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When Comedy Bang! Bang! actively tries to be weirder, it’s more average than ever

Illustration for article titled When iComedy Bang! Bang!/i actively tries to be weirder, it’s more average than ever
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This week’s episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, “David Krumholtz Wears A Blue Zip-Up Jacket And Grey Sneakers,”makes it far too easy to ponder something that is ultimately revealed to be absolute bullshit: whether or not Comedy Bang! Bang! in all of its intelligent stupidity “deserves” to be called “art” or not.

It does, so let’s not dwell on that.

Yes, the episode concludes with the reveal that the Andy Warhol proxy Andy Battle-Corridor (played by Andy Dick) is full of crap when it comes to the artistry of Comedy Bang! Bang!, as he is simply pushing his pro-soup agenda. But at the same time, it’s no secret that a lot of work goes into Comedy Bang! Bang! to make an original, inventive comedy show. There is too much effort not to call it art and not for what ever reasons the Battle-Corridor character mentiones.


However, half the fun of the humor in the series is how much it feels like it’s the results of Scott Aukerman and the writers going for the things that will crack themselves up the most. The only time that’s really a problem is when it happens in the episodes that lack solid endings—the ones that end with a “time to wrap this up” type of ending, which is basically what we get this week. The show’s at its best when it feels effortless, not when it is effortless. However, this episode doesn’t even appear to be effortless for the most part (until the end); it’s just that the show’s attempts to do something more different don’t actually work.

Call Comedy Bang! Bang! a hipster comedy show if you will, but I can’t imagine ever feeling or acting high and mighty over watching the show. I mention that because that’s the type of confidence that Battle-Corridor carries with him in his decision to classify Comedy Bang! Bang! as art in the first place. In fact, as much as this is an episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! about what counts as art or what’s cool, it’s also an episode that points out the inherent problems with criticizing art, especially on a quantitative level. And yes, I realize how that sounds.


You of course have Battle-Corridor, who is shown to be completely unhinged (and wants the show to be less accessible and more bizarre, which is a very lofty goal) before it’s revealed he has ulterior motive and is a subjective judge of character. Then you have Scott’s 10 point scale, where he makes it clear that “points are bad” (so zero is the best you can get, and one is the second best). There are also the comment cards that Scott has David Krumholtz fill out and that Giuliana Rancic was really harsh about. Sadly, no one addresses the fact that the best grade anything can get is a C+, effectively ruining the square of criticism criticism. All of this is coming in a post-Brett Gelman “fuck The A.V. Club” Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast episode world, and intentional or not, it feels born out of that. Honestly, all I can really say about it is an oldie but a goodie: Comedy is still very much subjective, and that’s something that Comedy Bang! Bang! makes perfectly clear with every single episode. Criticizing criticism is far from this episode’s problem.

Plus, the idea of Comedy Bang! Bang! not being a weird enough show is a strange one, which is why a character like Battle-Corridor is what/who he is. Apart from critics, the character of Andy Battle-Corridor is very much a projection of Andy Warhol “lovers” who only know about the soup cans and the Men In Black III interpretation of the man. It’s not just a ridiculous role, it’s a role that could quite possibly be played by any other actor; but the casting choice of Andy Dick is one that immediately stands out as an intentional one. Andy Dick’s role as a comedian/funnyman is one that has been mocked for years. In fact, one of my favorite lines from Childrens Hospital’s first season is when Blake, reading comedy books during surgery for “healing power of laughter” purposes, says to himself: “Andy Dick did comedy?” However, Comedy Bang! Bang! (both the show and the podcast, both of which Andy Dick has appeared on prior to this episode) and Scott Aukerman tend to have a way of mining either the best or unexpected from known performers. Andy Dick just so happens to be one of those performers, whether you like him or not.


Outside of what the character really means, even before the soup executive reveal, there’s an odd delight to come from witnessing Andy Battle-Corridor’s progressively growing fetish with soup and their cans. The reveal at the end obviously puts him and his interest into a “normal” context, but the fact that it even takes Scott as long as he does to call it out allows it to become grow for a decent amount of time.

In the guest side of things, we have charming child-turned-adult-actor David Krumholtz, who was definitely on my “duh” list of people who just make sense as guests on Comedy Bang! Bang! Only, with his appearance now, there’s the added baggage of Krumholtz’s appearance being an appearance from that guy who masquerades as an elderly woman on a weekly basis now. With that shift, from someone who simply makes sense on an IFC show to being someone who’s on an IFC show that doesn’t make sense, it’s difficult not to compare what Krumholtz is currently doing to his past work. Even stranger, this episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! makes fun of Krumholtz’s past work—as is necessary when it comes to the said-like-it’s-spelled NUMB3RS—without even acknowledging his current work on the same network. But that’s probably for the best, as Krumholtz’s charm remains throughout the episode; whether he’s introducing himself under Battle-Corridor’s “avante-garde” orders or dropping a clip of his “foreign” commercial for Papa Pat’s pizzeria… in Colorado. It’s a pleasant guest appearance, which is only “bad’ in the sense of not being as laugh-out-loud as past guests. If nothing else, it’s an appearance that makes me hope “the homie David Krumholtz” makes an appearance on Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast.

Speaking of the podcast, memory expert Arthur Steinborn (Joe Wengert) is certainly one of the characters who doesn’t quite work within the context of the television series but is aces in the less rigid format of the podcast. It doesn’t help that a similar type of character was just also on the podcast very recently—Paul F. Tompkins’ Atherton Witherflower. As the character went on and on about memory tricks, all I could think about is how numbers (and NUMB3RS) don’t lie, but letters—which Steinborn used quite a few of—do. So a combination of the medium itself and the timing were instantly working against the character.


As I’ve said before, the out-of-studio bits are my often times my favorite part of any given Comedy Bang! Bang!, and Naughty Scotty makes a fine new entry into the catalog. There’s always a twist and a swerve with these bits, and the street tough, “Small Stinkos” are sort of on the obvious side; of course, “kid” Scott would have to either confront some actual kids or some… unseemly adults. But Scott’s “kid” voice combined with him actually pulling one over on people (and really hitting them hard with notable child expressions like “up your nose with a rubber hose” and “up your butt with a coconut”) is too fun to get bothered by the obvious sides of it all. It’s even funnier when the porn guy knows Scott very well and can’t “be cool,” despite no other adult or child realizing what was going on. The bit ending with millionaire Scott’s heartfelt speech about wanting to adopt the Small Stinkos after 37 minutes of friendship is humorous, but it also ends up reading like a much lesser version of the phenomenal The Parole Disagreement trailer from “A$AP Rocky Wears A Black Button Up And Black Sneakers.”

Also, I have to mention this: Kid Cudi wears a onesie in this episode. He’s Kid Cudi, and he’s living the #cudlife, so he can still be considered cool while doing so, but it’s definitely the most memorable thing about him in this episode. It’s followed in memorability by the “great show”/“grape show” exchange in the beginning of the episode and his introducing of David Krumholtz in the opening credits as “the homie David Krumholtz.” Despite being the new kid on the block, Cudi has pulled his own weight as the bandleader and Scott’s right-hand man, so it actually sticks out when he doesn’t get a chance to do that.


“David Krumholtz Wears A Blue Zip-Up Jacket And Grey Sneakers” asks the question of just how much more avant-garde and ironically detached Comedy Bang! Bang! can get. It’s a challenge both within the show itself and to the audience’s expectations. As it turns out, in doing so and addressing the “shift,” it’s not really that much different from or subversive than most of the show’s other episodes. In fact, it falls right down the middle.

Stray observations

  • Scott’s Onscreen Credit: Steve Miller Band
  • I’m sorry for reminding you all of Men In Black III. I’m apologizing to myself as well.
  • By the way—because people asked me before I had listened to the podcast episode—I had/have no hard feelings over the Brett Gelman thing. I honestly just found it extremely surreal and still do.
  • “Giuliana Rancic was on the show last week…” Comedy Bang! Bang! is such a self-contained show that any addressing of a show canon we never actually see—that the show goes on even with episodes we just can’t watch—is such a great touch.
  • Sorry about the vasectomy, Scott. That’s what you get for dating your urologist.
  • Obviously I like to pretend as though only my reviews of this show exist, but I’ll break that unwritten rule to say that I agreed with Emily L. Stephen’s take on last week’s “Robert Kirkman Wears A Tan Blazer And Red Suit Pants” I expected much more from the episode the second I realized it was a Rocky Horror Picture Show riff, but I feel like it lost the thread as the episode went on.

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