Every week Comedy Bang! Bang! tries to find a way to make things topsy-turvy, taking some spin on the formula or gimmick to make each episode new and interesting. However in “Jake Johnson Wears a Light Blue Button-Up Shirt and Brown Shoes,” the show literally makes things topsy-turvy by flipping the entire set upside down. Simply flipping the set isn’t a terrible idea, but the focus on the crazy premise distracts from the elements that are the week-to-week meat of the show.
“Jake Johnson” does allow for the return of Haley Joel Osment’s Slow Joey, maybe my favorite crew member. Joey does such stupid things, yet speaks so eloquently that it’s hard to believe he could be such a fool. When Scott asks Joey to have the studio remodeled, Joey accidentally showed the workers the blueprint upside down, leading the set to be completely the same, just on the ceiling and stuck there by Liar’s Brand Super Glue. Thankfully Kid Cudi has been mountain climbing recently, so they climb to the set, buckle themselves in and continue with business as usual.
At first the idea is funny, as it’s clear that Scott and guest Jake Johnson simply just have gel in their hair that make it look as if they’re upside down, with the occasional thing falling to the floor for good effect. Johnson has to climb a ladder to get to the couch and Cudi’s microphone keeps swinging by its wire. Yet the further the episode goes, the more it relies on this idea almost exclusively, to a point that isn’t all that funny. At least it builds to a conclusion. The blood from Scott’s penis has gone to his head, at first finally just bringing him up to the intelligence level of normal human beings, but builds until he is using 100% of his brain, giving him telepathic, Limitless-type powers. This saves the whole set as it comes crashing down, but this isn’t actually funny, just a fitting way for the episode to end.
Jake Johnson is one of the few guests for this segment of the season who’s clearly a sure thing when it comes to the CBB world. New Girl and various podcast appearances make it clear that he’s great at improvising, and his type of humor seems perfectly suited for the show’s. Almost immediately, Johnson gets right to Scott’s level, as Scott asks if it was his tight little butt that put the “ass” is Jurassic World. Instead of being surprised, Johnson “yes ands” away, saying that they cast his tight little butt instead of him and casting demanded he take his pants off, almost breaking Scott right away.
Johnson is completely game the entire episode, as he admits that he directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, admitting that J.J. Abrams is actually short for Jake Johnson Abrams, as he allows Scott to guess the only four scenes that happen in the entire movie. He’s even great when helping Scott become a ladies’ man, telling Scott to go with his strengths: that he’s a TV host and that he knows Jake “J.J. Abrams” Johnson.
Unfortunately Johnson has never been on the podcast, yet seeing how ready he is to play along with every weird idea and joke, it would be great to see how he bounces off an actual character. “Jake Johnson” doesn’t even provide an opportunity to see Johnson in this format, as the guest this week is Dr. Marney Pullberg, a soup expert. In the episode’s biggest example of focusing too much on its premise, Pullberg opens her favorite kinds of soup while upside down, which ends with her just getting lentil soup and cream of mushroom all over her face. Pullberg’s segment is so short, it’s hard to even call her this week’s guest and it’s a shame to miss how Johnson would interact with the crazy characters that also inhabit this world.
Even the taped segment this week isn’t as great as they usually are, as Scott hosts a game show called “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth,” in which contestants can keep a chestnut-colored colt, as long as they never look in its mouth. There’s no real time limit, so if the guests want to keep the horse, they basically have to live in the stable. Also for some reason, everyone has an uncontrollable desire to look at the horse’s mouth, most within twenty seconds of seeing the horse. it’s a fun take on the phrase, but the bit makes sure to tackle every possible idea that could come from this segment, dragging it into the ground, just not in quite as fun of a way as the show usually does.
Sometimes Comedy Bang! Bang! can succeed when it decides to change its pattern and focus on an episode’s gimmick rather than its guests and characters, but more often than not, it stops the show from reaching its full potential. “Jake Johnson” is an enjoyable episode and it does at the very least present Johnson as a great guest. However by focusing on the idea of being topsy-turvy, the episode never quite gets to the hilarious level the show usually hits.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.