(or “Another Thrilling Entry That Dates Me!”)
Do any of you remember the very, very late night TV talk show “Tomorrow With Tom Snyder“? I don’t think of it very often, but when I do, it’s with fondness mixed with a little “why do I remember this fondly?” It had a very distinctive feel to it. It was funny, yes, but more in a strange way than a “joke –> punchline” sense. I was kind of slow, it was kind of quiet, and it had a sense of smallness to it that I associate with very late night television.
I bring this up because, while it’s taken me a while to realize this, I get that same set of feeling watching IFC’s “Comedy Bang Bang.” I like the skits just fine, but what really tickles me are the very quiet, very off-beat, and frequently bizarre interview segments. Scott Aukerman has the bright eyes and gentle manner of the serial-killer-next-door and Reggie Watts is a perfect foil for him with his deadpan sidekick delivery. The guests have been uniformly well-chosen to be able to fit the pace and voice of the show. I’ll admit to not “getting” it at first, but hearing the opening music to Comedy Bang Bang makes me grin every time now.
I’ve written at length about the wonderful “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast, which is another pea in the quietly weird pod. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s best described as “NPR-meets-Lovecraft.” There’s nothing frenetic about it; it’s the cadence of a Kai Ryssdal-esque host describing the goings-on in sleepy little Night Vale…and I’ll leave it at that.
As I write this, I’m imagining a common thread here. The Tomorrow Show had a very AM radio feel to it. Comedy Bang Bang started as a podcast, and Night Vale is one. You could close your eyes during all three of them and not miss a thing.* Come to think of it, I think I “watched” the Tomorrow show that way most of the time.
Good radio talk shows have to have clever hosts and guests, people who can think on the fly and be interesting and flexible enough to follow where the other person is going. There’s no safety net, no visual gags, no frenetic mannerisms to fall back on. Good radio talk shows have no where to hide, even when they’re on television. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy ’em.
*Unless you’re driving. That would be bad.