IFC's "Comedy Bang! Bang!" (premieres Fri., June 8, 10 p.m. ET) is based on the incredibly popular podcast from Scott Aukerman of "Mr. Show" fame (he's also the man behind Zach Galifianakis' hilarious talk show spoof series "Between Two Ferns"). The new show is part improv sketch show and part late-night talk show, complete with musical accompaniment from one-man-bandleader Reggie Watts.
In an age where a Twitter feed can be turned into a sitcom, it's not that much of a stretch to imagine a hilarious podcast becoming a sketch-talk show hybrid. Plus, Elizabeth Banks, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Michael Cera, Ed Helms, "Weird" Al Yankovic and Aukerman's pal Galiafianakis are all on tap to come hang out on the couch.
I visited the set to see what the show was all about, and got a little more insight into the format of things. Those 10 guests will be on the show as themselves for the interview portion of each episode. "Then we do kind of what we do on 'Between Two Ferns,' which is tape a lot of interview stuff, then cut it down to what's the best," Aukerman explained. "Then it's all kind of improv from there."
That's where the other well-known comedy stars -- including Will Arnett, David Cross, Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D, Will Forte, Colin Hanks, Gillian Jacobs, Nick Kroll, Thomas Lennon, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Casey Wilson, Chris Parnell, Andy Richter and Paul F. Tompkins, to name a few -- will be popping up as random characters in sketches throughout the show.
"The 10 guests, we pretty much went over a list with IFC of the people that we knew," Aukerman said. "I think they wanted to make a big impact with the bigger, more movie star names. So anyone who's not on as themselves, if they're reading this, they're not a movie star. This is confirmation. But you'll get there!"
During the set visit, "Mad Men" star (and Aukerman-certified movie star) Jon Hamm was there to chat; "Veep" funnyman and comedy guest star go-to Matt Walsh also popped by for a quick sketch cameo. Was that really the best they could do?
"Yeah, I know, but Laurence Olivier is dead. Well, I'm pretty sure he is. Either way, he's hard to get a hold of," Watts said. "It's been amazing. It's been fun to see how these people improvise so well. Ninety-nine percent of everybody who's been asked to do stuff has come to do stuff -- and stayed all day, which is nice."
Aukerman echoed the sentiment: "It's been really surprising to me -- it's been fantastic .. I was looking at the 'Stella' DVD the other day and it says 'Guest starring' and it had Paul Rudd and like three other people. I was like, if we did that on the DVD of this show, it'd be the entire cover." Is that a giant f*** you to "Stella"? "Yeah, definitely! [Laughs.] I mean, David Wain's gonna be on the show, but fuck the other two."
Aukerman wasn't looking to make the podcast into a TV show, but was more than game when IFC approached him with this idea.
"When IFC first came to me, I thought they wanted something more like 'Watch What Happens,' that show on Bravo," Aukerman said. "I thought it was going to be more like that, where I just talk to people, but it was really cool -- they said, 'Oh no, it'd be more like the sketch show that you've always wanted to do.' And I was like, 'Oh! Yeah. Even better.' Once I started thinking of it that way, knowing we could do more interesting stuff and put more comedy into it, it got really exciting."
The show isn't exactly easy to describe in detail. Believe me -- Watts tried. "There's all sorts of things -- there's weird birthing things, there's inter-dimensional things, there's production-gone-wrong situations, there's scale problems. A lot of fantastic elements to it. A lot of it, I don't fully know what every episode is about, so for me, it's kind of a fun thing to try to figure out. They hinge around a theme, and there's usually some kind of gag that's reinforced. Today, there's a gizmo and a boss."
Um ... What? And it doesn't stop there. "One sketch Reggie's in, it's like a fake trailer for a movie that is really incredible," Aukerman said, when asked about one of their weirder moments. "I think it's going to be a really interesting sketch, and it's one that I can't believe we're doing." (And no, it's not a porno -- I asked.)
But IFC seems to be game for anything and everything Aukerman throws at them. "I was putting a gun in a kid's face the other day ... [Laughs.] I'm surprised we never got a note about this. On 'Mr. Show,' we slit a kid's throat, so ... " Aukerman said with a laugh. "IFC has been great about letting us go crazy with the ideas. Most other places I've done shows at are very concerned with what they think their audience will get. They're always trying to dumb it down. And this, we'll turn in scripts and they love the super crazy ones."
"Comedy Bang! Bang!" premieres Fri., June 8, 10 p.m. ET on IFC.