Comedy Bang! Bang! is such a weird show. That’s not exactly a secret, but as a fan of the show, sometimes it’s easy to take for granted just how weird it is and can be. I’ve definitely called the show out in that before, and this probably won’t be the last time I do it; but sometimes it’s necessary to take a moment and just appreciate how great that weirdness is. Even without the framing device, this week’s episode features Stephen Merchant—who gets his weirdness cred both from Hello Ladies and simply from being British—and an awful karate instructor (played Childrens Hospital’s Rob Huebel) as part of the chaos. Within the framing device though, there’s Michael McKean as the Greek god Zeus, who just so happens to be Scott’s biological father. Enough said.
Scott: “But have you ever stopped to think, if [Evolution’s] true, who’s Jesus’ dad?”
Scott: “Of course! It’s right there in the Bible. The sacred texts.”
On the recent Fred Savage/Wayne Federman episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast, Scott referred to “Stephen Merchant Wears A Checkered Shirt And Rolled Up Jeans” as “the Ray Harryhausen episode,” and that alone was enough hype for this episode. Like a lot of Comedy Bang! Bang! gimmicks, the thought of the show pulling a Jason And The Argonauts or a Clash Of The Titans (this episode does both) simple comes with a “What took you so long?” Just from the stop-motion skeletons from the former film alone, it’s apparent that this is a parody or an homage that belongs on a show like Comedy Bang! Bang! In fact, if Comedy Bang! Bang! wanted to, it could probably get a lot of mileage out of having more episodes dedicated only to Greek mythology-related pop culture. But since Comedy Bang! Bang! appears to have a fountain of ideas, this episode will have to do. Not bad for a one-and-done, right?
Actually, despite how weird this is, someone who wouldn’t typically a up for Comedy Bang! Bang!’s sense of humor might get a kick out of the blast from the past with the Argonauts/Titans story. The show even releases the Kraken, which is simply the sign of a show going all out.
Yes, the solutions to Hera’s three trials are all very Comedy Bang! Bang! There are sticks and stones (drum sticks and a rock collection) for the bones (skeleton); beer goggles and a surprise pocket mirror for Medusa; and daddy issues for the Kraken. But like the best Comedy Bang! Bang! episodes, this is clearly a labor of love. Unlike Scott’s relationship with his dad.
Of all the character traits Comedy Bang! Bang! gives Scott, his daddy issues are definitely up there as one of the most fun. Scott still doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad—especially not like the one he has with his mom—and there’s just something about a try-hard Scott rearing his ugly head, since we usually have “no fucks” Scott. Dave Thomas’ Burt Aukerman is even more “no fucks” than standard Scott, and he nails the typical disappointed dad routine again and again. Given Scott’s age—28 years old, of course—I’m sure he blasted this song at least once in his life.
Stephen Merchant: “Well, I haven’t seen the Empire Strikes Back, but I’m pretty confident Luke’s father is Uncle Owen.”
There’s something about this episode that makes it come across like a picture of earned smugness. Scott and company spend most of their punchlines laughing at or acknowledging how funny they are, and that’s not exactly an easy thing to do without eventually coming off as lame. The amount of “hehehe”s from Scott and Cudi in this episode alone would feel out of place around the Greek epic framing device, if not for the fail that they just nail it. But even with the forced laughs, it’s obvious they’re having as much fun as the audience. One of the best moments of the episode is when Merchant goes through the details of his Dickensian pick-pocketting ring.
Scott: “You doing a lot of walking with children?”
Stephen Merchant: “You’d be surprised. Yeah, it’s creepy. And also, I have a Fagin-like pick-pocketting gang.”
Scott: “Do you really?”
Stephen Merchant: “Yes. So obviously, when I flee the scene of a pick-pocketting, a lot of those children can’t run as fast. And it took us years to figure that out. There was a lot of deaths.”
Scott: “What’s the youngest age that one of those children died at?”
Stephen Merchant: “I feel like… A four-year-old.”
Scott: “That’s a funny story.”
Stephen Merchant: “Yeah.”
Scott: “That’s a good talk show story.”
It’s a great bit on its own, with Scott and his wry smile along for the ride, but what really sells it is how Scott appears to be doing everything in his power to avoid breaking. It’s dark, but it’s especially obvious once they get to the death bit. It’s like Scott himself can’t even believe it’s gotten this far, but he wants to see how it plays out. When the camera focuses on Stephen during the death part, you can even kind of see that Scott is barely keeping it in, just from his cheek bones.
As for Rob Huebel’s role as karate instructor Dave Grigsby, that is a treat from the moment he walks onscreen with that brutal black eye and need to constantly bow. Everyone is on their game in this episode, and a moment like the attempted scheduling of the mugger role play (they landed on August, I believe) is just a really great bit of give and take. As the segment goes on and we learn “krav maga is for pussies,” how out of touch Dave Grigsby really is becomes strangely beautiful. He’s not just in a feud with a six-year-old, cheap-shotting student; he’s willing to start a gang war out of it, with everyone at Comedy Bang! Bang! in that moment as his unwilling crew. It’s weird, but weird is the name of the game. It works so well in “Stephen Merchant Wears A Checkered Shirt And Rolled Up Jeans,” and you can take that to the big bank.
- Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Shock and Aukerman
- In conclusion, Scott Aukerman is Jesus and Luke Skywalker; Burt is Joseph and Uncle Owen; Zeus is God and Darth Vader. This all checks out.
- As I can never shut off the Earwolf podcasts in my head… As soon as the skeleton showed up, even though I knew the source material, my mind immediately went to Hollywood Handbook: Not only did I write “spooky” in my notes, I jotted down how appropriate it was that this episode had a “Skellington.”
- Scott: “I’m Scott Aukerman. And if you’re watching us on your mobile device, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!? You’re gonna use up all the data on your family plan! Your dad is gonna be pissed!” Every other Scott line in this episode is a cry for help.
- Scott: “Ooh, Whiplash, baby!”
Kid Cudi: “Whiplash, baby! Got a little Whiplash!”
Scott: “Hehehe. Hey, what are those, maple 6As with a tapered nylon tip?”
Kid Cudi: “You know it!”
Scott: “What kind of drums ya’ banging those bad boys onto, huh? Snares, toms, congas, timpanis?”
Kid Cudi: “No. Uh, I actually don’t own a drum set. I wanted to master the sticks first.” He proceeds to “play” the drums and perform a touching song. “LIGHTNING STRIKE!”
- Kid Cudi: (re: goat to Zeus transformation): “That was like the ‘Black Or White’ video!”
- Scott: “Alright, let’s get to our first guest. He’s a lot like me: tall, blonde, funny. Oh, and thirsty as hell.”
- Obviously all the ladies love goat Zeus, but what’s your preferred animal version of the Greek god?
- Scott’s fake-out trial with the “hellhound” was already a winner for me, but then the dog ended up having the same name as my dog, only spelled differently. Then I loved the bit forever. #RIPChewie (not my dog)
- Scott: “What do you think, Dad? I bet none of your friends’ kids ever defeated a Medusa.”
Burt: “Yeah, well none of my friends’ kids ever got drunk at work, either.”
- It’s the little things that count: When the show comes back from commercial break, post-Medusa, Scott is drinking a cup of coffee and tells himself that he’s “gotta sober up.”
- If there’s on disappointment in this episode, it’s that we don’t get a clip of Stephen Merchant’s new TV series, The Merchant Of Venice Beach.