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Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013

Comedy Bang! Bang! w/ The Birthday Boys @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Oct. 7, 2013

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Photo credit: Sara Bill
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Much like a lively Twitter feed, podcasting has become an almost indispensable technological tool for modern comedians. Whereas once you had to incessantly tour crappy comedy clubs to build a following, working yourself to death for a five-minute slot on “The Tonight Show” or something, you can now broadcast yourself directly to your fans at nominal expense, and easily recruit new ones in the process, which, if all goes well, can lead to bigger and better things. Take Scott Aukerman’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” which began as a podcast (well, technically a radio show, though the line between the two mediums have become hopelessly blurred) but in 2012 made the jump to TV as a popular and ingeniously genre-bending program on IFC. Of course, for your comedy to work on any platform, you’ve got to have chops, and Aukerman, a veteran of “Mr. Show with Bob and David” among other thing, most certainly does, making Monday night’s show a memorable one.

Warming up the sizable audience was the quirky sketch troupe The Birthday Boys, who not-so-coincidentally have a program of their own premiering on IFC next week. After a brief introductory video from executive producer and co-star Bob Odenkirk, they presented a series of sketches interspersed with footage from their show, both of which bode well for the series’ success, even if there were a couple of song parodies, particularly a snowboarding brah extolling the virtues of fresh powder to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” that didn’t really land. After their set, Aukerman emerged for a half-hour or so of brilliantly deconstructed standup, which poked fun at topical humorists by leafing disastrously through a copy of the Journal Sentinel and subverted the usual local-crowd pandering by relentlessly singing the praises of Chicago audiences and facetiously treating the Turner Hall performance as if it were just a dry run for the one at the Vic the following night.

Soon the show became something more closely resembling “Comedy Bang! Bang!” itself (though sans bandleader Reggie Watts), with Aukerman earnestly interviewing improvised characters played by fellow comedians; in fact this portion of the evening, as with every stop on the tour, was recorded for a future podcast installment. Tonight’s “guests” were tailored to Milwaukee, first with Horatio Sanz as a Potawatomi tribesperson/Native American caricature and then with Paul F. Tompkins as “Happy Days” creator Gary Marshall. Sanz’s persona was funny enough, winkingly trotting out every Indian cliché in the book but generally taking them to a place too surreal to be offensive, while Tompkins stole the show as Marshall, reimagined as an eccentric monster hunter on the trail of the Bronze Fonz, who stalks the streets by night as a murderous Golem-like creature. As the night wound down with a quick game of “Would You Rather?,” it became apparent that whether onstage, on TV or as a podcast, “Comedy Bang! Bang!” works.