A new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! has arrived, and with it comes another new band leader. Farewell, Kid Cudi—it’s “Weird Al” Yankovic’s time to shine. That’s already two new things to check off the the Comedy Bang! Bang! checklist, but surprisingly, nothing really feels like it’s changed with “Kevin Bacon Wears A Blue Button Down Shirt And Brown Boots.”
Comedy Bang! Bang! returns to its absurd version of the status quo with every new episode, and that also applies to its season premieres. The introduction of “Weird Al” Yankovic as the new bandleader truly falls in line with that; with the exception of a line about how Scott hasn’t really taken to “Weird Al” like the rest of the crew has, there’s no sense of him even being the new kid in town. Already, he’s just a part of the show, with no introductory frills needed. Honestly, “Weird Al” instantly works in the show seamlessly, so no big deal needs to be made about that. As for Kid Cudi’s departure, in reality, Cudi wanted to go back to focusing on his music, and as such, that obviously meant not getting the same sweeping farewell as his predecessor. But as we were constantly reminded during the Cudi episodes, the show’s version of Scott Aukerman barely liked Cudi and didn’t consider him his friend at all. The Reggie/Scott friendship required a big, emotional send-off—just like it also required an episode about the aftermath in Cudi’s introduction.
Basically, Scott’s “eh, fine”—especially in contrast to his reaction about Eric The PA leaving to be Cudi’s roadie—is just right in this particular situation.
But in remembering that Comedy Bang! Bang! isn’t a show all about logical human behavior, let’s also keep in mind that the show’s very ability not to be bound by time and space is why it can have an episode of television about a leprechaun happen in early June. In true Comedy Bang! Bang! fashion, the very concept of the leprechaun (John Milhiser) plot is almost too nerdy for words, and that’s even before it becomes a Hobbit riff or Scott explains how the name “Aulis” (“an acronym for: gold-loving Irish shorty”) ultimately comes from the chemical element name for gold (“Au”). That’s really damn nerdy.
Despite the aggressive nerdiness, this return to the world of television’s Comedy Bang! Bang! feels almost too safe once it really gets going (post-“DaVinci’s Demons!” exclamation). An early part of that is how Yankovic’s version of the theme song takes the show back down memory lane to the days of Reggie Watts’ original version, going with the motto of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in its variation of the song. For all the comparisons between the show and the podcast, the idea of having different versions of the theme for both makes sense in a way to keep them even more separate, and while Cudi’s version of the theme took some getting used to, it worked in that regard.
The safeness also comes in the form of the return of Ben “The Elegant Mr. S” Schwartz’s return as Rodney Wayber, a moment that’s expected as soon as “Weird Al” announces “Leonardo DiCaprio” as a guest on the show. On a personal note, Ben Schwartz is one of my favorite Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast guests, and I fall into that handful of people who don’t mind Scott and him devolving into constant singing fits during their solo bolos. But on Comedy Bang! Bang! the television show, Ben Schwartz kind of feels trapped—for a lack of a better word—in this particular character. It’s a delightful character, especially every time he ends up in Scott’s crotch… but he’s also a character that has one gear (again, a gear that’s delightful and done well), from a performer who could easily do other things on the show. Even the idea of an episode having Rodney outside the context of his misunderstanding of the show’s booking would be something different. Instead, it’s more of the same. Yes, it works, but that’s simply because Ben Schwartz is just a pure force in the role. And the crotch laughs. We’ve seen it before though.
On the other hand, while the Rodney character’s safeness (and sameness) at least manages to keep the humor level, the episode’s weakest aspect is actually the Aulis framing device and Scott’s “dragon sickness.” There’s really not much to say about it, even though it brings back Zeke the security guard (Baron Vaughn) and provides a good showing for “Weird Al” in the bandleader/sidekick role. A couple of moments work because of the Aulis—the Travelocity gnome, Scott’s gold-counting (“300. Typical Hollywood trash.”)—but it’s not particularly “worth it.” Neither is the terrible “Irish” accent that comes along with it. Unsurprisingly, the episode goes with the type of Comedy Bang! Bang! ending I’ve criticized before, with everything coming to a screeching halt for a “fuck it”-style conclusion. At least it makes for a funny visual, which can’t really be said for the plot as a whole.
Really, the exception to this episode playing it safe comes in the form of actual celebrity guest Kevin Bacon, of all people. It seems obvious that Bacon is obviously a big get for the show—he’s Kevin Bacon—and it helps that the show isn’t afraid to remind the audience of that. “Kevin Bacon Wears A Blue Button Down Shirt And Brown Boots” plays off of Bacon’s strengths as a character actor-cum-A-list talent perfectly. In fact, it honestly feels like Kevin Bacon is trying to out-anti-comedy Scott at times, and it’s fascinating to see. The weird earnestness of Kevintown (“which is short for Kevin’s Town”) especially drives home the the fact that Comedy Bang! Bang! (show or podcast) has greatly needed a little Bacon in its life—
—but the entirety of the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon bit truly captures anti-comedy savant Kevin Bacon:
Plus, in that bit, Bacon kind of blows up the vague amount of continuity and world-building the show has—by announcing that the lovable goof known as Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Slow Joey is played by Haley Joel Osment.
For the rest of the episode’s faults (Aulis) and simple executions (Benny Schwaz), Kevin Bacon’s role as the celebrity guest really elevates the episode and the return of the series as a whole. Not bad for someone who probably wouldn’t have been on anyone’s top 10 list of actors who need to be on Comedy Bang! Bang!
And he didn’t even have to do the Footloose dance once.
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Dick Hallorann. “Scatman Crothers’ character in The Shining (1980)” Thanks a lot, Bang Bang Jokes Explained.
- Scott Aukerman: “#thingsonlyanauliswouldsay, right?”
- Kevin Bacon: “Yikes. That water is, like, greener than Ed Begley Jr.”
Scott Aukerman: “Very funny.” Yes, but that also made me really miss Happy Endings. Again.
- Kevin Bacon: “Brad Pitt has never been on an episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! He probably never will.” Scott’s look of disappointment is too much to handle.
- I watched this episode a while back and had to rewatch to write this review. I forgot the firstborn son part, and honestly, I wish I could’ve kept that memory repressed.
- When Tim Kalpakis showed up, I literally said “hey, Tim Kalpakis” out loud. Then the episode read my mind: “Tim Kalpakis.”
- We all know everyone’s favorite topic of conversation with Comedy Bang! Bang! is how the show is nothing like the podcast, so I figured I should bring up that a recent podcast episode finally gave us a crossover of sorts. You can thank the Brie Larson episode of the show for that. “The only time the canons have ever crossed over.”
- Also, the latest episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast brought back “Hollywood Facts.” I’ve made it my personal mission in life to always alert people of that, so you’re welcome. Nice.