Tsk-tsk, Judge Erich Asperschlager. Attaboy!
Comedy so nice, they banged it twice.
Comedy fans have more options than ever to see and hear the funniest folks do their thing, thanks to Twitter, streaming services, and podcasts. Since 2009, Mr. Show writer and improv comedian Scott Aukerman has given some of the biggest names a place to chat in and out of character on his podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! (formerly Comedy Death Ray). In 2012, Aukerman was given the opportunity by IFC to bring Comedy Bang! Bang! to TV. A year and a half later, the show's 10-episode first season arrives on DVD in a 2-disc set perfect for fans and newcomers alike.
Translating a freeform audio program to a 22-minute TV show isn't easy, but Aukerman and his writers found a way to twist the format into something new. Where the podcast is mostly Aukerman, Comedy Bang! Bang! takes a cue from late night TV with the addition of comedian-musician Reggie Watts as one man house band and sidekick. The chair and couch setup may look familiar, but Bang! Bang! is its own beast—somewhere between a talk show, sketch series, and performance art.
Each episode has an interview with a big name star, but those segments are a small part of a show that's bursting with bizarre asides, running gags, parody films, games, goofy interviews, and characters, characters, characters. Like the podcast and stage show before it, Comedy Bang! Bang! is a showcase for an endless parade of comedy greats in character—including Will Forte, David Wain, Tom Lennon, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Daly, David Cross, Jon Daly, and David Koechner. Bang! Bang!'s TV incarnation sees the return of podcast favorites like Paul F. Tompkins' Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cake Boss, Seth Morris' sad sack Bob Ducca, and (my personal favorite) Nick Kroll's radio host El Chupacabra. Comedy Bang! Bang! is a variety show masquerading as a talk show—a communal hangout packed to the rafters with Aukerman's comedian pals.
Although a good chunk of the show is the host sitting around talking to funny people, Comedy Bang! Bang! takes advantage of the medium with visual gags that wouldn't work in any of the show's previous incarnations. From a crewmember crushed by credits to the discovery of a tiny talk show in the wall to the revelation that the entire show is shot on green screen, Bang! Bang! has a surprising number of special effects shots for a comedy show. One more example of Aukerman's willingness to go for the biggest, funniest, and weirdest joke.
Comedy Bang! Bang! The Complete First Season sports a strong 1.78:1 transfer and crisp if front heavy 5.1 audio mix. The show looks and sounds great in standard-def. Sweet as it is to have instant access to these episodes, the best reason to run out and buy Bang! Bang!'s DVD debut are the bonus features. Some TV sets rely on repurposed promotional material to pad out a barebones release. Comedy Bang! Bang!'s extras more than double the original content, with more laughs, more music, and more characters:
• Audio commentaries for every episode with Scott Aukerman and special in-character guest appearances by Andy Daly, Nick Kroll, Paul F. Tompkins, Matt Besser, Seth Morris, Jon Daly, and Bob Odenkirk (as himself). These commentaries are essentially mini-podcast episodes focusing more the comedians than the episodes. The lone exception is Aukerman's solo commentary for the "Weird Al" episode—an engaging talk about the show, the podcast, the guests, and how it all came together.
• Deleted Scenes (5:59): Five extra scenes, including an ad for "Sullivan's Suds" and the game show segments "Ring It or Ding It" and "Are You More Sexually Experienced than a High School Senior?"
• "Full-Length Alternate Celebrity Interviews" (44:48): About four minutes of alternate (often looser) conversations with all of the first season guests except Adam Scott.
• "Supercut of Reggie Watts' Commercial Intro/Outros" (15:49): A mesmerizing, lengthy montage of Watts' improvised electronic music.
• "Director Ben Berman's Test Shoots for Special Effects" (7:47): Rough tests for many of the season's effects shots.
• "Insult Supercut from "The Assassin'" (1:05): More footage from the fake movie with Colin Hanks and Mike Hanford's cops saying more terrible things about Scott.
• Ultimate teaser trailer (1:34): "Find out what it all means" in this faux movie trailer for the show's first season.
• Alternate title sequence (0:48)
For the past four years Comedy Bang! Bang! has been one of the best comedy podcasts. Now it's one of TV's funniest shows. The Complete First Season DVD set would be worth buying just for the ten hilarious episodes, but it's a no-brainer for comedy fans thanks to more than seven hours of bonus features. This is how TV-on-DVD should be done. Fingers crossed Anchor Bay doesn't wait another year and a half to give us Season Two.
Bang! Bang! Not Guilty!
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