For all of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s various episode concepts, the show really loves to take on the world of science fiction. Alternate universes, space aliens, space-time paradoxes—Comedy Bang! Bang! loves it all. Just look at “Judd Apatow Wears A Polo and Blue Suede Shoes,” which turned its send-off of Reggie into a bizarrely sweet story of alien-human friendship. So “Uzo Aduba Wears A White Blouse And Royal Blue Heels” opening up on a Kubrickian (though not Eyes Wide Shut Kubrick) dystopian future (plainly called “THE FUTURE”) is a promising start to the rest of the show’s fourth season, “THE FUTURE” is a vague yet over-the-top welcome back to the world of Comedy Bang! Bang!. There’s the “HOL YWOD” sign, signs and spray-painted buildings explaining that “COMEDY KILLS,” and the intercom system announcing that “All bits are forbidden.” And so is the rule of three.
It’s a terrible world, which is reason enough for the show to defend the use of time travel typically reserved for an X-Men or a Terminator situation. From the moment the episode begins, there’s the expectation that this is going to be an absolutely chaotic episode, action-packed and full of ridiculous twists. The episode practically ensures it once Scott decides to go into business for himself and not actually save the world. But ultimately, for an episode that should be larger than life, it’s actually a bit disappointing on that front (especially as a time travel piece).
Sure, Scott’s constant references to future things are humorous—especially as they call out one of the most obnoxious bits about quirky time travel, constantly “accidentally” mentioning future information*—but that’s really the peak of the time travel stuff in this episode. In fact, this is an episode that is really elevated by its guests, but it’s still a bit disappointing that the framing device isn’t as strong as it could be, especially as the first new episode back.
This is far from a crowded episode, and in the case of Comedy Bang! Bang!, that’s not exactly the best thing. There are no out-of-studio bits or fake trailers, no asides or side plots. Despite the fact that this is a time travel episode, it’s also overwhelmingly straightforward (until the very end, when it probably needs it the most). Luckily, most of the guests really make the episode work—the exception being The Last Man On Earth’s Cleopatra Coleman as Katie the IT lady. Her soft lit introduction, blowing on a wi-fi (even though it makes dial-up sounds) router—after presumably turning it off then on—as a sign of being in IT is the character’s peak, because after that, she’s not even really a character. In fact, if Doctor Travers (John Hodgman’s) were to reveal that Katie was a robot in the end tag, no one would even bat an eyelash. Coleman’s work and role in this episode are the polar opposite of Uzo Aduba’s.
Uzo Aduba is obviously a good actress, but this being Comedy Bang! Bang!, it’s not a guarantee that such a quality will translate to the show’s sense of humor. Committing to the bits is really the most important thing, and luckily, Aduba has absolutely no problem with that. It’s really a point of her acting ability coming to great use here, as she doesn’t just “yes and” every bit—she understands that acting is “reacting,” and she never stop reacting throughout this episode. Comedy Bang! Bang! guests can have a tendency to be slightly uncomfortable and confused when they don’t come from the same comedy world, but Aduba manages to act honestly at every turn. Compared to A$AP Rocky, who was very out of place but still made it work, it’s here where you can see that being a guest doesn’t mean just doing the lines and trying not to break.
Plus, she busts out a killer mini-stand-up set (where she also basically admits she doesn’t pay her taxes).
Then there’s Thomas Middleditch, in character form. Thomas Middleditch’s appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast have quickly become favorites, and the introduction of “concerned citizen” Tim Landers here is no exception. The early going of the bit is waiting for the other shoe to drop with regards to what exactly is wrong with this poor old man character, but as soon as Middleditch gets going about R.E.M.-based bombs and poetry, there’s no getting off this train (get it?).
“Hot oils in a dog’s ear
Let it burn and hiss and sizzle
Hug your mother with her grave’s dirt still beneath your finger nails
A smashed phone with no police to call
Hair in your throat
The world is covered in bones and gold
And we all line up to suck the teet
With Old Yeller’s body in my arms
I flee this city of abortions on a 5370 Diesel by steel and rail
The finest train in the world”
Scott’s face says it all, Uzo nods at the “teet” part as though Landers is on to something, and Even Kid Cudi can’t deny his enjoyment of the poem, as he starts to applaud, only to be surprised when no one else joins in. The character guest is the ultimate test for the “actual” celebrity guest and how they’ll react, and Uzo Aduba doesn’t just watch this entire guest segment in a haze—she attempts to gauge other people’s reactions to it, voices her opinions, and doesn’t break until Scott closes up the segment. She’s not afraid to hop into the bit zone, and that sort of confidence shows all throughout her performance in this episode. Just rewatch the bagel scene if you need more proof.
Despite the weakness of the future plot, Comedy Bang! Bang! really does a good job creating anticipation (sort of like in “Lizzy Caplan Wears All Black and Powder Blue Espadrilles”) for what James Adomian’s Jerry Jocks could possibly say in his set to get comedy banned. It’s not like he’s a Tom Leykis character, but based solely on the flaming brushed metal banner, the leather jacket and black turtleneck, the lit cigarette, the guitar riff, and the “fuck you” greeting to the audience (a lot of things, really), Comedy Bang! Bang! telegraphs the fact that Jocks is trouble and oh so edgy from moment one. The fact that absolute anarchy (and then government retaliation) all thanks to Jocks’ Congress “joke” ends up being the actual cause of the no comedy initiative is one big swerve the episode goes for, and it works, while not necessarily being in your face.
Comedy Bang! Bang! likes to take pop culture by the tropes and flip them on their head, and this episode really is no different. In fact, from Scott’s speech on, the ending of the episode is clearly made to be divisive. It can be read as either strangely brilliant or upsettingly hollow. When Kid Cudi points out that there was no obstacle to Scott’s plan working, that’s the show’s immediately calling attention to fact that it didn’t go for the standard obstacle (another twist, sort of). It’s an extremely easy finish. Scott wants a world with no comedy but Comedy Bang! Bang!, and that’s exactly what he gets—no reset button or anything.
But wrapping everything up with a callback (thanks, comedy!) to Doctor Travers’ career as a Futurama writer with a “blame it on Bender” feels lazy, because it is lazy, intentionally. This is ultimately a rare case of time travel not being depicted as needlessly complicated, but given Comedy Bang! Bang!’s track record, shouldn’t it be a little more needlessly complicated? The problem with calling this particular episode a commentary on certain tropes (in the case of time travel, the ease of the plan, and the “blame it on Bender” plan) is that, even if you think that the show succeeds in doing all these things, it’s still not particularly enjoyable in comparison to the rest of the episode.
“Blame it on Bender. It’s a quick fix to get out of a script. Or a sketch.” That’s absolutely true. But it’s a disappointing fix.
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Sprint® Framily Plan
- * My specific problem with such a trope comes from the one season WB series Do Over, in an episode where Penn Badgley’s character (who’s trapped in 1980) spoils The Empire Strikes Back.
- Scott: “So Uzo, who did you vote for in the last election? President Snooki?”
Uzo: “President Snooki?”
Scott: “That’s right. I’m so far back in the past that she hasn’t been elected yet. Uh, sorry, what you think of Taco Bell’s new Thanksgiving Skittles-wrapped Supreme Takoopa?”
Uzo: “The what now?”
Scott: “That’s not a thing either. So hey, are you gonna upgrade Apple’s iMouth or you gonna keep using your own original smart tub?”
Uzo: “My who what?”
Scott: “That’s actually something I made up!”
Uzo: “You are a very strange man, Scott.”
Scott: “I know!”
- Uzo: “Like ‘let’s-a-go!””
Scott: “This guy sounds amazing.”
Uzo: “Amazing.” One thing’s for sure: I always appreciate a good (or even a bad) Mario impression.
- Scott: “Sandler. Oh.”
[Kid Cudi salutes]
Scott” “A true patriot of the rebellion. I mean, he sacrificed his life in the battle of Second City, to protect those props from Corky Romano.”
Squirrelly: “Scott, you wanna come or not?”
Scott: “Hmm. I’ll pass.”