Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Some Big Bang finds its way into the jar of Bang! Bang!

Kate Berlant (left), Kaley Cuoco
Kate Berlant (left), Kaley Cuoco
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Back in August, news broke that this current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! would be the series’ last. The news came just two months after regular TV Club coverage for the series ended. That’s not to say there’s any causation or even correlation between the two events though. Because while regular coverage is in fact back for this second half of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s fifth and final season, as far as anyone knows, that doesn’t mean IFC will decide to give the show new life.

But at least now we can all take this road that “look[s] like a white light” together.

Scott: “I haven’t done any research on this topic, but I believe she only appears on television shows with the word ‘bang’ in the title. Please welcome Kaley Cuoco.”

One of the things that makes Comedy Bang! Bang! so unique is how full of surprises it can be when it comes to celebrity guests excelling at the show’s basic premise and comedy style. For example, nobody expects much from a guest like Lil Jon, and then he ends up being a “cork dork” and getting people interested in turtle farms. Having a celebrity guest subvert or exceed expectations is one of the things I’ll miss most about Comedy Bang! Bang! the series when it‘s gone.

Unfortunately, this week’s return to the Bang!-verse isn’t able to strike that kind of magic with celebrity guest Kaley Cuoco, no matter how much the episode attempts to lean into the obvious concept that she’s not being the “typical” Comedy Bang! Bang! guest. She’s not a “friend of the show” from the podcast; she’s the $1 million an episode star of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. She’s not from Comedy Bang! Bang!’s world of ironic, alternative comedy; she’s from a very broad, popular multi-camera sitcom. But that contrast isn’t even necessarily a bad thing, as it would lead to quite the pleasant surprise for Cuoco to be a standout guest here, especially as she ushers in the end of an era for Comedy Bang! Bang!

Scott: “This interview is going great.”
Kaley: “It really is going great. I’m not uncomfortable at all.”

Scott: “Let’s put this awkwardness behind us and continue with this even more awkward interview.”
Kaley: “Okay, I will.”

“Kaley Cuoco Wears A Black Blazer And Slip On Sneakers” unfortunately comes across less like a standout and more like an attempt to salvage a less-than-stellar guest appearance from Cuoco. Her opening line about not doing jokes “unless they’re written for me” is actually a solid introduction, but it quickly becomes apparent through the rest of the episode that the line itself isn’t so much a joke as a warning. For all of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s looser-seeming moments, it sticks out like a sore thumb when an actor isn’t comfortable with that. And that’s what happens here. Even worse, the episode’s calling to attention of the uncomfortable and awkward guest spot doesn’t even make it humorously uncomfortable and awkward—it simply remains flat. The show’s regular interview interruptions (after a prank or workout “question”) are in full force this episode, and there’s even a fake movie trailer to go with that.

The comedic beats Cuoco even has when the focus is on her aren’t anything special, but they at least give her something to do, which appears the be the episode’s biggest struggle. The bit about her finalizing her will is helped by the running thread that Cuoco doesn’t much care for Scott (“Weird Al,” she admits she just met) and the always welcome use of Scottie Pippen for comedy’s sake. But the paparazzi bit—which does end solidly and with a great sight gag—is pretty much the most basic aspect of the episode’s approach to Kaley Cuoco. She’s pretty and famous, you see. It’s an appearance where the only instance of the guest going outside of their comfort zone is just in the very act of being on Comedy Bang! Bang! in the first place. Cuoco doesn’t truly feel comfortable with the show until she’s no longer the focus; her best work here comes from joining in on lifestyle coach Karen and “Weird Al” pile on about Scott’s body language and when she questions the very concept of Karen Water.

Illustration for article titled Some Big Bang finds its way into the jar of Bang! Bang!

The flatness also brings a new perspective to the always welcome fake movie trailer bit. That’s not just because of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s truly poignant line about Scott spending too much time on time on these movies instead of the show but because, here, it ends up helping the episode fill for time until the character guest (Kate Berlant as lifestyle coach Karen) is introduced. The movie trailer is very much one joke—literally, as it’s all about the “[blank] looks like [blank]” joke set-up from trailers for movies like That Awkward Moment or even action-comedy Deadpool—but it’s fun for the beats it goes through in the trailer. From the bro comedy to the growing up comedy to the sad, Oscar bait film, the episode pretty much gets to the point with the basic concept that Scott’s character “used to be a punch-up guy for big Hollywood movies.”


Still, this episode (which isn’t the worst thing the show has ever done but still rather run of the mill) is pretty much about leaning into things, no matter how much they may or may not work. One of Kaley Cuoco’s punchlines is literally “I do Pilates,” so it’s not like it’s going against the grain here. But it is a credit to Comedy Bang! Bang! that it’s able to take its topical “Make America Great Again” concept and transform it into an Avengers/superhero movie riff almost immediately, as well as acknowledge just how lame (as intentionally as it often is, as evidenced by Pecos Bill and his rope) the entire plot is through Scott’s bored reactions. There’s also something there about the MacGuffin aspect of these superhero movies and how they’re absolute nonsense to viewers outside of the hardcore fanbase, even when they very much matter to the plot.

But ultimately, the plot feels like bad dress-up, even with the talented cast who are playing said dress-up. Jay R. Ferguson is perfect casting for Paul Bunyan, Aaron Stanford (who had a small part in “Tony Hale Wears A Blue Flannel Shirt And Fuchsia Sneakers”) gets to play a badass version of Johnny Appleseed, and David Anders continues his career of playing television’s most delightful villains as Loki, despite how underserved the role is here. You certainly can’t say the actors don’t commit to this plot and framing device, as the very existence of Calamity Jane (Heather Lawless) and her caustic accent is proof of an intense amount of effort. But the best part the entire plot comes in the form of the mockumentary aspect, which is actually a part of this episode’s mid-commercial break spot—due in very large part to James Adomian busting out his Sam Elliott voice for the occasion.

This episode unfortunately never really gets into another gear, no matter which approach it goes with. The Kaley Cuoco interview never truly becomes as awkward or uncomfortable as the episode keeps saying it is, while the solid Karen character and her schtick feel like a much-needed detour from the episode itself. (It honestly feels like it deserves its own thing on Adult Swim, which is definitely not a negative criticism.) There’s still plenty of small things to latch on to with “Kaley Cuoco Wears A Black Blazer And Slip On Sneakers”—like the fact that the folk heroes returning Loki’s scepter to Mount Rushmore apparently changes Scott’s paycheck, Back To The Future style—but as a return to the chaotic world of Scott Aukerman and Comedy Bang! Bang!, this doesn’t quite hit the mark.


Stray observations

  • Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Stan Lieberman.
  • Thanks to everyone who got vocal about the slashing of Comedy Bang! Bang! coverage. I can’t say with any sort of confidence that it’s what brought coverage back from the dead, but I still want to thank you all.
  • “Weird Al”: “You have the power to summon things and you never mentioned it?! Why haven’t you summoned your dead wife?!”
  • Comedy Bang! Bang! wins again by making it clear that the folk heroes are definitely going after the Norse god of mischief Loki and not anything resembling Marvel’s legally-owned Loki.
  • The Scottie Pippen aspect of Cuoco finalizing her will is oddly prescient, considering recent Scottie Pippen news.
  • Loki’s scepter was at some really important events in American history, such as: the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the premiere of Waterworld, Macklemore. “Loki’s scepter: Truly the source of America’s greatness.”
  • None of that explains why Calamity Jane’s weapon of choice is a lightsaber though.
  • I obviously have to point out that Janet Varney plays Scott Aukerman’s love interest in Things That Look Like Other Things, but I must also point out that the politician Loki pretends to be is played by Paul Gilmartin, Varney’s former Dinner And A Movie co-host. Only on Comedy Bang! Bang!
  • Unsurprisingly, Judd Apatow is credited as the director for Things That Look Like Other Things.
  • Scott: “Are you licensed to do this?”
    Karen: “Heh. Shh, shh, shh.”
    Scott: “That’s not really an answer…”