Scott Aukerman Talks to Zach Galifianakis About Comedy Bang! Bang! and President Obama’s Between Two Ferns

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Scott Aukerman’s fake-talk-show/sketch-show hybrid Comedy Bang! Bang! is about to enter its fourth season. This year will be different, however, with the show airing 40 episodes, nearly as many as the previous seasons combined. With the new season starting Friday at 11 p.m. on IFC, Vulture had Zach Galifianakis, who has guested on Comedy Bang! Bang! (the TV show, podcast, and weekly live show, when it was still around) and famously worked with Aukerman on Between Two Ferns, to interview his old friend. The two spoke about the new season, early influences, and President Barack Obama's appearance on Between Two Ferns. It's mostly bits.

Part 1: Greetings, and early influences.

Zach Galifianakis: Scott, what a pleasure to sit down with you. Thank you so much.

Scott Aukerman: It’s always great to sit down across the table from a comedy titan because if there’s anything I can glean or learn from you, or if just some of your Hollywood stardom could rub off on me, I mean, that’s what show business is all about. So, thank you, Zach.

ZG: Oh, you’re too kind, Scoot. Scoot, when you were living—

SA: Stop right there! I mean, that’s a great question right there. When I was living? Yeah, I was alive, you’re right.

ZG: When you were living as a young man, let’s say teenager, were you thinking about getting into the world of comedy? Were you dreaming about that?

SA: So, teens from 13–19, I take it? 

ZG: Yeah, I guess. Did they change the rules?

SA: I started probably getting interested in comedy at 13, when a girl that I was dating — that’s right, I was dating someone at 13 — I really just wanted to brag about that, but I’ll continue — she showed me Monty Python and the Holy Grail

ZG: Is that a euphemism for something else?

SA: [Laughs.] She showed me her Monty Python and the Holy Grail and I said, “You know what? Comedians get laid, I’m in.”

ZG: So, that’s what you were influenced by, what you saw?

SA: I was very into that movie, and I started doing speech competitions in high school. I did one speech competition where I actually did a lot of scenes from that movie. And I got very into Saturday Night Live and David Letterman when I was 14 and 15. I really had an appreciation for it, and I knew I wanted to be a performer of some sort. I was doing musical theater, and the idea of being an actual, professional comedian seemed like a far-off dream that was unachievable.

ZG: Are you done?

SA: Yep, that’s it.

ZG: That answer was about 61 seconds too long.

SA: Do you want me to tighten it up? Okay, here we go. I saw funny movie, I said, “Me want do that.”

ZG: Perfect. And then, as far as influences throughout the years, were you influenced very young from, let’s say, Letterman, I would imagine?

SA: Letterman was my biggest influence. Also, Pee-wee Herman, I would say. Both to them in 1985. I actually saw Pee-wee Herman on The David Letterman Show. That was the first time I ever heard of him, and the fact that he was on The David Letterman Show, which I adored, made me think, Oh, wow, Pee-wee Herman’s probably pretty cool, which is why I went to see Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which became one of my favorite movies of all time. Those two were really my big influences. I went around acting like Letterman in high school, which would have been really annoying if not for the fact that I was super, super hilarious.

ZG: Who says?

SA: Just my own impression of it as I look back on those days was very, very funny.

ZG: Spot on.

SA: But I had a public-access television show that my friend hosted, and I did little funny Letterman-esque bits on. But then I took it over and I hosted it for a while as well. I was just doing a pretty shameless Letterman ripoff.

ZG: Have those been posted online anywhere?

SA: You know what? I played one of them at a UCB show in L.A. Jen Kirkman had a show where comedians were supposed to play embarrassing things from early on in their career or from when they were children, and I brought that in and I played it, and she got really mad at me and said, ‘You’re supposed to bring something you’re embarrassed by. Not something you would do today!” So I guess my sense of humor hasn’t progressed that much from when I was 15.

Part 2: Comedy Bang! Bang!

ZG: Right. And did you get free HBO because you were on Mr. Show?

SA: One would hope, but no! I’ve been paying for that goddamn channel for 20 years now.

ZG: That doesn’t make any sense.

SA: I don’t even get free IFC.

ZG: Oh, speaking of IFC. Tell us about your dog show. Wait, is it a new thing coming out now?

SA: The new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! is out on Friday, January 9. Season four, 11 p.m. on IFC.

ZG: Who were the big guests this year?

SA: Well, I have one friend of mine, a bearded gentleman who has lost a lot of weight recently.

ZG: Oh, Bruce Vilanch?

SA: Zachary, you’re in season four. Our season premiere has Ty Burrell and Nick Kroll. We have Maya Rudolph and Maria Bamford and Schoolboy Q and Horatio Sanz and Eddie George from the Tennessee Titans and hip-hop star Kid Cudi.

ZG: Oh, Kid Cudi. I think he lives in Venice, doesn’t he?

SA: Yeah, do you know his address? Can we put it in this interview?

ZG: No, but someone was telling me that they recorded with him, and they were in Venice doing it.

SA: Maybe you’re wrong, maybe you’re right.

ZG: It may have been Pat Boone. Is Reggie Watts on it this season?

SA: Yeah, Reggie, who has been my one-man band leader for the first three season, got the job being a real band leader on CBS’s Late Late Show with James Cordon, so he is going to be leaving.

ZG: That’s exciting! Do you have feelings about that?

SA: Yeah, I mean, I'm happy for him. I think it’s a great gig. He is doing half of the season with us, and then we have a really cool, touching good-bye episode with him halfway through the season, and then we’ll have someone new.

ZG: How cool. That’s very cool. Who do you have in mind for the new [person]?

SA: Well, I know there’s one comedian who, when I first started seeing him, would play the piano and tell his jokes while he was playing piano, and I'm hoping that I can convince him to do it.

ZG: Victor Borge? Yeah, that comedian you’re speaking of is no longer with us.


Part 3: The President Obama episode of Between Two Ferns.

ZG: Well, listen Scott, I want to thank you for your time. Wait, can I ask more questions?

SA: Do you want to ask any questions about the White House?

ZG: Oh, sure, I’ll ask about that. Scott, why don’t you tell us about the magical arrangement of Between Two Ferns in the White House? Walk us through that, because I don’t know if I was a part of it.

SA: Well, as we all heard on Howard Stern, Bradley Cooper set it up.

ZG: What?

SA: Oh, you haven’t heard about that yet.

ZG: No, what happened?

SA: Bradley told everyone that he’s the one who arranged it.

ZG: Oh, whatever, glory boy. I’ll have a word with him, but we were pursuing it as well.

SA: Yeah, but we got the word that it might happen. I didn’t really expect it to actually occur. Did you?

ZG: No. No.

SA: Even though we were sitting there in the White House, I kind of thought someone would rush in and say that North Korea had declared nuclear war or something and we weren't going to be able to film the video.

ZG: Yeah, it was quite an experience.

SA: It was cool sitting there in the White House, though.

ZG: Had you ever been before?

SA: I’d never been. I went one time afterwards, but we were sitting there in the Map Room, which is where they planned World War I.

ZG: A lot of wars.

SA: So many wars. You really got a good sense of how many wars there’s been when you’re sitting in that White House.

ZG: There have been a lot of wars.

SA: It was definitely a very interesting experience, and one that I’m glad that I had with you because we made it pretty fun. You kept on sitting on the wrong chairs.

ZG: Yeah, we won’t get into that. I don’t think I want to make that public knowledge.

SA: I think I read you talk about it in an interview already.

ZG: Oh, I did? I think it was one from the 1700s, the chair I was sitting in.

SA: What I thought was weird about it was these chairs were out there, they weren’t taped off or anything.

ZG: The guy said to me, “I assumed that you would know not to sit in them.”

SA: Why? They’re chairs. The other thing was it’s not like they gave us any chairs to sit in.

ZG: Well, you know, I sat in it again.

SA: I know. He came and chastised us, and then you sat in it one more time.

ZG: And he looks at me and goes, "Man, I got to get you a chair!”

SA: Well, that’s my point! Yes! Get us chairs!

ZG: Can you get one without a plaque on it, please?

SA: Were you nervous?

ZG: Oh, yes. I was nervous. Yeah. You want to be respectful, but you assume that he knows the essence of the show. But I don’t know if he did. I didn’t feel confident that he knew anything. That would make one nervous if you thought he was stepping into a legitimate interview. I always go to the most negative thing. No one told him. I'm just going to be out there alone. I remember saying to Cody [Keenan], the speech writer, I said, “Did he see this question?” And I think it was the question, “What’s it like to be the last black president?” And Cody said, "I think so."

SA: That’s not the ringing vote of confidence you want. But to be fair, he did great in it and seemed to really get it, and you were great in it. But I can imagine that must have been one of the more nervous times of your performing career. How would you rate it in terms of nervousness in your whole career?

ZG: It’s pretty high up there.

SA: I can imagine.

ZG: Yeah. I would say that, and my fourth take on Corky Romano.

SA: ‘Cause, you know, running out of daylight.

Part 4: Sleeping, Prince, good-byes.

ZG: And so outside of your talk show, what else does Scott do?

SA: Well, you know, I have a wonderful family. I have a group of devoted friends. I tend to eat three times a day. Really, if you take up an hour eating each time you eat, that’s three hours out of your day, and then you’re also sleeping eight or nine hours. Half of your day is gone already. Have you thought about what it would be like if we didn’t sleep?

ZG: Yeah, but I don’t need a lot of sleep.

SA: Really? How much sleep do you get?

ZG: I can do six [hours] for many days in a row.

SA: But what if you didn’t sleep at all?

ZG: That’s what my goal is.

SA: You should get there eventually.

ZG: I hear Prince doesn’t sleep.

SA: Yeah. I feel like Prince is the next step in human evolution. I’d like to think his penis is shaped like that symbol and hurts a lot when going in.

ZG: Hmm.

SA: I like your reaction to that. "Hmm."

ZG: You know, I never thought about it that way.

SA: Well, Zach, what a wonderful note to end on, right?

ZG: What a great interview. Thank you.

SA: This is certainly not the next Frost/Nixon, but it was enjoyable for me.

ZG: Well, I mean, if you want me to Frost/Nixon, I can do that.

SA: Wait, who would you be? Nixon?

ZG: I haven’t seen the movie yet. Let me go watch it. I’ll get back to you.

SA: Okay, watch it and we’ll schedule another interview.