Everyone’s confused on “Randall Park Wears Brown Dress Shoes With Blue Socks.” Scott meant to pick out a new hat at Dinah’s Hatties, but without his glasses, he wandered into the identical nearby Hattie’s Diner and walked out with a pancake firmly planted on his head. Kid Cudi thinks his new roommate is annoying, but that guy isn’t a roommate at all! He’s a thief who tied up Cudi to steal his jewelry and car. Randall Park is only a little confused by Scott’s pancake hat. He takes it in stride, but Scott and visiting novelist Richard Bunn (Paul Brittain) trap him in a confusing world of fiction instead.
The characters are confused, but the episode isn’t. It’s got a strong through line from the moment Cudi urges his Comedy Bang! Bang! colleagues to give Scott plenty of encouragement so he’ll be at his most confident accepting his award at the end of the night. Scott seems young to receive a lifetime achievement award—but the reveal that it’s a Kids’ Pick Award solves that puzzle and ties everything together when Scott gets doused with maple syrup (Comedy Bang! Bang! tipping its hat to the slimings of The Kids’ Choice Awards).
This episode is a bit slight, and saying that isn’t a slight. As LaToya Ferguson says of “Ken Marino Wears A Slim Gray Suit And Salmon Tie,” when Comedy Bang! Bang! descends from its conceptual heights to its baseline, that typically means a return to a consistent baseline of “very good.” “Randall Park Wears Brown Dress Shoes With Blue Socks” feels like it’s crafted with an intentional slightness, a light frivolity that mirrors the silliness of the kids’ shows its fictional award ceremony is honoring. It’s full of silly sight gags, even more and even sillier than usual: Scott’s “too big” sweater that’s actually a sweater dress, Slow Joey (Haley Joel Osment) pouring syrup over a stack of funny hats… and don’t forget Scott’s new hat. He sure won’t!
The show also indulges in some cartoonish and slapstick gags, like the run of “Slow Joey is so slow” jokes, complete with a comic sound effect when Eric the P.A. fast-steps his way over to join in, and a Looney Tunes-style bullseye closing in on Slow Joey’s face. (Slow Joey’s going to spend his windfall on a 50-gallon drum of gummy bears! Why? “Because a 50-gallon drum of real bears would be too scary.” Osment’s reading here is great; there’s a reason he was the child actor of a generation, and a reason that we’re in the middle of an Osment-aissance.)
This childlike whimsy is balanced by grounded performances, especially from Randall Park. It’s fun to see him perform something besides the determinedly upbeat dad he plays on Fresh Off The Boat, and he gets to show off his range here. “Acting is reacting,” Park tells Scott, and to demonstrate, he reacts his way through the gamut of emotions—laughter, sorrow, bargaining, fear, sunglasses—just as he does for every take of his career. “If you don’t, you’re not acting hard enough.”
That confident string of reactions contrasts with Park‘s otherwise consistent expression of understated anxiety, communicated with with quiet flickers of his eyes and crinkled eyebrows, as he assesses everything from Scott’s absurd headpiece to… well, it’s mostly the pancake hat making him nervous, to be honest.
He’s not nervous playing “Title These Tunes.” He names off a string of song titles without hesitation. The bit’s first joke plays on the idea of Comedy Bang! Bang! sidestepping royalty issues by playing their version of “Name That Tune” through headphones, with the iconic (and expensive) songs playing only for the contestant, not the audience. That simple premise turns into a double-take when Scott ends Randall Park’s string of assured answers, telling him he’s way off, they’re playing an audiobook of Michael Crichton’s Congo, and into a triple-take when Park waggles the loose headphone plug and admits no sound was coming through anyway. Comedy Bang! Bang!’s writers never go for one goofy joke when they can layer in three.
Also layered is the story Scott creates with the help of visiting novelist Richard Bunn, who’s written “an amazing quantity of novels”—over 140 since March. He teaches Scott and Randall Park The Bunn Process of focus (“close the eyes, don’t fall asleep”), incorporating them into his story. Eventually, Scott immerses them so deep into his imagination—in a book within a book within a book—that they only narrowly escape from a disaster in their imagination-scapes. (Richard Bunn and Scott now share a creative process, but they still have different frames of reference. “That was like Don Quixote of La Mancha!” “You mean Donkey from Shrek?”)
“Randall Park Wears Brown Dress Shoes With Blue Socks” makes no attempt to integrate its out-of-studio bits into the show’s tone, and this is one time when the dissonance of tone works well. The in-universe commercial spots feel like a break in the show’s reality, much as real commercials do, and Scott’s appearance on The Kids’ Picks Awards establishes a feeling of distance from the Comedy Bang! Bang! studio. (Maybe the best conceit of the night is the idea, mentioned in only passing, that an experienced talk show host would be nervous about appearing “on national television!”)
Comedy Bang! Bang! writer Neil Campbell (God, nameless naked Future Man, Charles Manson) appears as the show’s new sponsor, Isaac Witherspoon, attorney-at-law, whose social life is so hampered by attorney-client privilege that he’ll represent clients for free in exchange for the right to tell all their humiliating secrets. Public urination? Indecent exposure to zoo animals? Improper prescription means your teeny peeny is obscured by massive amounts of pubic hair? (Yeah, both of those last two are Scott.) You’re just the client Isaac Witherspoon is looking for! In just over two minutes, Campbell exposes the contempt his character feels for the law, his clients, and even the friends he’s winning over with his new freedom to “keep blabbin’ and gabbin’ all over town!”
The prolonged legal commercial parody also jams in a quick callback to to Paul Giamatti, shill and sandwich board wearer for hire. I’d say it brought James Adomian’s uncannily detailed impression back in force, but that indelible performance hasn’t left my mind for more than a few days at a time since the episode aired.
The caustic tone of Witherspoon’s spot is offset by Kid Cudi’s loyal (more or less) determination (more or less) to save Scott from his own folly, persuading Scott to take off his pancake hat before he becomes a laughingstock. Being direct could cost him his job, so he tries every sneaky maneuver he can think up: changing the subject, recruiting Slow Joey to do his dirty work, “the classic Georgia hat swap scam!”
Cudi’s sense of duty is eventually worn down by Scott’s touchiness, taking offense and imagining envy at every turn—and Scott’s highhanded peevishness is redeemed by his change of tune at the episode’s end. Realizing his hat was a pancake all along—and it’s his own fault the crew didn’t tell him—Scott delivers a heartfelt apology to the viewing audience. It’s his fault he’s too bristly to take criticism, but it’s not his fault the whole crew is watching beach volleyball instead of his award speech.
To say “Randall Park Wears Brown Dress Shoes With Blue Socks” is merely entertaining sounds like a slight, but there’s nothing slight about a 40-episode season where almost every show meets the benchmark of “very good” and many surpass it.
- Scott’s onscreen credit: Prop Comedian.
- Randall Park is the 28th person Scott’s ever met; he’s also this season’s 28th headlining guest.
- “He was guilty! He killed every single one of those dental hygienists!” [titters of amusement from the admiring listeners]
- “It’s 2016—the future!” “And we’re already in space?”
- According to the commercial, the not at all confusing fusion of food and fashion that is Hattie’s Diner and Dinah’s Hatties sits side by side in identical buildings on Gerard Way—or is that Gerard Way?