The Scott Aukerman interview

August 19, 2011

Today I chat with the host of Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast!. Every Monday, you can hear him interview and perform with folks like Weird Al Yankovic, David Cross, Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt. This Emmy-nominated writer began his comedy career as a writer and performer on the cultishly beloved sketch series Mr. Show. Following that, co-founded the popular UCB show that would later become Comedy Bang Bang: Standup. One of Scott's most well-known ventures is the FunnyorDie series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, which he co-created. He also portrayed "Young Nigel" (the Michael Caine character) in the third Austin Powers film, Austin Powers in Goldmember. Most importantly, he has a Tumblr.

How much do you take your listeners’ feedback into account when producing Comedy Bang Bang?
I love the encouragement and excitement people have about the show, so when I know they enjoy it, I try to listen to what they like and bring back features that seem to be their favorites.  As far as criticism goes, anything people say that I would agree with, I already agree with, you know?  I'm aware of what my shortcomings are as a host or comic personality, so all I can do is try to prepare and do the best show I can on that particular day.  I try to go into the show with the intention to entertain, but not really caring if it does.

Who have been some of your hardest guests to nail down? Any wish list guests that you still haven’t been able to book?
Paul Reubens was my dream guest that I went after for two years - hard.  I don't think I've ever bugged a publicist as much as I bugged his.  That was a great thrill to interview him and have him be so touched at the end of it.  It's weird, because, the more I do it, the less of an "interview" show it is.  So even though there are idols of mine who I would love to talk to, maybe they wouldn't fit into the show's vibe all that much, know what I mean?  It's always a treat when someone who hasn't been on the show before who I've been trying to get for a while comes in and nails it, like David Wain or Paul Feig.

Does it seem to you like we’re living in a comedy nerd golden era right now? Thanks to Funny or Die, Twitter and podcasts, audiences have greater access to their favorite comics either performing or talking about performing. Does that put greater stress on comics, though, to give more to their audiences?
I think we're living in a nerd golden era in general... I remember back before the internet was invented, how hard you had to try to find info about things you were interested in.  You would sit and obsess over the small details because there weren't any larger ones.  It's why little girls screamed and fainted when they saw the Beatles - all they had up til that point was a grainy black and white photo of them that they clipped out of "Life," or "Home," or whatever now-defunct magazine existed back then.  So, yes - it's a good time to be nerdy about stuff, because there's a ton of stuff out there to explore.  As far as stress goes - it's a good kind of stress, where people are paying attention to what you're doing.  So there's no reason to complain.

How would you speculate comic groupies are different from music or actor groupies?
God, how I wish I had music or actor groupies instead. Have you seen them?  They're amazing.  

As an audience member, what are some of your favorite venues for comedy?
I like smaller venues - where the audience is more engaged with the performer.  I don't think I'm saying anything new here - it's always better to see a band in a small club, rather than in an arena.  Of course, having just seen Prince six times in an arena, he can perform anywhere.  Who is the Prince of comedy?  I'm trying to think of some mixed-race, multi-instrumentalist sex god... maybe Fred Armisen?  He should totally do arenas.

Of the scripts you’ve written, which involved the most blood, sweat and tears?
I think it was my biopic of the band Blood Sweat & Tears... not a lot of people know about their history - their constant struggles against people not giving a sh*t.  I don't want to give the ending away, but at the end, one person listens to "Spinning Wheel," and says, "Yeah - I guess it's okay." Then the band has fulfilled their destiny, and float up to Heaven.

As a screenwriter, is it difficult to fight professional jealousy? Is it common to think “My good script didn’t get made but that piece of crap got through?” Or is it essential to come to a more zen state of mind for that career?
I don't think that has really crossed my mind in a while - when almost nothing you write gets on the air or on movie screens, you can't keep thinking that, or it would drive you crazy! You just have to keep your head down and do the work, and if you work hard enough, and often enough, good things will come.  The sh*t ton of money they throw at you helps in that regard.

Who in your life that’s not a comedian makes you laugh most reliably?
My mom makes me laugh... there's a picture I have on my refrigerator of her pretending to chug a bottle of wine that makes me smile every time I see it.

As an actor, which have been your most fun roles to perform?
I don't get to perform a lot of roles, but I guess the most fun have been the two times I was on the Sarah Silverman Program.  Usually when you do a part there's a certain amount of "proving you're good" that has to occur before you feel comfortable, and know you're not going to get fired.  But because I know all those guys, I was already in a great place, so I could just get there, be funny, and have a good time.  I will say that I had the great thrill of making Larry David laugh during a take during my recent Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I was very happy about that.

Who is an actor, writer or comedian who you think deserves more exposure than they’re getting at the moment?
I think "How Did This Get Made's" Jason Mantzoukas is a triple-threat in that regard, and will be blowing up soon! Household name time!! See you at the Oscars, Jason! (I know he has a Google alert for his name, so I hope you don't mind if I speak directly to him.)

What are some of your favorite impressions that other performers do?
James Adomian is kind of the king of weird impressions of people you wouldn't think of doing.  I think it's all that talk radio he listens to, and weird TV shows he likes.  He has a Tom Leykis impression which almost nobody would get, but it kind of transcends people thinking "oh, that sounds like that person," and becomes its own comedic persona, to where you don't care if you have ever heard of the person.  That's how I felt about his Huell Howser the first few times I saw him perform it - I was unaware of Huell, but just thought it was a funny angle on a comedic persona.

What’s your favorite favorite comedy online short you’ve seen lately?
I like those 5 second movies I've seen recently.  Those were pretty funny.  Not sure who does them.

Has there been a particular song or album you’ve been listening to on repeat lately?
As far as albums go, the Fleet Foxes first album is probably the thing I've played most often.  As far as songs go... my favorite song lately is probably that song that sings about this guy "MacGruber"... I think it's called "The MacGruber Theme Song" or something?  That's a really good song.

How does it feel to be the 291st person interviewed for Zulkey.com (and now WBEZ?)
I feel like you should have gotten to me about 290 people ago, that's how!