Scott Aukerman is an award-winning writer, actor, comedian, and sandwich repair specialist known for his work on Comedy Bang! Bang! (the podcast and the TV show) and Mr. Show. His true claim to fame may very well have been his short-lived band, “The Naked Postmen,” with No Doubt’s Adrian Young, but he makes do.
Loser City’s Rafael Gaitan was able to take time out of his busy schedule to speak with Scott about what he’s been up to lately. They were at some comic convention in San Diego that you probably didn’t go to.
Rafael Gaitan: This is Rafael Gaitan from Loser City and I am with Space Operaman.
Scott Aukerman: Space Operaman! I like that. It’s fitting because Empire Strikes Back is playing right over there.
Gaitan: Could not have planned it better. I’m actually with Scott Aukerman of the Comedy Bang! Bang! Podcast and TV show. How are you Scott?
Aukerman: Rafael, you actually asked me before you started this. So, I’m not gonna answer you again. (laughs)
Gaitan: I understand. I hate to be repetitive as well. We’re here, big news, fifth season of Comedy Bang! Bang! is coming up.
Aukerman: We’re actually in the fourth –weirdly. Because this season is so long we’re…
Gaitan: Right, it’s 40 episodes…?
Aukerman: …It’s 40 episodes, so it’s practically like 2 seasons. So this is like season 4 ½, basically.
Gaitan: Are you currently producing the second half or is it coming out?
Aukerman: We shot everything already and I’ve edited all but 7 of them at this point. So that’ll take us through Labor Day. Basically, I’m still editing this season and I’m writing the next season at the same time.
Gaitan: That moves me to my next question, what can we look forward to in the next season in terms of episode order? 40’s a big deal.
Aukerman: We’re gonna start with 21, then we’re gonna go to 22, and then uh… (hesitates) 23 and just keep going onto 40. I think we’re going to stop there and start over in the next season and do 1, and then do 2, then 3…
Gaitan: Have you thought about seven at all?
Aukerman: Seven…. Yeah I’d probably put that after six, before eight maybe.
Gaitan: You want to be traditional.
Aukerman: Yeah, but what are we doing different this year? Obviously Reggie Watts is not here anymore. Kid Cudi is our new co-host and band leader. So that’s all different.
Gaitan: How do you feel about Kid Cudi having more of a well-known musical background? What does he contribute to, not only how you write the show, but in terms of the dynamic? You and Reggie had obviously had a very adorable Family Circus- type dynamic.
Aukerman: Right. We talked to Cudi about what he wanted to do and what his personality or persona would be and Cudi is naturally more…(brief pause) excited and exciting of a personality than Reggie, who is very laid back and dry and laconic. Cudi was like, “I think I’m going to be excited by everything.” That was sort of the one direction that we had from him. And that’s been true. With Reggie, he’s always underplaying everything and being very dry. And Cudi is very up and does a lot of his lines loudly and excitedly. What’s also interesting is that Cudi is a really good actor.
Gaitan: He’s been in the Entourage movie, he’s got a career out of that…
Aukerman: More than that, he has independent movies at Sundance, like dramas. What’s interesting about that is anytime we do a fake movie trailer that’s supposed to be dramatic, he’s the best actor out of everyone. I’m overdoing it and he’s really real. Every once in a while, he’ll do a line I would imagine Reggie doing very comedically, he’ll do it very real –he’s always asking for the motivations for his characters. It’s really interesting.
We’ve changed the set, we’ve changed the theme song, we have a different co-host but it still weirdly feels like the same show. Anything that feels different or like, “Oh I don’t know if I like that.” by the second episode, everyone’s like “Oh yeah, that’s fine. That’s the show now.” That’s the thing about change, people always hate the first time they see something different and then they get used to it. So I think people are going to really like what Cudi’s doing because it feels like the same show but with a different person to my left.
Gaitan: One of the things I’ve noticed in my exhaustive Wikipedia research of you, is that you’re a musical theater guy. You talked about it in your other podcast. Are there any plans to expand Comedy Bang! Bang! beyond the TV screen?
Aukerman: And do it as a Broadway musical?
Gaitan: Or anything outside –a stage show, a theater in the park or…
Aukerman: Penny Dreadful (laughs)
Gaitan: I guess my question is where do you see…
Aukerman: The future? How to expand it? I don’t know. We have talked about a movie. I know Reggie really wants to come back and be in the movie if we do it. And… (brief pause) It’s interesting because I think the structure of the show is so unique. There isn’t another TV show like it that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen fake talk shows but I’ve never seen a fake talk show that interviews real people using improv interviews while a story line is going on around it and also has comedians playing fake characters. I’ve never seen that before. I was talking about this recently, if I ever wanted to stop doing the show, could the show continue with a new host? Jason Mantzoukas wants to do it of course.
Gaitan: Of course. Zouks.
Aukerman: The Zouks. I wonder if if could continue on like the Tonight Show because Saturday Night Live didn’t stop when Chevy left. Or when John Belushi left. The structure of that show and the voice of it is what keeps it going.
Gaitan: So you do have a lot of comics on your show. Speaking of comics, I heard you recently did you something for Marvel. (brief pause) I tried to do you right man, it didn’t really work.
Aukerman: That’s an interesting segue. (laughs) Yeah, I did a couple things for Marvel…
Aukerman: Secret Wars Journal #3. Battleworld: Secret Wars: Journal #3.
Gaitan: So Secret Wars Journal #3.
Aukerman: Battleworld: Secret Wars: Journal: Number: 3
Gaitan: There are like 4 colons in that!
Aukerman: Yeah, that’s three more than I have!
Gaitan: You put a lot of fiber in there? (laughter)
Aukerman: We basically did the same joke! (light chuckle)
Gaitan: So you wrote this for Marvel… This isn’t your first comic book work, right?
Aukerman:I wrote a short story for Deadpool #250. That was a little more comedic in nature. This was a 10-page story.
Gaitan: It was very good, by the way. I read it this morning. Love it.
Aukerman: Thank you! It was interesting because Marvel just said “Hey, do you want to do something?” They didn’t know what. They knew it was for Secret Wars Journal, which is sort of an anthology book. They said “Take a look at the Secret Wars: Battleworld map and let me know if you have any favorite regions or places you think you’d want to write about.” The first couple of places I was like, “I really like the Marvel Zombies,” but those were all kind of taken. They were doing too many titles with them in it. So then Jacob Thomas, the editor, gave me two worlds: the Inferno World –which I wasn’t interested in, and then the Greenland world, which is the world full of Hulks. Basically a gamma bomb went off over the city and everyone in the city is turned into a Hulk.
The more I was thinking about what I would do, I was flipping through Hulk supporting characters because I knew I couldn’t use the Hulk and I couldn’t use Captain America. Those were the two parameters. Then I saw Doc Samson and I started thinking about the old X-Factor issues and that he’s a psychiatrist as well as being a super hero. I started thinking about him and that character and what it would be like if you were a psychiatrist and the suddenly the entire world is filled with people giving into their anger all the time and flipping out, turning into Hulks. So it kind of came together from that and Jake really liked it and gave me some ideas for it. It was cool to do. I really enjoyed it.
Gaitan: It’s definitely got your voice all over it. I read it this morning and the line about someone being upset about “expanding clothes are stupid…”
Aukerman: Expanding molecules… The thing I liked about doing that story was that it was comedic in how it starts and the world building part is sort of comedic but I also wanted to do something that wasn’t just comedy, which a lot people were maybe expecting. When comedians write comic books, they’re usually very silly and disposable. I wanted to write something with some kind of resonance once I thought of the story. So I was proud of that. Some people have written to me to say that it helped them through a tough time.
Gaitan: You worked with RB Silva, who’s a great artist.
Aukerman: Yeah. I’ve been to Arby’s several times and…
Gaitan: With Anderson Silva?
Aukerman: (laughter) Not with him, just the restaurant.
Gaitan: Great restaurant, great artist. With RB, how did you find the collaborative process –you’re used to being on the Mr. Show, Comedy Bang! Bang!, a writer’s room. How did you adapt or what did you learn from the process of doing remote collaborative work with RB Silva?
Aukerman: It’s interesting because with Comedy Bang! Bang! I’m involved in so many aspects of it: I’m there during the editing, I’m there during the writing –not as much anymore, unfortunately. Everything passes through me. I knew doing the comic I had to let that go. I actually like collaborating a lot and that’s what writing in a writer’s room is. I didn’t want to be too… precious about the ideas so I first worked pretty closely with Jake Thomas, the editor, on the story and what it could be. I pitched him a paragraph and then didn’t… I think I did now, Why am I not sure? Yeah, I did. With RB, I just had to let it go. I didn’t really describe the panels that much.
Gaitan: So you went true Marvel style?
Aukerman: No, true Marvel style is where you don’t do a script. I did do a script. In the first one I wrote for Deadpool, I was doing everything from sound effects to really describing the panels, and in this one I was kind of just saying “Doc Sampson sits there and is confused.”
Gaitan: So you let RB run away with it?
Aukerman: Yeah. I got to tell you that when it came back, it was really like, “Oh wow, this was kind of like how it was in my head.” It was really cool to see. They say when you write comics… It really is an artist’s medium in a lot of ways. I was very cognizant and very aware about giving him pages that would be fun to draw because a lot of those stories are two people talking. So I wanted to make sure that there were splash pages and we did a two page spread with a bunch of Hulks flipping out. I wanted to make sure there was enough of that he would be interested in doing it. It was really cool to get all the pages back and see how they turned out.
Gaitan: Do you have any future comics work planned in or out of Marvel?
Aukerman: I would really like to. Jake actually wrote to me today if I ever wanted to do something to let him know. It’s literally just scheduling when I can figure out when I could do it.
Gaitan: Do you have a character or story that you’re itching to take over?
Aukerman: It’s interesting because in both stories that I wrote, I included Spider-Man even though it wasn’t the story I pitched necessarily. For the first one they said “You’re gonna do an Agent Adsit five page spanning.” and I went, “Well, it will be an Agent Adsit meets Spider-Man…” And in this story it’s Doc Samson meets Spider-Man. That’s my favorite character that I would love to do something with.
Aukerman: Yeah. (laughs) Fantastic Four was the other thing I said to Jake that I really liked. The thing about characters for me is figuring out why they’re doing what they’re doing. At one point when DC relaunched, Gail Simone asked if I wanted to write Firestorm with her.
Aukerman: I was kind of too busy to do it. So when someone says “Hey, do you want to do this character?” usually what I do is I start thinking about who they are, what situation they’re in and how that would affect their inner life more than like “I wanna see Firestorm battle Killer Frost again.”
With the Deadpool story, with Agent Adsit meeting Spider-Man, that was the thing that made me want to do it. He’s a big fan of Spider-Man in the comics. What if he met Spider-Man? And then I start thinking about the emotional story of him feeling like he’s always been too nervous – in this universe Agent Adsit never tried out for Second City, so he never became Scott Adsit on 30 Rock.
Gaitan: Oh wow! (laughs)
Aukerman: So he just never took that class in Second City. So he’s asking Spider-Man “What’s it like to be funny?” because he loves Spider-Man because Spider-Man’s so funny. And that’s the part that made me really want to do it. But then you can’t necessarily have a comic where it’s just two people talking, so instead I had them have this discussion while battling several instances of the Man-Wolf. As I said the “Men-Wolves”. So they’re fighting these things but the most interesting part of it to me is the characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Gaitan: That was a hot ‘sclusy we just got. I actually interviewed Gail Simone when that book was coming out. Actually, this is for you to know, that was the same year I was a huge fan of yours. Saw you at the Fantagraphics booth, was too scared to say anything and told you on Twitter instead.
Aukerman: Well, thank you! So this year you actually came up and talked to me, so I appreciate that.
Gaitan: Thank you for taking the time for talking to us.
Aukerman: My pleasure.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the ’70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a burgeoning stand-up career and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart at @bearsurprise. He ain’t got time to bleed.