Back in 2009, comedian and writer Scott Aukerman launched Comedy Death-Ray Radio, a program that brought in comedians and entertainers to participate in a satirical talk show hosted by Aukerman, as guests played characters with outlandish backstories. While it began as a genuine radio show, the next two years would see the project evolve and become the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, which would only continue to grow in popularity and eventually earn five seasons of a TV series on IFC, multiple nation-wide tours, and a variety of spin-offs, in addition to paving the way for what could be accomplished with the medium.
Aukerman's latest project, Comedy Bang Bang World, is an all-new platform that not only delivers fans the flagship series, earning more than 700 episodes over the past 12 years, but also spin-off series from throughout the podcast's history, such as Rob Huebel's Mike Detective or Seth Morris' Affirmation Nation, along with new series like Scott Hasn't Seen and CBB! Presents.
ComicBook.com caught up with Aukerman to talk the new project, highlights from the podcast's history, and his attempts to write about Spider-Man in any way possible.
ComicBook.com: Before we go any further, of course, Heynong Man.
Scott Aukerman: Heynong Man, of course. Thank you. Nice to meet a fan, appreciate it.
I'm not even a fan, I just do my research. So I listened to 700-plus episodes just to prepare for these 15 minutes.
Oh, okay. Good. That took you the past five years or so?
I've been planning this for quite some time, since podcasting was invented five years ago. So as soon as -- whenever Conan's podcast came out, and then I think there was some experimental stuff that he was orchestrating behind the scenes.
Yeah, it was around four years or so ago. I'd have to check the records, but right around there. But now we're fully entrenched in the Zeitgeist. So yeah, I'm ready to talk about this new art form.
You announced just a few weeks ago, this Comedy Bang Bang World, and there have been various different podcasts networks and platforms and subscription services over the years, with Stitcher Premium, Wolfpop, and things like that.
Wolfpop was the most popular.
That's where it got its name, that's what "pop" was short for. For fans who are curious about this and wondering, what makes Comedy Bang Bang World different or unique or so exciting? For these long-time fans, what will make them want to invest their "buco dolores" to subscribe?
What happened was, not to get too into the weeds of contracts and behind-the-scenes things, but I regained control of the master recordings of all of the Comedy Bang Bang episodes. So I was trying to figure out what to do with them, and everything was going fine, and could have just kept going the way I was going, but during the pandemic, when we were all trapped at home, I started a show with a comedian named Shaun Diston, which was all based on me never having any knowledge or having seen any of the movies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We did a whole six-month-long podcast series where we watched every single movie that had ever been put out, and it was really fun, and we put that up on Shaun's Patreon.
I was like, "Oh, wow, that was so cool." It was pretty successful and more people signed up for Shaun's Patreon than he even expected to. So I was like, "Oh, wow. I wish I could replicate this with all of the comedians I know, where we get everyone paid to do these shows, but with my involvement, they can be listened to by more people than they normally would be." So for a little while, I was trying to figure out how to do that on a traditional, ad-supported podcast.
But we figured it was a little too niche, and we couldn't have enough listeners to sell ads for it. So that's where, really, the CBB World Patreon model started cementing. And, in my mind, basically what it is, is it's all of the past and present episodes of Comedy Bang Bang and then all of the guests who have been on Comedy Bang Bang join in and have their own shows, and have spin-off shows. We put out several episodes a month and people subscribe to it and it's just, really, a place where people who are really into Comedy Bang Bang can get a lot of content and go down all of these weird rabbit holes with all of the great performers who have been on it over the years.
It also sounds like, just from reading more about Comedy Bang Bang World, and previously, anytime anyone wants to start a podcast, what sounds like a great idea for five episodes might not sound great for six episodes, or you have to bank things. It really sounds like this allows, not just yourself, but anyone who needs a home to just experiment and do even a one-off thing, a place to do that.
Yeah, when we first started the Earwolf Podcast Network, that's what it was about, it was about experimenting. Back then, podcast listeners were a small group, so we just put out stuff to put out stuff. We put it all out for free and no one was advertising on podcasts, we just did it for fun. No one was concerned about selling ads or anything like that. I wanted to return to those years where we were just putting out things like Mike Detective, which was a crazy little noir serial that meets Airplane! that meets The Naked Gun.
What has happened to podcasting since we started Earwolf is, suddenly, now it's way more popular and advertisers ... I remember the early days when advertisers laughed us out of the building saying, "Why would we ever advertise on a podcast?" So now that the art form has become more popular, the problem is now the companies that create podcasts and produce them only want to make ones that will sell ads, because now it's a business and it's not really an art form anymore.
I wanted to return to the years where we were putting out stuff creatively, just for fun, while still also being able to pay people well to do the shows, because right now, if you want to do a podcast, and you have an idea for something, like you say, for five episodes, there's no way to put it out because it'll just either disappear behind a paywall that no one listens to or you put it out for free and no one knows it's there, with no advertisers and you won't get paid for it. We wanted to do something for, not only the artists, but also for the fans who really love Comedy Bang Bang.
Mike Detective or Bob Ducca's podcasts, I remember downloading those, subscribing to those years ago, and then they just dried up. So it's also a great opportunity to revive those for newer fans who maybe have only been listening for two or three years and were just unaware that those things were missing.
Unaware of them, yeah, exactly. So Bob Ducca's podcast, for instance, Affirmation Nation, he did so many great episodes of it, but no one knows where it is. So now we're sharing it with Stitcher Premium, but it's almost like CBB World is a curation where people are like, "I had no idea this thing was around." People are rediscovering Mike Detective. They're rediscovering old shows that they never even knew were there because we're shining a spotlight on them. That's what's really cool. Now we're also making new Bob Ducca episodes, so it's been creatively invigorating, not only for me, but for all the artists involved, to be like, "Oh, wow. People are listening to the old stuff? Okay. That inspires me to make new stuff."
For fans who maybe are newer to Comedy Bang Bang or maybe they're just a fan of Shaun Diston or they don't necessarily know what to expect from Comedy Bang Bang World, is there an overall mission statement or is it whatever Mr. Scott Aukerman says goes and deal with it?
Well, it's both. Let's be honest.
No ... for people that don't even know what Comedy Bang Bang is, it's a podcast where it's a fake talk show, almost, where I play a host and I actually do speak to celebrities, but then we have these fake guests on, which are comedians playing weirdos, essentially. The celebrity is forced to interact with the fake guests and we hear their stories. It's been around for, now, 12 and a half years. The guests, the fake guests, have become so popular that people can't get enough of them and I can only have certain guests on once every three to six months or so. This is an opportunity for them to get their own shows.
When people sign up for Comedy Bang Bang World, they get not only the ad-free versions and all the prior episodes of Comedy Bang Bang, but they get new shows like Andy Daly doing Bonanas for Bonanza, or, like I said, we're doing new Bob Ducca episodes, and we have a lot of surprises down the line. But also, we have shows like Scott Hasn't Seen, which is Shaun Diston, the aforementioned Shaun Diston and I, going through and watching movies that I've never seen before, much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle show. So it's really like we're putting out a regular schedule of so many episodes per week, but we're also peppering in surprises every once in a while of new things. We have a lot of stuff planned for it that I can't even talk about right now, but it's the most excited I've been by podcasting since those early days where we started the network.
It physically pained me that you used the phrase "it's been around" and I had a gut instinct of how to pronounce "it's been around." For fans who hear these phrases come and go on the show, these long-running, inside jokes among friends that make it into the podcast, is there one that you absolutely hate the most, yet you can't help but think of for the rest of your life?
I have a brain disorder, essentially, which, whenever I hear something that sounds like something else, my mind goes to it. I was actually watching a Dodger game last night and the announcer or the play-by-play person was mentioning one of the coaches, and he had a name that sounded like another phrase. He said that name and, in my mind, I said the phrase, and then, suddenly, the play-by-play guy said the phrase. I was like, "Oh, he has the same disorder that I have." So there's nothing that I really hate as much as my brain is broken and I wish it worked better.
Fair enough. Well, I wish your brain was not broken either.
Thank you, appreciate that. That was nice of you.
You have people like Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus and Jason Mantzoukas, you have these regulars that, you can tell from listening just how much you love being around one another and goofing around with one another. Is there a guest who's maybe not as much of a regular that is the most unpredictable guest to have on Comedy Bang Bang? That you just have to prepare yourself, having no idea, no matter what they come in with, no idea where you're ending up?
Wow. That's a really interesting question from an interesting interviewer. I think, to be really honest about it, I can't even pick one person, because it constantly surprises me. We don't prepare anything on the show. A lot of people, when they listen to the show, feel like we've at least had a conversation about where it's supposed to go beforehand, and we don't. Literally, all I ask from the comedians is, what's your name, and how do you want me to introduce you? What's your job, essentially.
There are people, like you mentioned Paul F. Tompkins, who has been on the show for 12 years, and I've known him for 25. I usually feel like I can anticipate where he's going with something. But then this week he did an episode where he brought in a new character who is Richard and David Attenborough's great, great, great, great-grandson, I think. I had no idea what to expect from that and it threw me. His rhythms were different than how his rhythms normally are and so where I was expecting to ease into the nice, relaxed relationship with it, I was on my toes the entire time, trying to figure out exactly how to deal with what he was giving me.
And that's the joy of the show, I think is, in a sense, you're right, it is old friends goofing around with each other, but I also try to keep it new, where I constantly have new people, and people doing new things, and we don't just settle into a rut, and that's really important to me. I think the whole reason why the show has lasted as long as it has is that it's not just some old, familiar coat that you slip on and go, "Oh, I used to love this coat 12 years ago, but it's the same coat." We try to be a new coat, to really stretch this metaphor out much further than it should be.
Well, I think that sums up Comedy Bang Bang the best. "We try to be a new coat."
"Every year, we try to be a new coat, and hope you don't realize that it's just the same coat with different buttons."
As a fan, 10 years I've been listening to the podcast, I do have to commend you on how, years ago I would hear an episode, "Oh, Jessica St. Clair, this is incredible. I love it." To now, "Wait, where's Jessica been?" And now you have someone like Lily Sullivan and I'm like, "Jessica St. Who? Jessica St. Where?"
Well, look, the reality of the show is, people are doing it for fun and then they get big-time Hollywood jobs and they get too busy and they can't be on the show anymore. So Jessica St. Clair, you mentioned, she's a very busy, in-demand actress now who has to move to England to be in Armando Iannucci's new show, so I can't have her on the show anymore. Or Nick Kroll has got so much going on right now that it's just impossible to even schedule something with him. So, I could just have, after two or three years, wrapped it up and said, "You know what, the guys I always use, they're not around anymore so I'm quitting." But I really didn't want to do that. And, for me, it's really important to have new performers on, to retire certain phrases that I say.
I'll get stuck in a rut with them for a good year, but then I'll retire them mentally and go like, "Okay, I'm not going to go down that route anymore." Right now I'm very obsessed with, anytime anyone mentions a basketball, commenting on how orange they are, and how they're the most orange ball in sports. But I'll get tired of that in a good six months. But it's hard for me to remember all of the weird things over 12 years that I've talked about, so some people will mention something I was obsessed with for six months and I go, "What? I don't even know what you're talking about."
I think that is a great reminder that the CBB bump launched Jessica St. Clair's career, Nick Kroll's career, and they owe it all to you.
Yes, right. Their hard work and their brilliance and all of the training that they went through before they got on Comedy Bang Bang didn't matter at all. Once you get the platform, that's all it's about.
You have such a love for comics and have even gotten to write comics for Marvel, but do you have a dream project, a dream character to write for, a dream storyline to tell, or is it really just that, you're such a fan of comic books, any opportunity to write anything is just such a passionate, exciting thing that you don't have those bucket-list items?
It really is one of those things where I read a lot of comics, so I know a lot about and love a lot of characters. I will say Spider-Man is the one that I keep shoehorning into stories that I write. How it works usually is Marvel will contact me and say, "Hey, do you want to write this many pages for this particular issue using this character?" The first time that happened was Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, who were writing Deadpool at the time, needed a backup involving Agent Adsit of S.H.I.E.L.D. They said it's five pages, and so I thought about it for a second and then figured out a way to get Spider-Man and him to team up, and that's what keeps happening. "Okay, well, you have to write a Hulk book." "Okay. Well, what if he met Spider-Man?" That's my formula.
When I wrote for Marvel Comics #1001, they said, "Just do one page on anything," and it turned out to be a Spider-Man thing. That's the dream project, for me, is to do a Spider-Man run, perhaps, or at least six issues of something. I would love to do that at some point. But at the same time, what usually happens is, for instance, the X-Men: Black issue that I wrote for Mojo was, Jordan D. White got ahold of me and said, "Hey, we need you to write this." Or "We want you." They didn't need me to do anything, actually. If I had passed it would have been perfectly fine. But, "We'd like you to do this issue focused on Mojo." And what happens then is, I start thinking about the character, I start thinking about the themes, and what the character means to me.
Then, usually, when I'm thinking about that, something will click in my head of like, "Oh, you know what? Here's something that I've always wondered about Mojo," or, "Here's a theme that I'm really interested in tackling." And that was a case, particularly with Mojo, where I didn't even really like the character all that much, or I didn't like any of the stories that Mojo had been in necessarily. They weren't my favorite ones. So I started to think about that, of like, "Well, why don't I like him? What would make me like him?"
I realized that most of the issues he'd been in that I'd read before, he was pretty much an arch-villain who was very single-minded, and all he cared about was ratings. I was like, "Well, what if he had someone he cared about? What if I built some relationship that he was invested in?" So that's what I tried to do.
But this is a very long-winded answer, and you can just edit it down to say "Spider-Man" and then maybe one of the people at Marvel will hit me back and go like, "Oh yeah, sure. Write Spider-Man for us, because we need some people."
I'll pick and choose, and I'll make sure to just connect with ellipses, to remind Marvel how in-demand you are and that they'd be lucky to have you.
Just have it say, "I think ... Yes, Spider-Man."
Lastly, and this might be a personal question, but how big is your pull list and do you read the comics you're most excited for first or save them until the end?
I don't do it by, I don't do the pull list by title. I do it by week. I send my guy every week, I'll say, "This is what I'd like you to do." I do pre-order the hardcovers and the trades, because my comic book guy pretty much just ... He doesn't keep a lot of extra stock, so he just orders what a few select people want him to order. But what I do when I get them is, I usually arrange them so that it alternates between, I get mostly Marvel, so it alternates. I'll read a Marvel, then I'll read a DC, then I'll read a Marvel, then I'll read an Image, then I'll read a Marvel.
I do put them ... Because I tend to have a backlog of things I'll let slip for several weeks, I want to make sure I read Spider-Man right away, or I want to read X-Men right away. I put those on top, essentially, and then go all the way down to the ones ... I'll let several months of issues pile up at certain times, and then I'll realize, "I should just be getting the trades of these, because I'm not excited enough to read them weekly." But that's my process. Is it similar for you?
I typically read the garbage I know I have to read first and save the stuff I'm excited for until the end.
It is one of those things where, when I came back to collecting in the late '90s and the early 2000s, which were so exciting, I didn't have enough money to be able to afford to buy everything, so I would just get a few titles that I was really deeply invested in. It would be so exciting to read those every single week. Now that I can afford to buy anything that I'm interested in, or vaguely interested in, it is a little bit where it feels like I have a large stack all the time that I'm trying to get through. It's not that it feels like homework, but those early days where I would be just hanging on, "Oh, my God, what is--," like [Brian Michael] Bendis's Daredevil. "What's going to happen next month?" Now I'm constantly picking up issues, going like, "Wait, what happened last month?" because I'm just reading so much stuff.
I used to have the comic shop call me and say, "Hey, you've got $100.00 worth of comic books here. So you have to pick it all up." And then it was just like, "Well, do I want to pay rent or get comic books?"
To add onto it, my wife Kulap [Vilaysak], Jason Mantzoukas, and I are in a weekly comic book club that started during the pandemic over Zoom, and now we get together in my backyard outside. To add to it, now I'm reading old stuff as well. So, for instance, this week we read the first ... We had, early on in the pandemic, we'd read the most recent six issues of Astro City and I had mentioned, "Oh yeah, one of these is a callback to an earlier issue that came out 25 years or so ago." So now we're reading from the beginning and we had just started on Fables as well. So now I have a big book of 12 to 18 issues that I have to read every single week, but I love it. It is one of my main hobbies. I have a huge room over there just filled with books.
I'm lucky because I get the digital previews every week. So that saves some space, but even when I used to work for Marvel, I had access to literally the entire digital Marvel catalog, just to be like, "Oh, I want to read this one Daredevil storyline from 1981."
Oh, wow. That's what I would like. During the pandemic, actually right before the pandemic, things had coincided in a way. I had decided to read every X-Men comic. Not just X-Men, but all the spinoffs and offshoots from Giant-Size [X-Men] to the present. My wife called it homework. She would wake up and every day I would be there on the table, moving back and forth from hardcover to hardcover, doing them all in chronological order. But there are certain things that they haven't reprinted, so I was calling up Jordan and going, "Hey, do you mind sending me all the issues of X-Factor from this period to this period?" And he accepted one email like that and said, "Okay," and gave me part of them in black and white.
Then when I followed up, was like, "Okay, I'm still missing these." Never heard from him again. So that's what I need. I need this thing where I can, because there are so ... I did it pretty well. I went from Giant-Size up to Astonishing [X-Men] before I was just tapped out. But there were so many gaps where I would have to read summaries of the issue. This is the kind of thing that sounds like a dream for me.
We'll trade, I'll follow up later. I'll send you my login and you can hook me up with your Comedy Bang Bang World login, email@example.com and your password.
I don't think they're really inequitable, like every Marvel comic ever made versus every Comedy Bang Bang episode ever made.
Fans can sign up for Comedy Bang Bang World and check out new episodes of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast every week.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.