Comedy Bang! Bang!, a self-aware riff on the comedy talk radio show format turned podcast, started airing over a decade ago, and has unquestionably become one of the most influential pieces of comedy in the 21st century. The show was a pioneer of the comedy podcast format, and has introduced countless comedians to its rabid, ever-growing fanbase. Today we’ll take a look back at this decade of Comedy Bang! Bang!, with ten of our favorite episodes, one from each year.
2010: “The Premiere of Bob Ducca”
It’s all there in the episode name – “The Premiere of Bob Ducca” introduces one of the breakout characters from the show’s early days. Episode 39 featured the first-ever appearance of Seth Morris’ bedraggled, sickly sadsack, who spent seven months married to Scott’s Mother and refers to himself as Scott’s ex-stepfather. You can feel the electric, experimental radio energy of the early years of the show in this episode, with guests like Garfunkel & Oates performing a few live tracks and Brendon Walsh riffing with the in-character Ducca.
2011: “Farts & Procreation”
There’s a reason “Farts and Procreation” is one of the only comedy podcasts to ever be pressed to vinyl – it’s one of the funniest single episodes ever released. Recorded late at night with weirdly delirious guests Chelsea Peretti, Adam Scott, and another architect of the CBB house style, Harris Wittels, “Farts & Procreation” captured a magical sort of anti-chemistry built on a shared love of absurdist non-jokes and bad improv. Their in jokes and brain-melting one liners act as a sort of spiritual precursor to the nihilistic comedy monsters at another Earwolf stalawrt, Hollywood Handbook. The episode would be such a fan favorite that the group would reconvene three more times for additional “Farts & Procreations” before Wittels’ tragic death in 2015.
Andy Daly’s masterful character work, building dark, insanely specific figures out of classic archetypes like cowboys and greasers. 2012’s “Wipeout!” was an early showcase of the wonders of world building and self-reference that make long-term comedy podcast fandom so rewarding, with a climactic scene featuring Andy shifting rapidly from character to character in a series of suicide attempts. It’s a hysterical feat of strength from one of the best comedic performers out there, anchored by Scott and Jason Mantzoukas, incredulous, overwhelmed, and rightfully concerned.
2013: “The Stallone Bros.”
Two more influential members of the early days of Comedy Bang! Bang!, Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer, come together in the 2013 for a goofy character voice-off in the form of filmmaking duo/brothers Sylvester and Frank Stallone. Things, as they often do on CBB, start out silly and get real dark by the end, with a tragic fate awaiting one of the Stallone brothers. Kroll and Scheer’s natural chemistry and ability to heighten the joke in unpredictable, absurd ways is classic Bang! Bang!, a sort of platonic ideal for what the show can be.
2014: “Solo Bolo”
The “Solo Bolo” episodes eschew the traditional formatting of CBB, usually reliant on three or more guests per episode, in favor of one episode-long, marathon riff-fest with Ben Schwartz. The first “Solo Bolo,” which premiered in 2014, was like witnessing the two most popular kids from rival theatre camps meet and immediately get along. It’s all there in the first installment: unprompted, context-free duets, threadbare impressions, and an impossible-to-replicate energy. Other comedy podcasts wish they had this sort of chemistry between host and guest; they’ve reunited several times throughout the years to show everyone how it’s done, leaving off at “Solo Bolo Cincolo,” the fifth in the ongoing series.
2015: “Heynong Man”
There have been countless nonsensical phrases and deliberate misinterpretations uttered on CBB throughout the years, but few had more staying power than Heynong Man, a jumble of syllables that would go on to feature on several pieces of Bang! Bang! merch (“new t-shirt!” Aukerman gleefully exclaims after mishearing the words “hang on, man.”) It’s totally understandable why this is one of the show’s most iconic fan favorites, a manic series of conversations between Aukerman and guests Jason Mantzoukas and Paul F. Tompkins, in character as the deceptively thoughtful Mike the Janitor. It’s all just perfectly silly and compulsively re-listenable, a total classic.
2016: “Kid Detectives II”
There’s no Comedy Bang! Bang! without Lauren Lapkus, the archetype of totally game performers willing to go down any road, to see out any newly discovered character trait, no matter how weird, disgusting, or unsettling. Her dynamic alongside Thomas Middleditch in Kid Detectives II, the return of their beloved mystery-solving duo, is unmatched, and is also about as plot-driven as CBB gets in these absurdist explorations of character.
2017: “The 8th Anniversary Show!”
Comedy Bang! Bang! loves a special occasion. An anniversary, a year’s end, a five hundredth episode. They’ll often totally overbook these sessions, bringing in five or more guest performers both in character or not. In the event of their eighth anniversary in 2017, fourteen different guests were featured for a marathon episode, including regulars like Carl Tart, Jon Gabrus, Tim Baltz, and aforementioned fan favorites like Nick Kroll, Lauren Lapkus, and Paul F. Tompkins. The whole thing is super overwhelming but still manages to get a ton of legitimate laughs in, never allowing the cavalcade of guests to overpower the show’s communal vibe.
2018: “Ship of Love”
Martin Sheffield Lickly is the sort of late-period CBB breakout character that recalls what fans first loved about the show on an episode like “Ship of Love.” There’s a newfound polish and preparedness to the proceedings, with Drew Tarver performing a collection of songs written by the massively talented comedy writing duo of Nick Ciarelli and Brad Evans. A New Wave singer struck by tragedy, Tarver is all-in on this character, as he performs hits like “Ship of Love” and “Love Jail,” songs performed recently at his wife’s funeral.
2019: “Memphis Kansas Breeze with YACHT”
It’s been a while since a clip from Comedy Bang! Bang! has gone viral like the three Memphis Kansas Breeze songs have, after first airing earlier this year. Another Nick & Brad creation, Carl Tart and Drew Tarver appear in character as a pair of country singers with songs that explore the their trucks’ personal lives (birthday parties, families, etc.), punctuated by a series of beeps, honks, and toots. It’s silly, borderline nonsensical stuff, the sort of comedy earworms that rewards (demands?) repeat listens.