The ALL NEW Big Wakeup Call with Ryan Gatenby

Best of 2023 - Scott Aukerman

December 28, 2023 Ryan Gatenby
The ALL NEW Big Wakeup Call with Ryan Gatenby
Best of 2023 - Scott Aukerman
Show Notes Transcript

Our Best of 2023 shows continue as we re-visit my chat with Comedy Bang! Bang's Scott Aukerman about “Comedy Bang! Bang! The Podcast: The Book,” and “Comedy Bang! Bang! the Podcast” (not the book), including a history of "The Backyard Era" and helpful hints on being a part of the show through the "open door policy."

Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang! Bang! called in to talk about “Comedy Bang! Bang! The Podcast: The Book,” and “Comedy Bang! Bang! the Podcast” (not the book), including a history of “The Backyard Era” and helpful hints on joining the show through the “open door” policy.

(Transcript edited for length and clarity.)

Ryan Gatenby: Scott, how are you? How are things where you are?

Scott Aukerman: I'm good. I'm here in a little place I call “H-Town,” Hollywood, California. It's on the coast of the United States of America, where we are on strike with the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild. And I'm a member of both of those guilds. But I'm not part of the Telephone Guild, and that's why I can talk to you today on the telephone today. 

RG: Oh, perfect. There’s no sort of representation for podcasting yet, is that correct?

SA: That’s correct, but for telephones, there is a telephone guild, but I'm not a member. Basically, anyone who talks on the telephone can join the union, but I haven't qualified because I haven't talked enough on the phone yet. I just text. It's what the kids do.

RG: Scott, I wanted to say it was great to finally meet you in person at your book signing. Although I wish you would have mentioned there'd be like 200 other people there meeting and greeting you. 

SA: I wish you had mentioned you were there. I would have cut you to about halfway through the line, instead of where you were, which was pretty far back, but yeah, it was great to see you and be within a general 10 -foot radius of you. And I hope you enjoyed the book. 

RG: I love the book. And I was wondering if it was completely sold out or not enough copies were printed to meet demand because when I tried to get extra copies for all my loved ones, it was on back order.

SA: How many loved ones do you have? 

RG: Three.

SA: That's too many loved ones. Yeah, that's a problem. If you had one loved one, we could have gotten you an extra copy, but it did sell out pretty quickly of a lot of places. It went into a third printing, I think, the first week. And now I think it's in its fourth maybe, or fifth, I'm not quite sure which one.

We were able to correct some of the typos for the third printing, I believe. So yeah, it's selling really well. It got to number four on the New York Times bestseller list -- the paper of record. But yeah, it's going really well. I'm sorry that you weren't able to get copies, but they're restocking, and hopefully I'll even have more signed copies in the holiday part of the year.

RG: So, is my signed first edition copy now a valuable collector’s item?

SA: I think so. I mean, for the signed copies, we tried to do something sort of special with it and get a lot of the contributors to the book to sign it.

So, there were a lot with Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Daly and Jason Mantzoukas. I did a whole batch with Weird Al Yankovic -- which annoyingly went right up on eBay. And then I did one that had all of the contributors sign it and a lucky person, I believe in Idaho, I think got it. So, for the new ones, we're trying do something similar. But if you don't care about signatures, it should be available right now. You should be able to get it. 

RG: From what I gathered at your book discussion, you had reached out to some of your friends, comedians, previous guests on the podcast, and it seemed like most of them sent everything in at the last minute. Were you on a tight deadline?

SA: Well, it was tight in the sense of we had to push it because everything was so late. So, it's as tight as something that can move and be flexible, if that makes sense. But yeah, it was supposed to come out I think about six months earlier and there was just no way that people were going to be done by then.

Not everyone gave stuff at the last minute. Some came in a year and a half before the book came out, but a lot of it was me at the last minute bugging all the comedians like, “Hey, I need a hundred more pages for the book. What can you give me?”

RG: The book had been in the works for at least a year and a half?

SA: Right, and I'm saying if it was due a year and a half ago, then for a couple of years. I remember getting the first drafts in whenever “Fast and the Furious 9” or “F9” of the “Fast” saga came out. So, it had been in the works for a year before that. So yeah, it's been something that has been a looming deadline for me for a long time that I'm happy to get off my plate and onto yours.

RG: Was it always a dream to have your podcast represented in convenient book form? 

SA: It really was! Probably the first or second episode that I did of the podcast back in 2009, I was like, “This has got to be a book. I hope someone's writing all this down.” And then about 600 episodes later, I realized no one was writing it down, and so I said, “I think we’ve got to write new stuff.”

If you're a fan of the podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!, -- which, if you have not heard, it is essentially a podcast where comedians come on and play fake insane people every week-- the book is essentially all of those fake insane characters writing stuff for a book, or not even writing stuff for a book, but also found ephemera like posters for the fake bands and diary entries and stuff like that, so if you know the show, I think it's really good, and if you don't know the show, I think it's good. 

RG. It'd be really interesting to hand it to someone who doesn’t know the show and just ask, “Hey, how do you interpret this? How do you and why do you find this funny?” versus someone who knows the podcast.

SA: It has been read and even reviewed by a lot of people who have never heard the podcast, and they all seem to get it, though, that's the interesting thing. They all understand the essential concept of it and then are just enjoying the writing. I mean, there's a lot of times I take in a piece of art that I don't quite understand what they're talking about, like historical fiction or even present-day fiction. But there are a lot of times I'll take in a piece of art and I'll be like, “Oh, I don't really understand the details, but I understand what's happening.” And that's what I think people who aren't familiar with the podcast will take away from the book. 

RG: I have to tell you, there's one page of the book that I read and my sons and I are reading it and it’s one of the few times legitimately laughing out loud, crying with laughter. It’s a review of a children's performance by Big Chunky Bubbles, and it just killed.

SA: Yeah, everyone really brought their A-game with the writing. It’s really well written. I think the book is really good for people who like comedy, even if you don't understand the podcast or have never heard it before. It’s just good to read really well-written comedy, and especially if you want to be a writer or you want to be a comedian. 

It's just a really good textbook of how to write a joke, I think. So, there's a lot of that. There are sections in it, like the “Hollywood Facts” board game trivia game that we did, where we just wrote a ton of fake “Trivial Pursuit”-type questions that are just jokes, and I think you can read those eight pages and just be like, “Oh, here are some interesting ways to write a joke,” but it's like an instruction manual in a way.

RG: You went so deep with these games in the book that they're actually playable. 

SA: They are playable. That was really important to John, the art director, and myself. We had a few conversations about how we were going to achieve that because of how many questions you could fit on a card and stuff like that. But it came out really well. You can play it. I just don't think you would ever be able to get any of the questions correct. But yeah, everything in the book is workable and playable and readable if you know English. 

RG: Looking through the book, it really reminded me – and I think we're roughly the same age - you probably read it too: I had “Late Night With David Letterman,” the book, which featured characters from the show and all sorts of weird things and I got that same vibe.

SA: Yeah, was that is the book that I thought of. When our editor Sam pitched me the idea of doing a book, she had an idea of like, “oh, it'll be a bunch of stuff from the podcast,” which is what it came out to be, but I flashed back to that David Letterman book and I said, “oh, yes, that was my favorite book when I was 15, 16 years old.”

I read it cover to cover over and over and over trying to figure out how to write comedy. And that's the feel that I wanted for this book is. Even if you didn't ever watch David Letterman, you could read that book and get it, and it was very inspiring to me as a young wannabe comedy writer to read that book, and that's the feeling I wanted this book to have.

RG:  I also want to talk about the podcast. Is the Backyard Era still going on? 

SA: So, for people who haven't listened to the show, the Backyard Era was during COVID. First, we had to do it over Zoom because we thought that just being within the same vicinity as people would kill us.

So, we did it over Zoom and then the science people sort of relaxed and said, “Hey, if you're outside far away from each other, I think it'll be cool.” So, that was the backyard era where I basically would set up mics every day with 50-foot cords, and we were in my backyard, 50 feet away from each other, and that was a really fun era. When the pandemic got a little more relaxed, then we went back into the studio, but now we're in my home studio, which is right next to my backyard. Adjacent to the backyard era. 

RG: Scott, I know you're an extremely private person…

SA: Please don’t tell anyone that. 

RG: And on Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast, you have an open-door policy. So, how do you keep that going in your home without people knowing where you live? 

SA: Well, anyone who wanders by and hears the faint sounds of a podcast being made -- and in Hollywood that's pretty much every house -- they can just walk in.

I do have elaborate burglar alarms in my house, and they'll have to sort of Catherine Zeta-Jones those - and when I say that, I mean not her in “Entrapment,” but remember when Michael Douglas got cancer from a certain activity with her? That's what I need people to do.

Ryan G: Well, we'll see if I can keep that in! Scott, anything else you'd like to plug?

SA: You know, we've covered the book and the podcast, and I cannot plug anything else via strike rules, but the book and the podcast are enough. I mean, what more do you want? You can hear me every week, you can read me every day, and if you wander around, you can spot me where I live.

RG: Scott, thanks for joining me again. Always great to talk to you.

SA: Thanks, Ryan. And it seems like we speak every couple of weeks, so I’ll talk to you then!