Scott Aukerman Has Learned from Kelsey Grammer’s Mistakes

Scott Aukerman

IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! is, on some level, a talk show hosted by comedy veterans Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts and loosely tied to Aukerman’s hit podcast of the same name. But it seems to occupy a terrifying reality that only bears a loose resemblance to our own: on any given episode, a lovable talking bird might get eviscerated, Scott might accidentally send himself to hell, or an attempt to show a movie clip might devolve into a disorienting feedback loop.

And now, Aukerman is bringing his delightfully surreal and horrifically amoral comedy to the stage in New York City. Comedy Bang! Bang! LIVE! — which bears the tagline, “Like the podcast? Fan of the TV show? Well, it’s not that.” — goes up for two shows at the Highline Ballroom tonight. I chatted with Aukerman about interest rates, his taint, some exciting Reggie Watts-related news, and much more.

It seems like you have a lot of freedom to make “Comedy Bang! Bang” as surreal as you want. Does IFC give you total creative control?

I don’t wanna say we have total creative control. That sounds like something that was in our contracts or negotiated or something. We just had a lot of creative control because IFC trusts us. They loved the pilot. We made a really great template with the pilot that we’ve followed through all the episodes.

There’s a template? Each episode seems so unpredictable.

Well, we thought we over-shot the pilot. That was the interesting thing: we shot a lot of stuff, and then, in the edit, we took a look at it and we were like, “Wow, I think we can fit everything in, actually.” For the pilot, we ended up fitting every single piece in, that we shot, and it really made it a kind of fast-paced, breezy half-hour that we really were struck by. Y’know, “Wow, this feels really new! We’re not staying on anything for a long time, but it’s not something like Kelsey Grammer’s sketch show, where it’s pieces that are–”

Sure, Kelsey Grammer’s sketch show. Such a common reference point.

Yeah, I’m trying to think of another one. There’s just been a lot of attempts over the years to make short show sketches, and most often, what they do is little 90-second scenes that are not connected to each other. They’re just supposed to be like reading Bazooka Joe comics, one after the other. But we really had something here.

I mean, the whole reason that it’s a talk show and it’s a talk show starring me is because it gives you a through-line and it gives you a point of view, which is the most common note that you’ll ever get if you’re trying to do a sketch show at any network. “What is the point of view?” Normally, the only answer you have is, “Uhh, it’s this group! And they’re doing sketches!” That used to be enough, back in the day, but it’s not, these days.

So the template we’re following from show to show– there’s a basic structure that we’re following from show to show, in terms of how long the pieces are and when certain things happen. But other than that, we don’t have a template like, “At this point, Crowpoke comes out.” Y’know? That was one thing the network and I talked about pretty early on. If we were gonna do ten episodes, I really want every single piece in every single one to be totally different.

Whenever you toss to or from commercials, Reggie Watts starts improvising a song at his keyboard console, and I always get so frustrated, because they’re these amazing snippets and we never hear the full songs. How long do they usually run, in uncut form?

He probably does two minutes or so with each one. That’s one thing we’re investigating for the DVD, is to do extended versions of those. But yeah, they’re totally improvised songs that he makes up. We go, “Hey, we have a commercial coming up next,” and then he’ll sit there with his machinery and just kinda come up with something on the fly, and they’re really interesting. I mean, that’s Reggie! He never repeats songs. I think “Fuck Shit Stack” is the only song he’s ever repeated, in his oeuvre. He views his riffed songs — songs that are better than 90% of what all musicians out there are making — he views them as disposable.

You were a writer and performer on Mr. Show with Bob and David, and in a much-beloved sketch, you played a young man who becomes famous for showing off his taint. Were you worried about getting naked that early in your career?

I’ll tell you a secret: that was supposed to be Bob. I wrote it for Bob, and Bob, in his infinite wisdom, figured out that he didn’t wanna be the person rolling around naked for the 28th time on the show. (Laughs) I think something just clicked for him where he was like, “Ahhh, I don’t wanna be naked anymore.” So he gave it to me. It definitely was one of those things where– yeah, I almost felt like the models that pornographers exploit, where I’m just like, “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I want fame so bad!”

What did you do before “Mr. Show”? Do you have any job experience that you can fall back on, if need be?

I worked for Dean-Witter in Santa Maria, California, which is– an investment firm? I think? It really tells you how little I knew about my job, the fact that I don’t even really know what they did there. But I was hired because I was at the local theater and this wonderful woman wanted a theatrical person to cold-call people and see if they were interested in refinancing.

So I got hired to do that, where I would say, “Hi! Interest rates are– fill in the blank.” I don’t even really know what an interest rate is. Is it a hundred dollars? Is it a percentage? A hundred percent? “Interest rates are a hundred percent! Would you like to refinance your home?” And then they would be like, “Yeah, I would! Tell me more!” and I’d go, “Uh-oh. Hold on, let me get you to talk to my boss.”

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