Aukerman, Cudi (IFC)

Despite (or perhaps because of) its prolific output, Comedy Bang! Bang! has not changed much during its four-season existence. For all 70 episodes so far aired, Reggie Watts created all of Bang! Bang!’s music—disjointed jams perfectly matched to the off-kilter nature of the show. But beyond just music, Reggie was a comedic ballast and foil to Aukerman. In short, it often felt like Watts made the show what it was. When he got tapped as the bandleader for The Late Late Show (the first in that show’s history), many wondered what would become of Comedy Bang! Bang! both the podcast and the TV show. “Michael Cera Wears A Yellow Collared Shirt And White Sneakers,” the first episode without Watts, was the an opportunity to find out.

Scott Mescudi is known to most as Kid Cudi, creator of stoner hip-hop jams, and is known to some as a comedic actor in the Aaron Paul vehicle, Need For Speed. (Note that Cudi is almost never known for his turn in Shia LaBeouf’s horror short film, which actually exists.). The decision to cast another black musician-turned-comedic actor might seem like pandering, but Cudi’s first episode, “Michael Cera Wears A Yellow Collared Shirt And White Sneakers” works well even if he’s mainly doing his best Reggie Watts impression.

Smartly, Aukerman and crew decide to gather any possible awkwardness over the transition and turn it into a skit. Matt Walsh, from Veep and not enough else (give this man more work), reprises his role as L. Jefe Maninchargo (great line out of the gate, “Get your flat ass into my office!”). This entire scene is hilarious and describing it takes away Walsh’s facial expressions, Aukerman’s great prop acting, and Cudi’s bright smile. But all those things are there and they make Cudi’s very first appearance a particularly funny one.

Cudi and Aukerman goofily race to the studio to make it to the show. We smash cut to a new logo (fancy!) and a new theme song (very similar to old theme song!).

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Throughout “Michael Cera Wears A Yellow Collared Shirt And White Sneakers,” Aukerman bristles at Cudi’s new way of doing things. It’s a smart way of doing things as it gives a nod, but not too much of a voice, to viewers with the same concerns. However, despite all the acknowledgement of Watts’s replacement, Cudi’s schtick feels remarkably familiar (Bang! Bang! seems to be self-aware about this as well with Cudi saying, “I will do the exact same job in the exact same spot for more money.”)

As a sidekick, Kid Cudi is ebullient in the same way Watts was chill, and many cuts to him were just nods and smiles. He plays the part well, but I am excited to see how he puts his own spin on the role. I don’t particularly want to see the same Comedy Bang! Bang! that we have seen since 2012. I’m hoping Cudi spins the show in a new direction.

Michael Cera shows up and the show is as weird as it’s always been. Cera is particularly awkward, embodying that feeling of getting stuck in a dance with someone as you try to pass them on the sidewalk. He riffs on Aukerman and Cudi’s tension (“I think I could do either of your jobs”), randomly cuts to Sister Act 2, and mutters, “It’s all about who you know… and who you blow,” which, while true, comes out of nowhere (so to speak). It’s pitch-perfect Bang! Bang!.

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Cera then begins raising awareness for awareness and busts out his free, watermarked “Michael Sarah” business card with a penis drawn on the back. This made me laugh more than it should, but I guess that’s why dick jokes exist, right?

My favorite Cera moment was a quick, beautiful moment between Aukerman and Cera after the host chastises Cudi again.

Cera: “Why are you so mean to him?”

Aukerman: “Why are you so great in Arrested Development?”

Cera: “Thank you.”

“Michael Cera Wears a Yellow Collared Shirt And White Sneakers” lines up two killer skits in a row, the first, “Growing Up Aukerman,” during which the pull-quotes from a newspaper’s review of Aukerman’s one man show start spelling out a hilarious and sinister narrative. It’s absurd and fantastic, twisting at just the right moment, but staying on track enough to make the viewer feel smart for following along. Behind the quotes, Aukerman pantomimes a slew of increasingly insane acts.

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Finally, we get pretzel-maker August Lindt’s (Andy Daly) tales of his vacation adventures which turn out to be dangerous, monstrous activities like creating an avalanche in which his friend dies or making a skin suit. Like, out of skin. Everyone has fun with it and it’s a perfect character piece. Along with “Growing Up Aukerman,” it’s a as a good a one-two punch as Bang! Bang! has produced all season.

Cudi and Aukerman make peace and the stage is set for a familiar rapport between host and maestro. Cudi undoubtedly has talent and it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the show and who will make the first “You’ve got to be kidding me” pun.

Stray observations

  • If you Google “Michael Sarah,” it does indeed direct you to Michael Cera.
  • I would’ve liked Whiplash way better if it starred Aukerman and Cudi.
  • “I thought that astronaut gave it to that bitch, Britney Spears.” In the music video for Britney Spears’s “Oops…I Did It Again,” an astronaut, for no discernible reason, gives her the diamond that Rose, the fictional character in Titanic, dropped in the ocean.
  • “It’s a stupid fucking webshow” should be Bang! Bang!’s new slogan

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