(Scott Aukerman, Mike Colter) (Screenshot: IFC)

How sharper than a turkey’s beak it is to have a thankless audience. But “Mike Colter Wears A Pink Button Up And Black Boots” won’t have that problem. Who could be ungrateful for one last Thanksgiving from a show that loves its holiday episodes like Comedy Bang! Bang! does? That’s doubly true when the show features guests Mike Colter and Joe Bongo (Andy Daly) and a Shakespearean tragedy played out to comic perfection by Bruce McCulloch, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Hayley Marie Norman, and Emily Chang.

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This episode is overstuffed with drama and laughs, a fitting feast for to tide us over for the long fast coming after Comedy Bang! Bang! concludes the series. I wasn’t sure how the dry comedic notes Mike Colter deploys as Luke Cage would fit into the over-the-top world of Comedy Bang! Bang!, but he plays to his strengths. Instead of trying to short-change his charisma and powerful presence, Colter lets them ground his appearance, offering a resonant counterpoint to Scott and Al’s higher pitch of absurdity.

That doesn’t mean he’s afraid to look silly, as a riff on his name proves. Trying to sound out for Scott the difference between “Luke Cage” and “Lou Cage” (and later between “Mike Colter” and “My Colter”), he asks, “Who has time to go kuh-kuh?,” then joins his hosts in sputtering out a barrage of “kuh-kuh, kuh-kuh” sounds.

But before long, even that goofy chorus shifts into intensity, as Colter’s gentle request that Netflix and chill-ers name their babies after him escalates to a threat that’s all the more (um) chilling for its composure. If they don’t, he tells the camera with quiet certainty, “when the child turns 18, I will come… and take it.” Take it where? “Away. With me.” His gravity gives everything he says a comic resonance.

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There’s not much action tying together Mike Colter and Marina Del Rey High School health teacher and aspiring musician Joe Bongo (Daly), but there doesn’t need to be. Colter keeps pace with Daly’s frenetic energy, predicting the unpredictable and adding a new tangent only when it contributes to the bit. “You own a boat? I can’t see that,” he says to Joe Bongo, breaking the yes, and rule of improv to excellent effect.

”I don’t live on a boat,” Joe Bongo responds, “I live on—”

Colter nods as he chimes in, “Boats.” He’s got the measure of this shiftless character already, and he’s ready to roll with whatever Daly throws out.

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(Andy Daly, Mike Colter) (Screenshot: IFC)

Not everyone can withstand the cheerful diversions into impropriety of an Andy Daly character, but Mike Colter is bulletproof. Harmless on the outside but corrupt just below the surface, Joe Bongo is exactly the kind of stealth creep who can make an unwary celebrity guest break on camera. In this screenshot, it looks like Colter is cracking up. But no. As Daly reveals the resentments Joe Bongo’s student band members bear him, Colter is wincing in sympathy (for the students, I presume).

For once, it’s Daly who’s starting to lose his composure over his own improvised lyrics. In his last plea to draw an audience to see Rosebush Red, his student band, at the Dana Point sidewalk sale, Joe Bongo adds, “There’s a pretty good chance the band is going to get into a bad fight.” But he doesn’t know yet what a bad fight looks like.

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Now that’s a bad fight.

Scott’s meet and greet and eat of the turkey he’s sponsored from King Turkey Farm brings the King family to the studio, so we’re privy to the inheritance squabble between Farmer King (McCulloch) and his three daughters, Regina (Norman), Go (Chang), and Cordy (Ellis).

Yeah, you get it.

The older daughters curry Dad’s favor with blandishments like “I love you from snood to wattle,” then turn against him. Ellis’ righteous indignation, her two sisters sniping at each other, McColloch venting King’s puny rage on God in a send-up of Lear’s “Blow, winds” speech: It’s a storm of tragedy played as comedy, and every bit of it works, including the Shakespearean epilogue Scott offers as the King family succumbs to a hundred years’ sleep from tryptophan overdose.

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Just when I thought I couldn’t be more thankful for this episode, the writers (as always, the episode is credited to the writers’ room, but the discarded script Scott picks out of the trash names only Neil Campbell) deliver one last stroke of stupid genius. While the King family sleeps away the century, Cordy’s army of turkeys (raised off-stage: the CB!B! budget isn’t that big, and neither is the studio) erects a new civilization around them. The episode’s stinger is both a rare post-epilogue epilogue and a recreation of the much-mocked ending of Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes. (I especially like the touch that all three daughters awaken from their Rip Van Winkle slumbers with long gray beards.)

Like a Thanksgiving dinner, there’s such rich bounty here that it’s easy to overlook smaller, simpler goodies. But even more than the outrageous characters, the preposterous leaps through time, or the scenery-chewing embrace of tragedy for comic purposes, Comedy Bang! Bang!’s essential flavor can be summed up in one gag. As Scott races to the oven to gaze at his long-awaited turkey, his appetite overwhelms him. Like a desert island castaway in an old-fashioned cartoon hallucinating his companion as something delicious, Scott suddenly sees his plump roasted turkey as… a plump roasted turkey. It’s the perfect embodiment of CB!B!’s ability to turn the tritest tropes inward on themselves. And in the midst of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Thanksgiving celebration, this tiny joke drives home a sobering fact: I am really going to miss these turkeys.

Stray observations

  • Scott’s on-screen credit: Scott Pilgriman
  • How long do you think wardrobe has been holding Scott’s turkey sweater in reserve?
  • “Say, are those turkeys cage-free?” “If you mean ‘Are they free to people who play Luke Cage?,’ the answer is no.”
  • “Blow, winds, blow! Make my whiskers and eyebrows flap and flail. Clouds, pour thine precipitation right into mine very eyes causing me to blink, for this is what I deserve for what I have done to my very own daughters. I have brought nature’s fury upon my very self. Heavens, strike me down with girthy bolts of thine finest lightning. Smite me now, dear Lord, unless you are… A GIGANTIC WUSSY BOY!” Yup, that’s Shakespeare, all right.

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