Comedy Bang Bang is, of all of my favourite podcasts, perhaps the one I recommend to friends the least because of how difficult it is to explain to potential listeners.
“It’s kind of a talk show, kind of an improv show, but kinda neither” I will poorly explain to them. Scott Aukerman, a veteran of LA’s alternative comedy scene and co-creator of Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns plays a friendly, yet surreal host character, almost like if David Letterman existed inside the universe of a Salvidor Dali painting. Scott will interview his celebrity guest, often posing absurd questions and playing guests against each other in ridiculous unwinnable games. Then halfway through the show it is “interrupted” by an improvised character played by a familiar comedian who has made their way onto the show through Scott’s infamous “open door policy” to guests. It is a tricky format to translate to a live show, especially one where people are paying around seventy dollars to travel to a large venue to see it.
And as an aside, it doesn’t help that the metro where the Sydney show was held had almost no seating. There are upsides to a comedy show with only standing tickets- laughs are much bigger the closer in you shove people, for example. Moreover, at the water cooler the next day you get to tell your coworkers you saw a show at the Metro. They might accidentally mistake you for being cool instead of being a dork who spends 70 dollars on tickets to a podcast. But the benefits end there. Greeks started sitting down for comedies more than 2300 years ago, and it was a innovation we universally appreciated until now. Luckily we arrived early enough to snag a few loose bar seats at the very back. However, a woman asked if her elderly mother could take one of our seats to ease her pain. Once we conceded this, it was a feeding frenzy. Elderly people the venue over saw one seat ceded and smelt blood in the water. Soon we would all be guilted into vacating our seats for frustrated looking seniors who had been tricked into attending an incomprehensible alternative comedy internet sensation for the night.
Other than the resulting foot and back pain i experienced from that point on, I really enjoyed the show. The opening act was Melbourne comedian Ray Badran whose brand of nonsensical bits about Cadbury favourites, the origins of the Toblerone, and a child named after the lyrics of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” solved the task of setting the tone for Scott and co.’s show. The second half opened with a stellar warm up set from American Sketch Comedian, improviser and writer Mike Hanford, who riffed fake historical moments that occurred all over the Metro’s stage, and read absurd made up excerpts from a book he was reading. Following this, Scott opened the show and brought out ex-Sydney native and Arts Revue Alum Claudia O’Doherty, who served as an American-Australian translator for the night and and who also repeatedly mentioned she had had won a contest to be there. The show was then joined by Paul F. Tompkins hilarious anti-characterisation of musical director Andrew Lloyd Webber who discussed his new musical opening at the opera house about a train that passes under a theatre. Orange Is the New Black’s Lauren Lapkus joined the crew as her confused, yet oblivious teenage intern character Traci Reardon. To close the show, Mike Hanford returned to the stage as hay-allergic hay salesperson Calvin Redding, whose admittedly boring detail-oriented descriptions of events became a trope complained about by Scott and the other guests.
This was an incredibly fun show, and a big step gulp of fresh air for a Sydney comedy scene which frequently ventures into absurd territory, but rarely manages to stay genuinely fun when it does so. However, I unfortunately couldn’t recommend it for weaklings like me with arch issues that can’t stand up for two and a half hours. These cruel standing venues aren’t made for our kind.