"Weird Al" Yankovic (IFC)

“Weird Al Yankovic Wears A Different Hawaiian Shirt” is packed with pitch-perfect mimicry. To draw in female viewers, Scott retools the format, kicks off Kid Cudi, and brings on co-hosts Madeline Ferrari (Cheri Oteri), Terri Herdsman (Nicole Byer), and Eliza Hansenback (Heather Morris). From the bright, airy set to the brittle artificiality of the banter, The Brew’s parroting of a popular morning program is spot on. And Scott’s having a great time! As the only male co-host of The Brew, Hot Saucerman lives up to his nickname, spicing up the insipid morning-show chatter with equally insipid ribaldry about masturbation and twerking.

“Weird Al” Yankovic is the show’s first guest, and he and Scott have been working on impressions of each other—impressions so dead-on, they appear as each other, eventually switching seats and identities. But before they swap lives forever, Al is understandably sour over The Brew’s “cartoonishly lazy” segment superimposing his hair onto various celebrity figures, from Bill Clinton to Kim Kardashian to Garfield. He’d rather use his air time to promote his anti-bullying campaign.

The ladies of The Brew have arranged a special guest: Max (Dakota Buchanan, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Bobby Ponderosa), a bullied “Weird Al” fan, is thrilled to meet his idol and to receive two front-row seats to his upcoming concert… until Max’s bully (Skyler James) follows him onstage. “You can’t pick on me anymore, Bo!” Max declares, adding an uncertain, “Isn’t that right, Al?”

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The bully’s mere appearance reduces the pop star turned mentor to tremors and whispers. Al tries to appease him with concert tickets, snatching them away from Max and hissing “Shut up! You’re going to get all of us killed!” “Weird Al”’s immediate capitulation overturns the self-congratulation implicit in the show’s well-meant gestures and empty assurances. The silly bit acknowledges a brutal truth of childhood: It’s easy for adults to give facile encouragement when they never have to face the bullies themselves.

Nicole Byer, Cheri Oteri, Weird Al Yankovic, Scott Aukerman, Heather Morris (IFC)

Empty words and gestures are what The Brew is best at. The women necessarily play stereotypes, mouthing applause-garnering platitudes and vacuous punchlines, but they manage to weave some specificity into these broad strokes. Cheri O’Teri has the bright intensity of a daytime talk show host on the edge, anchoring the energy somewhere between determined cheer and cloaked desperation. (Asking advice about her teenaged daughters, she tells Al, “One is—I’m lucky—she’s at home on house arrest.”) Heather Morris’ vacant-eyed conservatism as the group’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck is reminiscent of her work on Glee without blankly repeating it. Nicole Byer’s Terri outdoes Scott as the risqué co-host when she straight-up asks “Weird Al” whether “Eat It” is “about my [bleep]?” (His well-considered answer: “Not specifically yours, no.”) But her treatment of their shattered child guest really breaks through the conventional geniality of the show as she dismisses him with a pointed “Bye, Max” and a flick of her hand.

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Joe Nunez, Eugene Cordero, Colton Dunn, Kid Cudi (IFC)

The bland brightness of The Brew is balanced by the darkness backstage. On his way out, Kid Cudi peeks in on Madeline, Terri, and Eliza casting a spell over a bubbling cauldron and wises up to their nefarious plot. With the help of The Witchbusters (Eugene Cordero, Colton Dunn, and Joe Nunez), he vies to rescue Scott and his job from the witches’ clutches, but the stakes are higher than that. The prophecy foretells their intent to switch the sun and the moon, trade noon for midnight, and make female hosts the queens of the night—while relegating male talk-show hosts to daytime. And their spell requires the body of a virgin.

“…and the body of one virgin.” (IFC)

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Once again, kudos to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s set designers, prop masters, graphics department, and other visual artists, who not only construct a coherent visual aesthetic for The Brew, right down to the logo that betrays its secret in every shot, but also make the library believably dim and dusty, craft a Gilliam-style sequence bridging the two sets, and create a series of woodcuts illustrating the coven’s plan. This attention to detail anchors the writing and performances for ambitious episodes like this and makes Comedy Bang! Bang! shine.

Kid Cudi leads The Witchbusters as they infiltrate the studio camouflaged as four “sexy as hell” female audience members, but their disguises are betrayed by a telltale can of Dr. Pepper 10. Soon they’re tied down, watching Scott simmer in the coven’s cauldron, until Cudi saves the day, urging The Witchbusters to offer the coven “the one thing every husbandless woman wants more than anything,” a proposal of marriage.

“Misogyny was right!” (IFC)

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With all this action, it feels like “Weird Al” gets a little short-changed on air time. But his segment is a standard length; it’s just the elaborately broad format and the many guest stars that make it seem brief. Still, he makes the most of his appearance, and even his last wordless act—zipping out the door as Scott begs for someone, anyone, to have sex with him to keep him from being the witches’ virgin sacrifice—is good for a laugh.

It’s not just the well-meshed ensemble performances, the strong conceptual structure, the note-perfect mimicry of daytime TV’s tone and look, or even the laughs (and I mean laughs: I cackled like a… well, you know… throughout the episode) that make this a successful episode. After a strong guest appearance and his introduction as Reggie’s replacement, Comedy Bang! Bang! floundered with Kid Cudi’s role on the show. In “Weird Al Yankovic Wears Another Hawaiian Shirt,” he carries the episode’s plot, leads a dashing rescue (“God damn it, give me an Emmy already!”), and gets the best lines while Scott smiles, jokes, and does some of the best Empty Coffee Cup Theater on television.

Nailing the superficiality and glibness of mainstream daytime infotainment, “Weird Al Yankovic Wears A Different Hawaiian Shirt” highlights how Comedy Bang! Bang!’s tone distinguishes itself—not just from morning shows, but from other late night and sketch shows. It’s just as artificial, but beneath its heightened artificiality, it’s self-aware and witty. Even its modest set emphasizes the intimacy and peculiarity of Comedy Bang! Bang! Scott Aukerman’s brainchild will never be mass-market morning fodder or a late-night soporific. Comedy Bang! Bang! is a gifted mimic of TV’s lazy formats, but it’s something weirder, and at its best, something infinitely more rewarding to watch.

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Stray observations

  • Scott’s onscreen credit: Weird Alkerman… except it’s actually “Weird Al” Yankovic’s onscreen credit, appearing under his impersonation of Scott. Since they never switch back, that virgin in the pot? That’s also Yankovic.
  • #Lasagna
  • “Weird Al”: “I’ve never been so insulted.” Madeline: “Aw, sure you have.”
  • “I can’t believe you’re all witches! Misogyny was right!”
  • “Looks like that all-male reboot of The Witchbusters franchise is going to be a big hit.”
  • That’s the summer finale of Comedy Bang! Bang!, but we have ten more episodes before season four ends. Through the power of witchcra—I mean, through no power at all, shh, shh, shh, shh—LaToya Ferguson and I will return with more reviews in October. Until then, readers, pack up your things, hand over your key cards and your site-issued super soakers, and get the hell out!

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