Reviews

Comedy Bang! Bang!: “Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats” Review

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Tonight, Comedy Bang! Bang! returned for the second half of its third season at a new time on a new day. It’s a smart move, placing the show late on Friday nights when The Daily Show has the night off and other late night programming has yet to air. But the move also positions Comedy Bang! Bang! as a legitimate late night talk show, not just a deconstruction or bizarro version of one. Those who turned to tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang! in hopes of being sold on the newest blimp comedy or being asked if they’d heard about something in the news might not have found what they were looking for, but “Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats” had plenty to like.

That’s not to say the episode wasn’t enjoyable as a talk show, because it was. But Scott’s interview with Ellie Kemper was far different than her interview would’ve been on Fallon or Letterman. The interviews are just as artificial on Comedy Bang! Bang! as they are on The Tonight Show, but here, Kemper’s goal is syncing up with Comedy Bang! Bang!’s weirdness and being funny, not selling her new show or film. Scott feigned extreme infatuation and delight at Kemper for a reason: she is (and was) delightful and funny. Her cluelessness in The Office, or more recently, They Came Together, is just an act. She’s a smart, quick-witted improviser who will gleefully jump in and play along if James Adomian shows up in a bald cap talking about the New World Order.

“Jesse ‘The Governor’ Ventura” is one of Adomian’s better-known characters on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, and for good reason. Adomian’s take on Ventura is a perfect showcase for his loud, brash style of character comedy. Given his (intentional) loudness and brashness, Adomian doesn’t work for everyone. I’m mostly a fan, because Adomian is more than a loud voice. He’s a genuinely funny improviser. Adorned with a bald cap and clothed in a mixture of tie-dye and camouflage, Adomian made good use of his limited screentime. He didn’t waste time setting up this wacko and he didn’t merely repeat what he’d said on his countless podcast appearances. That was where Kemper’s interjections proved helpful, as her involvement meant it wasn’t just Scott and Ventura. With those two, it’d have made sense for podcast moments to resurface here as has happened with Fourvel and Cake Boss (Cake Boss!). However, with Kemper’s help, Jesse Ventura’s segment was funny and earned mostly original laughs.

“Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats” was loosely tied around a Great Gatsby-inspired narration performed by previous guest Andy Richter. It was a simple, chuckle-worthy idea smartly used only sparingly. Also included was another reality show spoof, Retool the School: Makeover Academy: Fall Semester, which featured an amusing cameo by The National. (“Who do you think you’re dealing with, those pussies in Arcade Fire? The National gets their check.”) As if often the case with Comedy Bang! Bang!’s out-of-studio bits, Retool the School wasn’t packed with jokes and traded multiple gags-per-minute for a slow burn approach that mostly paid off. I prefer the initial reveal that the show wasn’t paying for the renovations to Scott then Pied Piper-ing students to their doom, although I appreciate the latter’s dark goofiness.

I doubt Comedy Bang! Bang! will find greater success now that it’s been positioned as a late night alternative (please, prove me wrong!). However, it’s still a good move. Free of GE sponsorships, audience participation, and mandated appearances by Kardashians, Comedy Bang! Bang! is able to fill episodes with the kind of absurdist comedy Conan and fellow late night hosts can only include in brief segments. Not the season’s best, but “Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats” was a good start to the back half of season three, and that Pied Piper moment excluded, was normal enough (by the show’s standards) that it’ll hopefully earn Comedy Bang! Bang! some new fans.