At the risk of pitting women against each other (without even knowing their workout regimen or how they balance work and family), “Mary Elizabeth Winstead Wears An A-Line Skirt And Pointy Black Boots” is an episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! with a guest whose quality falls somewhere in between that of the two previous episodes (“Brie Larson Wears A Billowy Long-Sleeve Shirt And White Saddle Shoes” and “Carly Rae Jepsen Wears a Chunky Necklace and Black Ankle Boots”). Winstead herself is a great guest, one you could easily believe is an old pro at Comedy Bang! Bang! (both the show and podcast) guesting duties. In fact, a lot of Winstead’s strengths and charms in this episode resemble Brie Larson’s in her episode. And that’s a very good thing.

But even with such a strong celebrity guest, here, everything surrounding her (and “Scott and Scott 2.0”) is fairly average, at best. The episode flounders with its rat framing device and another Horatio Sanz bonus guest appearance, even though Mary, Scott, and Cudi do everything they can to make this installment a winner. Scott actually says it best at the close: “This was a crazy episode.” That’s often the case for any episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, but with this particular premise, there’s really not much to make it transcend past just crazy (which is the key to a successful episode). Scott saying that line feels like a resignation to the fact that this episode is as bizarre as it is, with or without the hatch at the end.

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Despite bookending the episode with ’80s sitcom gags, this is a cartoon episode, through and through. The episode is full of little sound effects and the type of inhuman speed you’d find in a cartoon, and while the episode pokes as much fun as it can at all of that, it still falls flat, bordering on excessive. As for the sitcom aspect, Comedy Bang! Bang! has gone to that well before (“Jesse Tyler Ferguson Wears A Brown Checked Shirt And Stripey Socks,” “Thomas Middleditch Wears An Enigmatic Sweatshirt And Sweatpants With Pockets”), with much better results. Here, the Fancy Forks bit—while mildly interesting at first as a Silver Spoons parody—is nowhere near as intricate (or funny) as Comedy Bang! Bang!’s previous stabs at the genre.

The rat trap (or Mouse Trap) plot that ensues mostly works because of Scott and Cudi’s reactions to the entire situation—especially Scott’s calm, yet over-the-top decision-making throughout the entire plot. Steve Agee as the older version of the weird kid who who stayed in a closet for 30 years is one of those strange Comedy Bang! Bang! ideas that just doesn’t quite work, especially when it’s in an episode with things as strange as Mary Elizabeth Winsteads’s “Birthday Turkey” rant and her chambermaid back story, which the show nails. Great celebrity guests are never a bad thing, but when the rest of the episode doesn’t live up to that potential (even if they’re not necessarily poor plots or moments), it’s glaring. The rat trap plot is like an anchor dragging throughout the episode.

Then there’s the case of the character guest, inventor Ahmad Rashad al-Zarqawi (Horatio Sanz). Since the days of Saturday Night Live, Horatio Sanz has always been very hit or miss; it could even be said that perhaps “hit or miss” was a phrase created specifically for him. At any given moment during the bit, it’s obvious that Sanz must have broken into laughter constantly, whether it was during his own lines or even Scott’s. It’s distracting, but it’s also why the character would probably work much better on the podcast, with the breaking from everyone involved probably ending up making the character more memorable. That actually appears to be the case with Horatio Sanz and Comedy Bang! Bang! as a rule: While he can shine on the podcast, being on the show makes his characters fall flat (or at least not come across as successfully). Here, the edited restraint of the reactions only call more attention to it, even though the “ISIS” swerve is pretty humorous, despite being over almost as soon as it begins. Really, just the idea of the character actually being a terrible inventor (even without ISIS) is enough to sustain it, and it almost feels like Sanz tried to do too much, only to instead end up doing so little.

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This was a crazy episode.

Stray observations:

  • Scott’s Onscreen Credit: The Brothers Solomon
  • Will Howard ever learn how to do a proper “babe alert”?
  • I’m really disappointed at there being nothing at nothingbutliez.com.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead really kills it during the “act in” conversations this episode, from trying to explain who The Beatles are to Scott to her then trying to explain the State Farm commercials to him. That right there is a recurring bit waiting to happen: Mary Explains It All (To Scott). She’s so wise. It’s a shame she never played in the XFL, but at least she got her Birthday Turkey.
  • The best part of the rat trap plot is the brief interlude for the parody song of “Ben.” “Rat, you really were a pal of mine.” Inspired lyrics, Comedy Bang! Bang!
  • Even the “Which Friends character are you?” bit—while silly fun—just reminded me of the even better Scottie Scares ‘Em segment from “Zoe Saldana Wears A Tan Blouse And Glasses.”
  • So in Fancy Forks, their character names were also their real names? If so, is this episode saying that this could have happened to Joey Lawrence?
  • Given the grade on this episode, allow me to direct your attention to the latest episode of U Talkin’ U2 To Me?

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