a lot like basketball”), and executions throughout the season. Craig Cackowski makes these absurd digressions look effortless. I could have watched him lean into the camera and soulfully promise the referees will retain their signature striped shirts for several minutes more.

It’s always fun to see the show give Reggie Watts some musical latitude, and knowing he’ll be leaving mid-season, I’m savoring those diversions more than ever. Like Sports Circumference, Reggie’s musical intro plays skillfully on the hyperbolic tone of sports entertainment. For posterity, here are the lyrics to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s sports edition, sung by Reggie:

WOO!

It’s late at night, you know what that means

Comedy Bang! Bang! on the big TV screens

Call up your family and round up your friends

We’ll turn on the cameras, maybe clean up the lens

Scott’s got the questions, he’s ready to goof

I got the tunes, who knows what we’ll spoof?

When guests come in, they’ll come from left to right

If you like anecdotes, you’ll be hearing some tonight!

One other thing, we all play football too

Here comes ol’ deer head, he’s kicking it through

Comedy Bang! Bang! The show is the best

It’s a half-hour talk show with celebrity guests

I’d better stop singing ‘cause time is so tight

‘Cause you know all my crazy-nerdy friends

Are watching Bang! Bang! tonight

In keeping with grand Super Bowl tradition, the halftime show is the weakest part of the episode, but even that is well-executed. The mid-show departure into an abbreviated version of the fantasy ballet sequence from Singin’ In The Rain is one more pleasing touch in this show of unexpected moments. Note that the danseur is dressed in football pants, complete with pads, and the danseuse wears a cheerleading outfit, its skirt fanned out over a tutu.

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Faced with the prospect of reviewing a sports-themed episode, I could have been as #blindsided as Scott and Reggie, or as out of my depth as Steve Smiley and Pat Dantrick tackling a comedy episode. (“I don’t even know where to begin with that!”) But Comedy Bang! Bang! makes “Eddie George Wears A Navy Suit And Half-zip Pullover” a deft excursion into a familiar format. The whole episode is an unexpected delight.

Stray observations:

  • Scott’s onscreen credit: Slapshot Puckerman
  • “Do you hashtag all your feelings?” “I do.” #blessed #jealousy #bellicose
  • “We gave you those wedgies because those hockey balls were supposed to be free, per the sign!”
  • Scott and Reggie discussing their favorite sports object and declaring in unison, “Shuttlecock!” is only topped by Reggie’s thoughtful assessment that the shuttlecock is “more like a ping-pong ball that went through a basketball net and kept it as a dress.”
  • Eddie George helpfully lists some things even scarier than “than those big mean muscly guys trying to tackle you”: Dracula, mummies, ghouls, goblins, Darth Vader, flying rats.
  • “I don’t like a lot of ass in my burger.”

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