Comedy Bang! Bang! is a lot like the Celebrity Makeovers segment presented on this week’s episode: sometimes the different bits are just sort of smashed together, like a picture of Candice Bergen and Mike Tyson forced next to each other. But more often than not, they come together in a perfect way, into a real Morph-Me Brown situation, where things just sort of click. Thankfully “Joel McHale Wears a Navy Zip-Up and High Tops” is a pretty great Morph-Me Brown of an episode.
Like last week’s episode, last night’s event benefited from a looser structure, one that the entire story doesn’t rely on. “Joel McHale”’s introduction of the Comedy Touch Touch-1000—a smartscreen TV that can tell jokes and has comedy apps that seem to want to compare and contrast Shaq and Wallace Shawn—is a fun, 2001 inspired idea. But it’s Neil Campbell as the Terminator-esque naked man from the future trying to warn everyone that really steals the show, as Campbell is so often able to do.
Joel McHale is a perfectly fine guest, but as usual, he’s best when he’s his smarmy, slightly douchey persona. When the CBB crew doesn’t applaud him like his The Soup crew does, he leaves the stage and comes back for a second try. McHale doesn’t get enough of these moments, but there is some very funny riffing going on between him, Scott and Reggie while discussing his appearance in Spider-Man 2 and Reggie’s supposed appearance in Also Spider-Man, directed by Germy Jarmusch. For a second week in a row, CBB also reuses a similar idea, with a bit about McHale recording the show, then playing it back on the show with Scott doing something different. It’s not a huge distraction, but it also isn’t as great as it could’ve been.
I’ve stated before that I find James Adomian to be mostly hit-or-miss on both the podcast and the show, but this time he comes around with one of his best characters: Paul Giamatti. Adman plays Giamatti as the world’s biggest loser, a man who claims to look like he’s made of spoiled pancake batter, has a drowned penis and comatose balls, and does advertisements for Jackass Payday Loans. In what might be McHale’s best moment of the episode, a slight kick to the “jackass” Giamatti makes for a great punctuation on a fantastic character appearance.
But where “Joel McHale” really shines is in the taped bits, which have really stepped up in quality this season. Scott is hosting a reality show called “Reality House,” where a bunch of people live in a house and are never given any instructions as to what to do. Scott shows up daily to recite the same condescending poem, while the cast tries to figure out if it’s a weight loss show, a cooking show, or if there’s any point at all. Scott’s vagueness and frustration in this segment is absolutely hilarious, and to be honest, I’d absolutely watch all 43 days of “Reality House.”
“Joel McHale”’s individual pieces are all very good to great, with some fantastic character work, a consistently enjoyable connective plot and one of this season’s best parody bits. I’m pretty sure the Comedy Touch Touch 1000 couldn’t make an episode this good.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.