Comedian Scott Aukerman has been hosting the alt-comedy podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! (originally known as Comedy Death-Ray) since 2009, in which time it's become one of the most popular podcasts online. Aukerman also hosts the live Comedy Bang! Bang! showcase in Los Angeles, and is the producer of the popular web series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. Comedy Bang! Bang! recently launched as a TV series on IFC, and here Aukerman talks about adapting the podcast for TV, working with co-star Reggie Watts, and what to expect for the future of his projects.
What was your approach to adapting Comedy Bang! Bang! from a podcast into a TV show?
When I first got offered to do the show, I think naturally I was really wondering, “Okay, what do I do? How much of this should be exactly like the podcast, and how much of it should be different?” I think in conversations with the network, I just had questions about what they were looking for. They were all fans of the podcast. They gave me a TV show because they love the podcast and they listen to it every week. So what did they want to see from that? I think early on in our discussions I was really wondering, “Well, do you want it to be exactly like the podcast but we just kind of film it?” Like those old Howard Stern E! Entertainment shows. And they pretty quickly said, “No, we want this to be really just your talk show. What do you want to do as a talk show?” So when I started thinking about it more as, what have I always wanted to do as a talk show, and using elements from the podcast in that, it became very freeing for me and became really exciting to me, in terms of what I could do with it.
Had you always hoped to be able to bring the podcast to TV?
I mean, everyone always wants to have a TV show. But there was nothing in mind for that. Because I’ve been working as a screenwriter and producer since 1997, I’ve usually pitched probably five things a year, and I never had any intention of pitching this as a TV show. I just kind of always thought, “Well, who would want it?” I’m not a famous person, and it seems increasingly that most television networks don’t want to take any kind of chances anymore on people who aren’t famous already. Back in the days of yore, if I may speak about the days of yore, television made stars, they didn’t cast stars. But now because of the success of a lot of certain reality shows, like Dancing With the Stars, they don’t give TV shows out to anyone who isn’t famous anymore. So I never really thought that it would ever be anything much more than a podcast, and I was very happy with it being a podcast, because it’s the thing I’ve worked on over the years that’s allowed me the greatest creative freedom. So I had no thoughts of it. It was a total surprise to me. It was a crazy mid-career boon that I never expected would happen, that I would ever get my own television show. It’s really an incredible surprise to me.
Was it a difficult adjustment going from the freedom of the podcast to working with a network?
Well, I’ve worked with networks -- ever since 1997, I’ve been working in television and film. Is it weird to go from something that I have complete artistic freedom to doing something that’s named the exact same thing, for a network? You know, the great thing about IFC is they allowed me incredible freedom to do what I wanted on this show. I think I had to earn it. I think the pilot had to be really great, which it was. And I think the scripts that I turned in had to be really good. But they’ve been so supportive of everything I wanted to do that it feels to me exactly like doing the podcast, because there is so much freedom allowed to me by the network.
As the season progresses, will we see more familiar characters and elements from the podcast?
Yeah, definitely. I think fans of the podcast will see characters that they love on the show. We tried to take the most popular characters that have been on the [podcast] and have them on the show. We also have little nods or allusions to the podcast. It is a different universe. It’s a lot like the Avengers in the comic book are very different than the Avengers in the movie. But I try to have little Easter eggs and little nuggets of stuff that people will get excited for if you know the podcast really well. But I am shooting for a bigger audience than just the podcast listeners.