Man, it feels like forever since we’ve had a new Comedy Bang! Bang! doesn’t it? It’s actually only been a little over three months since the last CBB, where Josh Groban and Scott Aukerman time-traveled, and we said goodbye to the show for the summer. Even though Aukerman has been putting out some fantastic episodes of the CBB podcast and U Talkin’ U2 To Me? (seriously, if you’re not listening to that one, don’t be a dumb-dumb and get on that), it’s just not enough. Thankfully, Comedy Bang! Bang! is back on our TVs once again.
The first episode back “Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top and Lavender Flats” is one of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s tamer episodes—it doesn’t get too crazy, and they stick to the formula that they’ve mostly stuck to this third season, but it’s still a fun, strange half hour of great comedy.
The entire episode is a loose homage to The Great Gatsby, told by a former production assistant, voiced by Andy Richter. In a look back at his days on CBB, he remembers a time when champagne was flowing, people were dancing on set and the PA called the host “The Awesome Aukerman.” But really, Aukerman just wanted the PA to get his cousin Ellie Kemper—who Aukerman is in love with—on the show. He says Kemper is so adorable, she makes a baby deer look like a pile of shit.
Kemper is pretty fun as the episode’s guest, but doesn’t have that much to do. She practices with Scott for a movie about breaking out of a future prison, and explains how she’s not as bubbly as all of her characters; it’s enjoyable, but I wish she was a bigger part of the episode, especially considering that she’s sort of the catalyst for the Gatsby theme.
The best aspects of the episode are the little diversions. First, there’s the appearance of a doorbell repair man who goes door-to-door ringing doorbells. The hypocrisy of his job and the horribly created TV commercial he reappears in are both fun. But the real gem of the episode is Scott’s other show, “Retool the School Makeover Academy Fall Semester,” where he and his team go to a school in need, give it a luxurious makeover, then demand the school pay them for their work. Joe Wengert shows up as the school’s principal, but the appearance of The National as the school’s new music teachers is especially fantastic. They’re not like those pussies from Arcade Fire—they demand their money. When the school can’t pay, Scott plays his flute, mesmerizing the kids and kidnapping them from the school. It’s the kind of strange idea that works exclusively on the show, and works incredibly well.
The episode’s second guest, James Adomian, appears as one of his most famous characters, Jesse Ventura. I love Adomian, but Ventura isn’t one of my favorite characters of his. I would’ve loved to hear more about his thoughts on the New World Order, but an entire episode probably would have been needed for that diversion. What we do get is that classic confusion—he thinks that the Koch brothers want to be involved in debates with the Pepsi brothers, and that Hacksaw Jim Duggins would make his ideal Secretary of State. Adomian really sells Ventura, even as his bald cap is slipping. And it’s explosive end (full of metal folding chairs and all the yelling at Vince McMahon) is where he is at his best.
“Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top and Lavender Flats” isn’t the most bombastic episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, but it is an enjoyable slide back into the CBB groove, before we get to the weirdness sure to come later on in the season.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.