In the world of comedy podcasting, Scott Aukerman is David Letterman to Marc Maron's Charlie Rose. Where the latter's much-praised WTF deconstructs the craft of comedy through sometimes painfully personal conversations, on Comedy Bang! Bang! (formerly Comedy Death Ray), Aukerman prefers to put the craft on display—through in-character interviews, absurd games and random acts of off-the-cuff zaniness. The most personal he ever gets is asking his bigger-name guests—including Ben Stiller and Ed Helms—what their bank accounts look like, and that's only to see how they squirm out of answering.
In June, a televised version of Comedy Bang! Bang! debuted on IFC. Now, the show is returning to its stage roots with a live tour. WW spoke to Aukerman, a former Mr. Show writer, about the appeal of podcasts, writing jokes for the Looney Tunes gang and, of course, his income.
WW: Why are podcasts so appealing to comedians?
Scott Aukerman: The freedom in it is great. When you come out and try to be a comedian and write and create shows for yourself, you run into a lot of resistance. When I first started the show, it was difficult getting people to come on it, because they were like, "Who's listening to this?" And what they're finding out is that there are hundreds of thousands of people who listen to these, and you can reach way more people being really funny on one episode of my show than you can doing a tour around the country.
Has IFC allowed you to maintain that freedom?
They've been incredible. They told me something once: "I'm never going to argue with you if something is funny or not." I'm used to having these conversations of, "No, it is funny. It's not funny to you, but it's funny to other people." IFC said, "If it's not funny to us, we'll trust you if you say it's funny."
You've done some punch-up work in the past. What's the strangest script you've been asked to write jokes for?
I was just talking about Looney Tunes: Back in Action the other day. The one joke I got into the script was when they're in Africa on a safari for some reason. An elephant is walking away from the camera, and Daffy and Bugs are on the elephant with their backs to the camera. So my joke was, Daffy was behind Brendan Fraser and says, "I can't see." And Bugs Bunny says, "If you think your view is terrible, that audience is staring at an elephant's behind."
You've asked a lot of your guests how much money they make. So I have to ask: How much are you bringing in these days?
I'll do what no one else actually does, which is just be truthful with you. I don't make a ton of money at the TV show. And times in comedy in Hollywood have been a little rough. It's been less than I would like, but it's probably about…$1.4 million per year? So it's not that great.
SEE IT: Comedy Bang! Bang! Live, featuring guests Paul F. Tompkins and James Adomian, is at the Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., 234-9694, aladdin-theater.com. 7 pm Thursday, Aug. 2. $20-$25.