by Alex Ashe




Involvement in an influential alt-comedy institution is nothing new for Scott Aukerman, a creative force behind the ’90s HBO sketch show “Mr. Show with Bob and David” and the Zach Galifianakis web series “Between Two Ferns.” As host and curator of the improvisational CBB podcast and TV show, he serves as ringleader of his guests by egging them on to hilarious places while remaining game for every twist and turn the show takes. And even among his consistently hilarious guests, Aukerman’s always a contender for funniest guy in the room.


The insanely talented Watts perpetually blurs the lines between great music and great comedy in his completely improvised live act, which must make an improv comedy podcast seem like a walk in the park in comparison. Though, not a regular guest, his stamp is on the show in the form of its infectious and completely awesome theme song. On the CBB TV show, currently airing its sophomore season on IFC, Watts is a perfect fit, channeling Andy Richter and Paul Schafer in wearing the hats of announcer, sidekick and one-man house band.


A typical CBB podcast features Aukerman “interviewing” an actor or comedian before being interrupted by an in-character comedian, a result of the show’s “open-door policy.” No one has taken advantage of this more than the dapper Tompkins, who has appeared in 60 of the 231 episodes in the guise of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ice-T and Garry Marshall, among others. His razorsharp wit, commitment to his characters and terrific rapport with fellow “Mr. Show” alum Aukerman are all parts of an equation that consistently produces comedic gold.


Like Tompkins, Daly, who plays Principal Cutler on “Eastbound and Down,” disregards every negative connotation of improvisational comedy. Constantly paired with the anomalous Jason Mantzoukas (Raffi on “The League”), Daly is terrific at establishing a character and gradually building to a gutbusting reveal of their perversities.


It’s just not fair. On top of being ridiculously handsome and the lead of one of television’s all-time great dramas, Jon Hamm is funny, too. While he’s proven that on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” his six podcast appearances display his quick wit and ability to hang with some of Los Angeles’ top improvisers. Hamm’s friendship with Aukerman and other great LA comics, which predates his “Mad Men” turn, is just another reason to envy the man.


The show’s proverbial punching bag, Wittels, a “Parks and Recreation” writer, has become a fan-favorite thanks to his “Phone/ Foam Corner” segment in which he recites discarded jokes in a Norm Macdonald-like exercise in anti-humor. The excellent chemistry between Wittels and Aukerman is best displayed on their spinoff podcast, “Analyze Phish.” The premise: Wittels, a massive Phish fan, tries to convince Aukerman to like the band to delightfully fruitless results.


As he does on Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show,” the divisive Nick Kroll alters between silly and smart when portraying his many characters including a Latin American disc jockey el Chupacabra and Bobby Bottleservice, a pathetic Guido momma’s boy.


As great as his turns as Paul Giamatti and Gary Busey are, Adomian is at his best when impersonating more obscure figures like shock jock Tom Leykis or the late, great Huell Howser, an easily amused host of several travel shows on California public television. The impressions are spot-on, but enlightening non-Californians about Howser is the real gift here.


Though she’s only appeared on the podcast twice, Amy Poehler has proven to be an ideal celebrity guest. Genuine, charming and endlessly willing, her on-screen radiance comes across in audio form, too. Her first turn in the recurring “Freestyle Rap Battle” segment remains one of the show’s finest moments and is worth a YouTube search.


The dry humor of the “Party Down” and “Parks and Recreation” star is a perfect complement to Aukerman’s thick irony. For years, Aukerman has deliberately wrenched up the awkwardness by asking guests for their salary or address. So when, in a recent episode, Adam Scott answered the address question leisurely and legitimately (it was bleeped out in post-production), it was a great payoff to a running gag and an entertaining glimpse into Scott’s off-screen personality.