Anna Kendrick was a somewhat different choice for Comedy Bang! Bang! as a guest, but she’s been in enough comedies that it made sense. Zoe Saldana is an even more out-of-the-box guest for this peculiar program (I’m pretty sure the last comedy she was in was Guess Who) but she acquits herself nicely and is lucky to be on the best episode of the season so far, with Paul F. Tompkins performing one of his best characters, the irascible Garry Marshall (please, call him Garry).
I don’t have a favorite character from the podcast, because there’s too many to pick from to have just one favorite character, but Garry Marshall is right up there. Tompkins wrings so much from such a seemingly limited premise—yes, Marshall is a bit of a loudmouthed Bronx stereotype, but other than that, what can you do with the man who created Happy Days and directed Pretty Woman? So much that his hysterical segment on this show barely scratches the surface. At one point, we hear Marshall offhandedly explain to Saldana that he’s devoted his life to hunting the Loch Ness Monster. Investigate both Aukerman’s and Tompkins’ podcast for more, guys, I promise it’s worth it.
Marshall slides in as the final part of a thematically very tight half-hour. We begin with Cop Swap, seeing Reggie switch jobs with a policeman for a day. So the keyboard is manned by straight-laced lawman Ned Dooley, wonderfully played by the stone-faced John Carroll Lynch, who makes next to no effort to perform Reggie’s duties, although at one point he offers that the idea of a dog wearing a hat might be funny. Lynch is one of my favorite character actors who equally excels at being lovable (in Fargo) and terrifyingly creepy (in Zodiac) and brings a nice mix of that to this episode.
Ned doesn’t do much except for glower, at one point trying to arrest Saldana for confessing to jaywalking, but he closes with a spectacular Irish folk song that runs through every trope imaginable (“Of all of Bono's alter-egos, Macphisto is our favorite, though The Fly is a good one too. They filmed Saving Private Ryan here”). Meanwhile, Reggie goes from the comic hijinks we might expect of him as a cop to truly terrifying ones, and the inevitable turn where he shoots a witness (James Adomian, not playing a character!) and then his partner somehow still manages to be hilariously unexpected.
Saldana is probably the least interesting part of the episode, but it’s always fun to see how non-comedians react to the weird world of the show. I assume most of her material was scripted, but there’s still enough looseness to her interactions with Scott. It’s clear she couldn’t help but laugh at some of his comebacks but I can sympathize.
Marshall is there to pitch Scott on a new edition of Happy Days, set one day after the show ended, with all the same cast filling their roles. Well, he’s not so much there to pitch it as to sternly tell him about it. “Well this sounds like a great project.” “Of course it does! I'm yelling it at the top of my lungs!” There’s something about how superficially polite and eager to chat Garry Marshall always is, even though at the same time, he’s always at his wits’ end with everyone. He runs with Saldana’s suggestion that Winkler is a funny last name (“It's a little mischievous, like he might be a little woodland creature. I'm the Winkler, don't throw a shoe at me, I might have to repair it!”) but quickly loses interest at any talk of special effects invading his TV project.
Having podcast characters on the show is always an interesting proposition because what makes the podcast so special is that Aukerman and his guest have a long time to go down weird improv alleys and flesh out increasingly bizarre facts about the character. Getting things across in a short segment is much harder, but Tompkins is one of the actors most-suited to doing it right (his rapport with Aukerman obviously helps).
God, I didn’t even mention that “Scottie Scares ’Em!” sketch with a cavalcade of comedians, only half of whom I recognized (Jarrod Carmichael, Eugene Cordero and Kulap Vilaysack were definitely in there) which was the kind of sketch I love, taking gradual, expected, and then completely unexpected turns, while moving along very, very quickly. If you want to get your friends into this show, I don’t think there’s any way it won’t initially seem weird and tough to crack, but this is as good an episode as any to start with.
- Scott gives Saldana a great introduction. “Our next guest has it all: two arms, two legs, a head, and a torso.”
- “Do you publish a rhyming dictionary? While you ensure that those who do the time do the crime, a cop will spend his time finding a rhyme for words like slime, grime and mime. It'll be sublime!”
- Garry has little patience for Scott’s interjections. “You gotta shut your mouth and listen to what I'm saying son. You're still talking, I have very little time left on this earth, please don't fill it up with your irritating voice. I love you.”
- He rejects any computer trickery to de-age Henry Winkler. “Not interested! Henry cuts out donuts, we spray his hair, Fonzie, eyy, I make that book work by banging on it.”