An Interview With Comedy Bang Bang’s Scott Aukerman

Scott Aukerman has been a fixture in the really, very good comedy scene since being recruited, with comedy partner B.J. Porter, to write and perform for Mr. Show in the mid ’90s. He’s since done many other things — wonderful things — including co-creating Between Two Ferns and co-founding the podcast network Earwolf. This Friday, June 8th at 10PM ET on IFC, marks the television debut of Comedy Bang! Bang!, Scott Aukerman’s absurd and fantastic comedy podcast-turned-TV show. (You can watch the full second episode here.) (You should!) (It’s great.) We recently spoke with him about Comedy Bang! Bang!, its evolution, and then also some other things. Let’s all read it together, huh? Why not!

Videogum: What is your process for preparing the episodes for the podcast, and have you found any difference now in how you prepare with your guests for the TV show?

Scott Aukerman: For the podcast, I am woefully unprepared. I usually come in — in fact, I’m taping one in a couple of hours and I just realized that I have no idea what I’m going to do. But for the TV show, because they’re spending several million dollars of it I kind of had to have some semblance of preparation, which typically amounted to me and my friends coming up with a few smart-ass questions and hoping for the best.

Videogum: Was the idea to have the podcast be kind of absurd in that way — and now the TV show, with its sketch comedy meets interview style format — an idea that evolved from something more traditional, or is the way we see Comedy Bang Bang now the idea you had from the beginning?

Scott: Actually, with the first three shows that I did, I thought it was going to be more of an interview show where I really talked to comedians about their art forms, and about their secret pain. But I quickly realized that that wasn’t interesting — or at least I couldn’t do it. Maybe someone like a Marc Maron could do something like that, I don’t know. But I realized that it wasn’t my strong suit, so very quickly I turned it around and started just talking to characters more, and that’s where I think the show found its sweet spot — around episode 6 or episode 8, that’s when we figured it out.

Videogum: Do you remember what the turning point was during those episodes?

Scott: At the beginning, I thought it should maybe be a little more prepared than what it ended up being. I think when I started I imagined it would sort of be like on a traditional talk show, where, I don’t know if you know this, but on a traditional talk show every part of the conversation is usually planned out ahead of time. So if you go on a traditional talk show, you tell the producers what you want to say, and the host and the guests pretend like they’re having a real conversation, but it’s all kind of scripted out. So I originally thought that that was going to be how I did the show. So early on in some of those early episodes a comedian like Natasha Leggero would come on, and I’m asking her questions that were really just me setting her up to do bits from her act. But at a certain point in one of those early shows, I had Andy Daly on who was doing a really strange character, and the questions I was asking him — I was trying to derail him, because he was such an amazing improviser. And when I started doing that I was like — There’s something. I like that, I really enjoyed that. So the show sort of evolved into being more of that, to the point where none of it is prepared and, you know, you press record and hope for the best.

Videogum: You got your start in comedy as a writer and performer on Mr. Show, but do you remember the first time you wrote or performed something you felt proud of, or the thing that sparked that interest?

Scott: My mom tells a story about me appearing in a church play when I was five, where I said my line and everybody laughed, and she says my eyes widened and I got a look on my face, like, “Oh, wow. I like this.” So I feel like that might have been the first time. But the very first time I started doing professional comedy, the very first show I ever did at the comedy store with BJ Porter — I was really, really nervous and everyone who saw what we were going to do — well, for example, I remember BJ’s girlfriend at the time saw us rehearsing and told us that everyone was going to hate it. So I remember being very proud after we did that show that everyone loved it, and it really struck a chord with people. So that’s probably the time that meant the most to me.

Videogum: When was that in your comedy timeline?

Scott: I was always really interested in comedy, I was a big comedy nerd growing up. I watched Letterman every single night, I would tape it and then watch it when I got home from school, so I was always interested in it. I just never imagined that I would be able to get into the field professionally. I always kind of felt like my sense of humor was too weird or too bizarre — that no one would understand it, and you know, when you’re not a professional comedian and you’re trying to be funny around your coworkers, they find it obnoxious as well. So I just never really thought I could get into it, so the fact that I did and am still making a living at it, and now I have my own TV show — it is very surprising. To both me and the audience.

Videogum: Did you have any reservations about taking Comedy Bang Bang from a podcast to a TV show?

Scott: I think I had maybe more confidence than I should have. I never felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, or really ever had any reservations. I felt 100% confident that this would be a great show, more so than anything else I’ve ever worked on. The pilot — I thought it came out great. And I knew what I wanted to do and I executed it. I’m really proud of what we did. So I never really had any kind of reservations about it. I think people are going to like it, and if they don’t then they still have the podcast.

Videogum: And finally, to close: Where do you get your ideas?

Scott: I get my ideas from other stuff on the internet. I usually steal everything that I do. The great thing about the internet is that there’s so much out there. There’s so much comedy out there that it’s really easy to just go and take — you know, from unsuspecting people who aren’t famous — take their jokes. And no one cares because they’re not famous and I am.

Videogum: Great.

Scott: Please tell everyone I was joking when I said that, please.

Videogum: I don’t know, it sounded honest.