Last week’s episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, “Tom Lennon Wears Black Slacks And A Black Skinny Tie,” was the type of ambitious episode that the series constantly knocks out of the park. It was another reminder of how Comedy Bang! Bang! is clearly an intense labor of love from Scott Aukerman and the writers, something that can be taken for granted since the show is pretty much at a consistent baseline of “very good.” The truly great episodes are always fascinating to watch from more than just a comedy standpoint, and as such, the transition back to “very good” can be a jarring one. This of course segues into this week’s episode, “Ken Marino Wears A Slim Gray Suit And Salmon Tie,” the episode that just so happened to draw the short straw of airing after a truly great episode (that also features an alum of The State as a guest).
It’s a tough spot to be in, because even though Comedy Bang! Bang! does better than fine with its standard episodes, it understandably can’t pull out the big guns with every episode. So the downshift from “Tom Lennon Wears Black Slacks And A Black Skinny Tie” to “Ken Marino Wears A Slim Gray Suit And Salmon Tie” is a bit glaring, even though it actually appears to be intentional in this instance. Even removing the gimmick of last week’s episode from the equation, Marino plays it all very low-key here, in an episode that is framed with a full-blown Faustian deal (with Kevin Pollak as Lucifer and Bob Odenkirk as Kentucky Fried God). Like Tom Lennon, Ken Marino makes a good straight man on many occasions, but in this particular episode, he almost comes across as too subdued at times.
The introduction to this version Ken Marino—via the cover of Charming Funny Celebrity Magazine—does refer to him as “America’s Cool Older Brother,” but even with that, he’s almost too chill. Marino even plays a tamer character as the sage father figure (to everyone but the one who really needs it—“I’m out six dollars now! Six dollars! Stupid fucking kid.”). When he zigs and shouts at the kid, that’s one of the funnier, higher energy moments from this version of Ken Marino, with the other being the (too short) battle with Björk. The reveal that he is not Ken Marino but instead a Ken Marino impersonator named Slump Rathman doesn’t really lead anywhere past that, though it is refreshing that it’s just accepted by Scott and Cudi. Ultimately, Marino plays everything almost too straight here, which keeps in line with the rest of the episode, despite the larger than life framing device. It’s still enjoyable, but given Marino’s appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast, it’s a tad disappointing that he doesn’t get to be a bigger force here.
Luckily, the combination of Marino’s guest spot with Scott’s general Scott-ness, the out-of-studio segment, and the character guest make it work. As much fun as Comedy Bang! Bang! is typically able to mine out of its parodies and homages, the Faustian deal plays more like a bit that goes through the motions of the first four wishes (which is a clever alternative to three—dumb genies) just to get to that final one. However, that also feels intentional, as Scott himself goes through the motions of making these wishes, knowing all the “textbook Satan style ironic wish fulfillment” tricks that come with them. When Scott doesn’t give a damn (like in “Brie Larson Wears A Billowy Long-Sleeve Shirt And White Saddle Shoes”), it brings out that “bad boy” side of him that’s so fun (“Who are you and what’s your whole fricken deal?”), albeit ridiculous. Sadly, there is no outright Brendan Fraser Bedazzled call-out in the episode, but there doesn’t need to be—it knows what it did. It’s all mostly a reason for Pollak and Odenkirk to Foghorn Leghorn their way around Comedy Bang! Bang!, and it pings that absolutely surreal, almost too weird for anyone vibe that the show just goes for.
That’s also why Björk (Matt Besser, looking phenomenal in drag) being the character guest is so on point. Besser’s Björk is completely game to play in the world of this episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, instantly taking over and just running with it. Even Aukerman can’t help but crack up as he takes the episode to commercial during the segment. It’s here that Ken Marino gets to play more, as it’s not as easy to play it all completely straight with physical abuse from Björk. Besser’s pretentious and condescending—yet nurturing—approach to Björk makes him, oddly, the perfect Björk impersonator. “It was better than anything Taylor Swift’s ever written, that’s for sure.”
Then there’s the out-of-studio bit, Autumn Apparel, which works on two levels: both as the continuation of Scott’s momma’s boy relationship with his mother Barbara and with the concept of a youthful Scott Aukerman (as he is only in his mid-20s). In classic Comedy Bang! Bang! fashion (no terrible pun intended), the segment starts the expected (yet still weird, though very accurate when it comes to shopping with parents) way and then turns into a story about peer pressure (“Looks like the leaves aren’t the only things changing this Fall.”), co-dependent relationships with one’s mother, and mall pretzels. It’s also a quieter out-of-studio segment than usual—with the peer pressure being surprisingly “realistic,” considering the fact that Scott Aukerman is not a teenage boy, he’s a big boy—which again feels strange (but just so right) in an episode with Matt Besser as Björk and Kevin Pollak and Bob Oderkirk as Lucifer and God. It’s oh so quiet.
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Quote Anchorman
- I thought Kid Cudi wearing sunglasses indoors would be addressed in the episode, but it never was. There’s always next week!
- Hey Nong Man, in case you missed all of Scott’s wishes, they were: 1. For Lucifer to heal his finger after he signed the contract with blood. 2. Ken Marino to “appear before [his] eyes” and be his guest. 3. A bigger “cerebral cortex” (to better understand things like “Shack Spear”), which Lucifer misinterprets as a bigger “dong.” 4. Comedy Bang! Bang!’s rating to exceed those of the final episode of MASH. 5. For Lucifer and God to be bros again.
- Who doesn’t love a good “thank you party” and “spoiler alert”? Comedy Bang! Bang! is always on the pulse of what’s hot.
- Host Corner With Scott Aukerman felt like it stepped right out of a U Talkin’ U2 To Me episode. Great ep.
- Ken Marino: “B-J-O-R-K.”
Scott: “Hey, I like the first two letters.”
- Just to be clear, Iceland’s national anthem is not actually a stolen Marvin Gaye song.
- Björk: “The ice giants hate the ice dwarves. It’s an ethnic war that tears apart out country.” Where is Besser Björk’s spin-off?
- God: “I can do whatever I want! I’m God!”