Scott Aukerman is the guy that every comedian seems to know. From his Emmy-nominated writing on the seminal sketch television series Mr. Show with Bob and David to his popular Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast or weekly live stand up show of the same name, Aukerman manages to take all the attention with a smile. His most recent venture is the new Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show on IFC, which airs on Friday, June 8th.
Aukerman recently met up with us at Franklin Village's La Poubelle after producing another week of his long-running stand up show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He brought along comedian Jason Mantzoukas for fun, and never went more than ten minutes without shaking the hand of a popular actor or comedian who just popped by to say hello. A well-connected man, indeed.
Scott Aukerman: It's a talk show, but the show is also like... if your grandpa was down in the basement and he wanted to murder you, and you were constantly trying to avoid him. That's sort of what the show is, I think.
Jason Mantzoukas: Wait. Are you the murderous grandpa?
Scott: I'm constantly trying to murder you, and you're trying to avoid me.
Jason: OK, that sounds good.
Scott: Really, the show is in the form of a talk show, but it's just an excuse for us to do the craziest, weirdest stuff you'd ever see.
Farley: How did the deal with IFC initially come about?
Scott: The weird part about it is, I've pitched a lot of shows over my 15 years professionally writing, but I didn't pitch this show. The network came to me and asked if I wanted to do a show. I said yes, and I never took it anywhere else. We just started doing it. They were already fans of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, fans of me...
Jason: I doubt that.
Scott: Come on, Jason. It's true! It's a really weird position to be in, though. Normally you have to beg and plead and cajole a network into doing a show with you, and IFC just offered it to me.
(Lennon Parham stops in to say hello, and the two fake bicker over who gets to savor the moment of their meeting more.)
Farley: As far as the IFC show goes, do you feel like it's been a long time coming?
Scott: Too long! Like, what the fuck took it so long?!
Jason: Woah, woah, woah. Be humble, Scott.
Scott: Shut up Jason. Who are you to think that I shouldn't have a TV show?!
Jason: This interview is not going to turn out the way you want it to.
Scott: Honestly though, it's crazy to me that I have a TV show. It's weird. I don't deserve it.
Jason: I agree. Everybody agrees.
Scott: When I first started and I got into comedy and I got onto "Mr. Show with Bob and David," I assumed that I would be starring in my own show the very next year.
Jason: That's the whole thing. I remember starting in 1998 and thinking that I'd be on SNL in a couple of years. Not the case. At all.
Scott: You have to think that way in order to be successful, but at a certain point I just gave it up, honestly. I mean, it's insane to me that I get to do this now. It's been the biggest surprise of my career. I never -- 100% never -- thought I would turn this into a TV show. I always did it for fun, and that's a really important lesson.
Jason: Which I feel is how it always works.
Farley: Is that the real goal, then? Just sinking into the thing that you think is really fun?
Scott: When you're doing something that you think is the best thing that you've ever done, but will never get you any money, that's the thing that someone will see and offer you a huge pile of cash to go work on. You should just always do the thing that you think is really fun to do.
(Mike Rosenstein walks up, high fives everyone at the table and walks away)
Farley: Has coming up with "Mr. Show" helped you to look at comedy a little differently in that way?
Scott: It was a huge influence on me. I had a very different idea of what sketch writing was before I worked on that show. It taught me everything I know about sketch writing and running a writer's room. That said, I think the show I'm doing now is so much more improvisational and that's not something I learned on "Mr. Show." It took me doing the podcast to free myself of that kind of control. That's a long-winded answer. Did that make sense? Dollars and sense?!
Jason: Don't do that. There's a recorder on the table, recording everything you're saying.
Scott: I'm rich now!
Jason: No, you really aren't. I know your financials.
Farley: You did have writers on the show though.
Scott: Definitely. Neil Campbell, Tim Kalpakis, Dave Ferguson and Leo Allen. We had writers, but 40% -- if not 50% -- was not written at all. It was just me out there with nothing planned, trying to make something funny happen. There's something really insane about the kind of person that would do that. Who would risk such an important thing on not knowing what's going to happen?
Jason: That kind of energy and discovery is an essential part of the Comedy Bang! Bang! brand, for lack of a better term. Whether it's the live show or the podcast or the TV show, there's an element of always feeling like you're part of a unique thing that's just now coming together.
(Someone approaches the table, seamlessly transitions into a conversation with Scott about the new Ken Marino web series Burning Love, and disappears.)
Farley: Do you feel like you're any sort of elder statesman now? I have to imagine a writer like Tim Kalpakis looks up to you as a successful comedy writer.
Scott: Listen, should Tim Kalpakis look up to me? Yes. Absolutely.
Jason: Oh, boy. Is that where we're at? Is that what's happening?
Scott: It's the circle of life. We all feed upon the young and their energy.
Jason: Jesus. There's a recorder going. I want to remind you, someone is recording this.
Farley: This is dangerously close to being entered as a court document.
Scott: From what I've heard, everyone had a great time working on the show. You have to understand, I'm from the other side of the table. For the most part, I've just been a writer on other people's shows. I know how hard it is to work on a show and get any idea on. I'm very inclusive, I love working with people. I love collaborating. Who knows if they look up to me. I view them all as peers more than subordinates. They're just all really funny people that I want to work with.
Farley: Now that you're almost done editing the episodes, how does it all feel for you?
Scott: Honestly, I'm more proud of this show than I am with "Mr. Show." I think they're maybe not as ambitious as "Mr. Show," and I'm not trying to draw that hard comparison, but I'm very proud of what we were able to achieve with the show. It's been a dream come true.
All I wanted to do was make a show that I loved. I'm so grateful that IFC loves it, and they would hopefully want to make more, and I'm incredibly bowled over that the audience seems to love it as well. Most great shows come out of just trying to make something you love, and that's all I wanted to do. That, and make a show where Jason wasn't always texting on his phone, and he actually pretended to be interested in what I'm saying.
Jason: Oh, come on. I've already heard all your press points.
(A tipsy woman approaches the table with the suggestion that we rate her outfit, as she's doing a PhD dissertation on appearance-based references as it pertains to women's sociology. With two great LA comedians sitting at the table, the night is just getting started.)
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[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]
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