In only his second performance with friends at the Comedy Store back in 1995, Scott Aukerman made a chance connection with Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), who was in the audience. “He took a liking to us and sponsored us in comedy in a way,” Aukerman recalls. “He would come to our performances and either give us notes or appear in parts, or sometimes get up and introduce the show to let people know that he cosigned on it, which was really generous of him.” Aukerman then landed his first job in television, writing for HBO’s beloved sketch comedy series Mr. Show, which starred Odenkirk and David Cross. Since then Aukerman has launched a podcasting empire with Earwolf, written for the Oscars and Emmys and cocreated the Zach Galifianakis web series Between Two Ferns. His show Comedy Bang! Bang!—which began as a podcast—enters its final 10 episodes Oct. 28 on IFC. An edited version of Aukerman’s conversation with B&C contributing editor Luke McCord follows.
There’s an eclectic mix of podcasts on Earwolf. What makes a podcast a good fit?
There needs to be something that sets it apart if you’re not a celebrity like Katie Couric. With her you can just say The Katie Couric Show. People like her and they want to spend an hour listening to her talk to people. But for comedians, we’re always looking for something to give the show a hook.
Did you expect Comedy Bang! Bang! to last over 100 episodes?
Louis C.K. told me that with every project, you have to believe it’s going to be the greatest show that ever got on the air. Most of the time those shows don’t end up going, and you also have to be just as willing to put it aside. I took that to heart when he said it, and I really thought Comedy Bang! Bang! was going to be this amazing show. So I have to say I did think it would go for 110 episodes. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if it hadn’t.
What can fans expect from the final episodes?
There’s a tendency when you write a finale to do something huge. We wanted to get away from that because sometimes finales end up not a great representation of what the show is. People might be surprised at how small in scope it is, because I wanted to make the funniest episode our No. 1 priority.
How does Between Two Ferns work differently for politicians like Hillary Clinton than celebrities?
Weirdly, not that different. When we were doing the Hillary one, talking to her campaign people and hearing their feedback, I laughed and said this is actually a very typical reaction to Between Two Ferns. The politician’s people have the same concerns that a celebrity’s people have: ‘Hey, does my client come off likable enough or funny enough?’ Everyone is sort of nervous, but once it comes out the reaction is so strong toward them that all is forgiven.
How is writing for awards shows different from your own show?
When I’m host, I’m not necessarily looking for the funniest joke so much as the funniest joke I can pull off. I’ll sometimes read a joke and go, ‘That’s so good, but I know I can’t do it. It’s not in my voice.’ When you’re writing for Andy Samberg for the Emmys or Chris Rock for the Oscars, it’s a fine line. You have to be able to fight for a joke you think is worthwhile. But at the same time, if the host doesn’t have any connection to it, you’re kind of fighting a losing battle.