rankings

The 103 Best Characters in Comedy Bang! Bang! history

Ranking the most lovable, demented, and disgusting figures from Scott Aukerman’s beloved podcast.

Illustration: Julie Greiner
Illustration: Julie Greiner
Illustration: Julie Greiner

Some call it “America’s Podcast.” Others know it as “The Show Where They Talk to Interesting People.” Whatever your name for it, Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! is an undeniable force in podcasting and a landmark in comedy and audio history.

The history of the show is well trod. In 2002, Aukerman and fellow Mr. Show writer B.J. Porter founded a live comedy show called Comedy Death-Ray with close ties to L.A.’s improv and alt-comedy worlds. The live show begat a weekly web radio show of the same name, which in 2010 became the inaugural podcast for Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich’s comedy network, Earwolf. A year later, Aukerman rechristened it Comedy Bang! Bang! from a name suggested by his wife, filmmaker Kulap Vilaysack, and just like in that other bang — you know, the big one — an entirely new universe was created.

At the core of its longstanding appeal is Aukerman’s patented, if foolish, open-door policy. Each week, Aukerman tries to conduct real interviews with real celebrities (Neil Patrick Harris, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler), only to have them interrupted by a revolving cast of characters of all stripes. Against his better judgment, Aukerman lets their conversations spin out of control, often into insane, obscene, or otherwise twisted places. Part longform improv, part sketch showcase, each episode winds up a breezy hour and change split into deliciously palatable segments that highlight each new guest’s eccentricities.

In the decade since its launch, Earwolf has emerged as a key player in the podcast space, with dozens of other comedy podcasts created by the network. But Comedy Bang! Bang! has always been the network’s flagship, serving as a veritable franchise of its own with more than 750 hours of published content, a five-season-long TV series on IFC, and several international tours in the rearview. Many of the country’s greatest comedians have appeared on it in that time, playing weirdos, ghosts, icons, animals, inanimate objects, criminals, and even entrepreneurs. Certain characters visited once only, never to return again — blessedly so, in some cases. Others have returned time and time again, crafting expansive backstories for fan-favorite characters that connect with others in the ever-expanding world of the podcast.

Through their outrageous antics, Comedy Bang! Bang! has cemented its place in the hearts of what Aukerman called the podcast’s “several” listeners. The below is an attempt to return that favor by highlighting the stars that shined the brightest while also offering a brief look at the many geniuses this behemoth of a program has cultivated over these last 11 years. The 103 incredible individuals listed here are ranked not by their popularity but by how hard they’ve made us laugh — simple as that. Given that we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of Aukerman’s many, many beloved guests, we know you’ll reach out to tell us how much you love or hate our ranking, and we pray that you do.

103. Jeffrey Characterwheaties

The game here is that all this time “Jason Mantzoukas” has just been a comedy character performed by a committed actor named Jeffrey Characterwheaties, who has been workshopping Jason for years at the Groundlings. Jeffrey rarely breaks character, but in the 2015 “Mailer Daemon” episode, he sat down with Aukerman for a serious chat about what got into his goddamn skull to have him dream up such a grotesque, strange being as Jason. An egg allergy? Really? —RA

102. Michael Jackson

The King of Pop’s ghost has popped by a few times, including once the day after his death. But with respect to Paul F. Tompkins, who originated the character on episode 9, the show’s best dead MJ is actually MB: real-life comedian Mookie Blaiklock, that is. Blaiklock’s version of “Wacko Jacko” spends his days denying climate change and enjoying his probation from hell, provided he doesn’t do “any bad stuff” (as he says, “You know what it means!”) while on Earth. Add to that Blaiklock’s slippery metaportrayal of the ghost as reincarnated in the body of a pasty, overweight white guy, and you get a deceptively clever, some might even say prescient depiction of one of the most controversial media figures ever. Hee-hee! —SM

101. Paul Giamatti

James Adomian’s Paul Giamatti is the ultimate sad sack, an eternal also-ran who can’t catch a break, even after he lost his greatest nemesis — he was the Tails to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Sonic the Hedgehog. He gets fired from even the most degrading gigs, he is violently angry all the time at his gross body, and he lives in a hell of his own mediocre creation. Paul is lower than a dog, lower than dirt, and the exaggerated content of the impersonation matched with Adomian’s spot-on squeaking vocal work makes him a believable, pitiable, lowly monster. —RA 

100. Margie Donk

Mary Holland first brought the incorrigible Margie Donk to CBB in 2014 with her improv team Wild Horses. Two years later, the Donkster — “Not a monster!” — got her own showcase in “Get Donk’d,” quickly overshadowing the episode’s main guest, Flight of the Conchords star Rhys Darby. Holland excels at portraying women whose sanity is moments from slipping away, and Donk is no exception. A wildly horny, hyperconfident fanfic writer, she also claims that she turns her computer on by screaming “Desktop!” at it and that she’s invisible in photographs. Is she a vampire? An alien? A psychopath? We’re never told, but with Holland’s imagination, the possibilities are endless. —SM

99. DJ Forsythia

As someone raised on easy-listening rock radio, I’ve never heard a more seering impression of the DJs of my childhood than Lennon Parham’s Forsythia. The wispy voice, the New Age–y advice, the chiming theme of her music and advice show Night Scapes. She’s perfectly calibrated to trigger anyone whose parents drove to the beach with one arm dangling out the window. Needless to say, Forsythia is intentionally, brilliantly grating, a casually grotesque Talia Schlanger parody with the references of Wolfman Jack. Wisely, Parham has only portrayed her on the podcast twice and the TV show once over eight years. —SM

98. Ghost Boy

An appearance by Molasses Boy himself, Allan McLeod, is a rare and special thing, which is why his annual “Comedy Fang Fang” bits are so dear to my heart. McLeod plays poor little Ghost Boy, a child ghost who has been separated from his ghost mother and initially haunts the studio before moving to 1122 Boogie Woogie Avenue along with the other Suicide House ghost hosts. Like any olden-timey lad, he appreciates a jape and a jest. —RA

97. James Gandolfini

So despised is Brett Gelman’s anti-impersonation of the late great Sopranos star that even the writers of the Comedy Bang! Bang! Wiki page call him “pretty unfunny” (and the YouTube comments are worse). Gelman’s version of James Gandolfini is performed in true Andy Kaufman style, which is to say it antagonizes any audiences expecting a real, committed impersonation. Instead, Gelman’s Gandolfini — not unlike his equally derided take on Billy Crystal — offers hackneyed complaints about traffic, litter, and women, all in a completely ludicrous faux-Jersey accent. That Gelman is in real life one of comedy’s most versatile performers (including with impersonations) only makes his ongoing failure to reach fan-favorite status that much funnier. —SM

96. Charles Manson

Charlie Manson seems like a pretty cool guy, to be honest. At least when it comes to the version played by UCB’s Madeline Walter, he’s still got that signature joie de vivre that made him so charming. Walter’s Manson first dropped by fresh from a prison break to make Sarah Silverman giggle with delight in episode 522, becoming an instantly classic character — until, that is, he died in real life. Since then, Manson’s friendly ghost has only popped up on a couple of special anniversary episodes, which is not nearly often enough for those of us who love him. —SM

95. The Get-in-the-Way Gremlin

One appearance was all Jessica McKenna needed to turn the Get-in-the-Way Gremlin (birth name: Greta Gerwig) into the stuff of CBB legend. Greta’s first initiative was to interrupt Aukerman’s interview with Natalie Morales in episode 593, but it wasn’t until Zeke Nicholson’s Peter Griffin (yes, from Family Guy) arrived that her merciless negging kicked into high gear. One by one, this rascally nuisance razzed Griffin, Aukerman, Morales, the pod, Green Book, and various other pop-culture entities before (as is McKenna’s wont) ultimately launching into a nonsense song. It was all quite overstimulating, genuinely exhausting, yet undeniably charming and another reminder that no performer’s characters more delicately straddle the line between annoying and amusing than McKenna’s. —SM

94/93. Michael Explosione, Sr. and Jr.

“Insta-Classic.” “Awesome.” “Easily my favorite episode.” As these comments from the now-defunct Earwolf message boards suggest, episode 345 delivered one of the great four-part performances in the show’s history. In the episode, Paul Brittain gives a tour de force as trampoline entrepreneur Michael Explosione Sr. and his businessman son Michael Jr. Not only do the Explosiones perform Scott’s favorite vocal effect, “the Doppler,” but their bickering also freezes up guest Kyle Bornheimer with laughter. Brittain’s use of voice and space are mutually ingenious, adding up to a conflict between failed father, black sheep of the family, and a third, more beloved Explosione boy, Steve. It’s as deep as anything Shakespeare ever wrote, so why haven’t we heard more from the Explosiones since? Give the people what they want, Brittain! —SM

92. Mall McCartney

I dare “Say Say Say” that if you like Sir Paul McCartney, you will love Mall McCartney. Essentially, they’re the same guy, it’s just that one was in Wings, and the other loves malls. The Grove, the Glendale Galleria, Ross Park — as long as it’s got a Zara, Mall McCartney doesn’t discriminate, babe. One of many ridiculous pomo Jon Daly creations, Mr. Mall has only appeared twice on the podcast (a fact exploited by Aukerman in the tenth-anniversary episode), though strangely never with Mike Hanford’s John Lennon or Horatio Sanz’s Gringo Starr. “With a Little Luck,” maybe the band will get back together someday. —SM

91. Mr. Fastidious

A guest appearance by comedian band (although not a comedy band) the Sloppy Boys gave Neil Campbell a perfect excuse to whip out another delightfully silly one-trait character: Mr. Fastidious, a punctilious sort who likes things to be “just so.” He is the very opposite of sloppy, see. When it’s suggested that he might have OCD, Mr. Fastidious has never heard of such a thing (he asks if it’s what Tom Hanks had in Philadelphia). Can’t a man like things “just so” anymore? Bandmate Mike Hanford gamely swoops in to play the extended Fastidious family, compounding the goofiness. Tra-la-la. —RA

90. Scott Jeffries

If not for Scott Jeffries, I never would have watched the Joseph Gordon-Levitt bike messenger movie Premium Rush on a plane to Mexico. Granted, it’s not a good movie, but I’m sure glad I saw it, because it made Jeffries’s first appearance on CBB twice as funny (and it was already pretty great). Jeffries is a film publicist and producer known for both his pretentious taste and unbridled enthusiasm for his clients, including Premium Rush. Appropriately, he is played by comedian (and former Wolfpop impresario) Paul Scheer, who has no peer when it comes to characters who are generally full of shit. For Jeffries at his most toxically smarmy, seek out the 2013 “Live From Sundance” episode, a deep cut where Scheer guesses the plots of indie films he’s never seen with extraordinary accuracy. —SM

89. Barry R

Saxophonist Barry R’s many smooth-jazz records have no barry-rs, except to good taste. On all three of his CBB appearances, he steamrolled the interview segments by playing his misguided novelty songs, much to Aukerman’s chagrin. That Barry is so memorable might be because of his look, with a rattail soul patch and Kenny G braid, as seen on the IFC show. Or perhaps it’s that his “music” is unforgettably irritating and atonal (this is a put-on: Jon Daly actually plays saxophone beautifully at his monthly Los Angeles variety show). Either way, it hurts that Mr. R hasn’t regaled the podcast’s fans since June 2012. We could all use the smoothest of the smooth right now. —SM

88. Merrill Shindler

Misophones and the sound-sensitive, beware: James Adomian’s Merrill Shindler sounds like he’s slurping, chewing, drooling, gulping, and guzzling all at once. Even for those with normal relationships to sound, the voice can be nauseating. Like all of Adomian’s impersonations, this is a perfect caricature, capturing and exaggerating the real Shindler’s slavish devotion to food, knack for outrageous hyperbole, and tendencies toward pretension. As Southern California’s greatest living food critic, his palate is so advanced and his tastes so refined that he sometimes bathes in hot, melted butter and cannibalizes himself. But Shindler’s seven appearances are so challenging to listen to that we can only conclude the obvious: Adomian may actually be too good at impersonations. —SM

87. Aaron Neville

Of the characters that successfully crossed over from the podcast to the CBB television series, Aaron Neville is the only character to fully showcase Horatio Sanz’s impressive vocal range. The soul singer can’t help breaking into his signature hits mid-interview, unless, of course, he has a ’sclusie to premiere on the show. So far, none of the other Neville Brothers has performed with him, likely because no one wants to be associated with Aaron’s misguided fundraisers for the American Taliban. Perhaps now is the time for an on-air reconciliation. —SM

86. Garry Marshall

Probably the sweetest of CBB’s regular characters, Paul F. Tompkins’s Garry Marshall is a true romantic whose appearances revolve primarily around his on-again-off-again relationship with the actress Gillian “Gilly” Jacobs. Lord knows he has competition: Between Alan Thicke (Tompkins again) and director Len Wiseman (um, PFT as well — I don’t get it either), Marshall is constantly competing with more traditionally sexy men for Gilly’s affections. Tragically, the filmmaker’s passing in 2016 effectively ended his half-decade arc on the show, with Tompkins’s appearance on the eighth-anniversary episode serving as the final, touching send-off. —SM

85. R. Shrift

An underrated Nick Kroll character, R. Shrift is simply the greatest Australian actor ever. Like Daniel Day-Lewis with a Paul Hogan voice, the Sheilas (a.k.a. women) love him because he’s a genuine multihyphenate capable of anything from acting to animal wrangling to sausage-sizzling. Kroll brought Shrift to Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, too, but over four CBB appearances, the character was woven into fellow Australian Claudia O’Doherty’s life, adding a mild sexual frisson to her already complex timeline. Their conversations are essentially comic showpieces for the equally gifted Kroll and O’Doherty and among the best episodes the podcast has to offer. —SM

84. Tom Leykis

Everything Nathan Rabin wrote in his 2015 “Pod-Canon” column about James Adomian’s legendary performance as “nightmare shock jock” Tom Leykis remains true. Adomian first brought Leykis to CBB in episode 176, where he terrorized a very game Amy Poehler to Aukerman and Jason Mantzoukas’s horror-amusement. Eight years later, the performance — all misogynist sputter and toxic braggadocio — has aged like a fine wine, if that wine was made by a monstrous, chauvinist prick. Adomian is smart not to have reprised Leykis as frequently as, say, Christopher Hitchens, simply because one can only take so much puerile garbage. But like all pigs, Leykis is sure to return to the trough one day. —SM

83. Darren Matichek

Let’s hear it for the inimitable Tim Baltz! As Darren Matichek, the low-energy owner of the National Bobblehead Museum in Milwaukee, his every humble comment is utterly delicious. Baltz has said he based the character on a man named Phil Sklar, the founder of the real National Bobblehead Museum in Milwaukee. Both of their bobblehead collections extend into the obscure corners of sports, entertainment, and pop culture, blurring the line between hobby and occupation. And Baltz, whose talents for accents and improv are already familiar to fans of The Opposition With Jordan Klepper or Righteous Gemstones, captures Sklar’s voice to a T. —SM

82. Neptuna 

A rare one-and-done Andy Daly character, Neptuna was an Atlantean sea creature who came to warn Aukerman of impending war. But his backstory doesn’t matter, because the key to the character is the voice. Digitally modulated to sound like it’s coming from underwater, Neptuna’s voice is a fishlike garble so unintelligible that all Aukerman can do when he first hears it in episode 442, “Atlanta Dire Warning,” is laugh. Rarely has Aukerman responded to a character with more frustration, trying and failing to match wits with Daly before eventually soft-banning Neptuna from the show. It hasn’t returned yet, but with Daly still one of the show’s most frequent guests, it would be silly to give up hope. —SM

81/80. The Bachelor Brothers 

You’ve heard of kissing cousins, but what about kissing brothers? Smooching is the love language of 13-year-old twins Benny and Barrett Bachelor, the lascivious owners of record label Bachelor Records, sandwich shop Bachelor Subs, and any number of other bad businesses. And not just, like, polite pecks on the cheek — we’re talking full-on frenching, babe. These incestuous teenage Conor Oberst fans are among longtime comedy collaborators Paul Rust (Benny) and Neil Campbell’s (Barrett) most perverse creations, yet their brief appearances, which stretch across almost five years, are always welcome. —SM

79. Good One Robot 

No, not Jesse David Fox, silly. The Good One Robot is a handy robot who announces “Good one” when a joke is good. Tig Notaro, who used her early CBB appearances to establish herself as a foley art legend, gives the robot its dry, deadpan monotone voice. Much better than a laugh track. —RA

78. Bill Cosby-Bukowski

If not for the revelations about the real Bill Cosby’s predatory past, Bill Cosby-Bukowski might well still be a CBB stalwart. Alas, Jon Daly retired the character — a version of Cosby he invented at UCB whose spoken-word “Jelloems” are told with Charles Bukowski’s booze-addled rhythms — after those revelations, leaving behind a wonderful, albeit brief, catalogue of podcast and TV series appearances. Even the titles of Cosby-Bukowski’s poems are cringeworthy now, loaded as they are with outrageous sexual imagery: “The Most Fuckable Huxtable.” “I Wish I Had Titties.” “Stop Masturbating!” Funny as the character was, we won’t offer any more details about him now that he’s been suspended. —SM

77. Joey Tortellini

In his first appearance with the Silly Cone Valley Poo Crew, Thomas Middleditch invented his first CBB character, a surreal harbinger of things to come: Joey Tortellini, a millionaire Sudanese pediatrician friend of Bob Durst with the voice of Roz from Monsters Inc. mated with a pack-a-day-smoking New Jersey mechanic. He goes to Vegas every weekend, he’s won the lottery a hundred times, he carries around rings of keys for jinglin’ and janglin’, and he’s a very, very loud knocker. This type of totally incongruous Middleditch character is what makes CBB so fun as an improvised show that follows zero rules of improv: He says a whole lot of “no,” he’s juggling a thousand stupid unfollowable games at once, and it’s hilarious. —RA

76. Dash Grabum

Dash Grabum, who is definitely not Ash Ketchum, is a child Pokémon trainer played by Zach Reino whose whole thing is explaining to the olds in the room the confusing logic of the Pokémon universe, which does start to sound like both a child-labor and animal-abuse violation out of context. Reino’s got an extensive knowledge of and clear passion for Pokémon, and it’s fun to hear his enthusiasm. Also: He catches Andy Richter with a Pokéball. —RA

75. Dagmar the Small 

Sitting in the audience at Esther’s Follies in Austin, Texas, during South by Southwest 2017, I saw something that changed my life. That night, Jessica McKenna introduced Dagmar the Small, a wispy, frail little acrobat from Slovenia, who fears death-defying stunts less than being swept away by a particularly strong wind. With Dagmar, a deeply earnest and humble character (she can’t stop saying “Thank you”), McKenna completely redefined her image for an audience that knew her only as the loud-mouthed Power Wheels Beth. The character may be tiny, but McKenna’s talent is colossal. —SM

74. Anthony Rivera

Anthony Rivera is down for whatewers. That’s his entire thing, and Brent Weinbach, who has played the hard-to-understand political analyst onstage for more than a decade, milks that slight mispronunciation for everything it’s worth. Weinbach is a master of malapropisms and a wizard of weird comedy, and this character is a perfect vehicle for his Dadaist tendencies. Affectless and incomprehensible, Rivera even seemingly baffled Aukerman and Neil Hamburger on his early (and only) CBB appearance in episode 25. It’s a magnificently choreographed bomb of an episode and a showcase for Weinbach’s idiosyncratic style. —SM

73. Bitsy Boo-Carmichael 

Have you ever seen Austin Powers? What about Mannequin? Bitsy Boo-Carmichael is like a combination of the titular characters of those films, except instead of being cryogenically frozen in the swinging ’60s or the electric ’80s, it happened to her in the terrible ’30s. Though she came on the show twice in six months between 2014 and 2015, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of Bitsy Boo since she got engaged to her acting manager, Horatio Sanz. Jocelyn DeBoer, however, returned to the show in October 2019, and was just as funny playing herself as she ever was as Bitsy. Fingers crossed it encouraged her to revive this great character. —SM

72. Dr. Traygo

Mad scientist Dr. Traygo has lost his creeeeeeeeeepieeeeees, which — he explains through his sobs — are genetically engineered three-foot-tall companion clones of the classic Universal movie monsters. As the Paul Rust character kept stopping in at Halloween over the years, his stable of lost creepies grew to include more modern movie-monster miniatures like Pennywise, Chucky, and Mike Wazowski. Every time he laments “Boo-hoo-hoo” over his lost creepies, your heart can’t help but break a little. You also eventually start to question, though, why these genetic abominations are running away from him so often in the first place. Of all the CBB characters I’d like to see spun off into a Saturday-morning cartoon, Traygo and his creepies are at the top of my list. —RA

71. Big Sue

A classic LoLap grotesque in the vein of Pamela from Big Bear, Big Sue is the husky-voiced owner of Carpets Rugs Down There, but her main thing is that she loves pizza a whole lot. At one point she became Mrs. Claus, immediately turning old and gray and getting those little granny glasses. Lapkus has said her inspiration for Big Sue was the late Big Ang from Mob Wives, and dare we say it’s an even better Big Ang impersonation than Pearl’s famous Snatch Game. —RA

70. Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro

C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-Cake Boss! Paul F. Tompkins’s venerated impersonation of reality-TV star Buddy Valastro hit a bump in the road when the real Buddy was arrested in 2014. But that hasn’t stopped Tompkins from bringing his telepathically inclined, thickly-accented version of the acclaimed baker back to the show for a total of 22 appearances so far. The Cake Boss (cake boss) has one of the show’s most elaborate mythologies, having been exorcised, zombified, contacted by aliens, and killed at least once since his first appearance in episode 56. Perhaps even more unusually for a PFT character, he and “Scott Auxerman” get along famously. No word from the actual Cake Boss (cake boss) on his feelings about the impersonation, though. If you’re out there, Buddy, give a shout! —SM

69/68. Messmore and Bueford LeBaron

Every Halloween for nearly a decade, Aukerman got lost on his way to Earwolf and wound up at 1122 Boogie Woogie Avenue, also known as Suicide House. There, the ghostly LeBaron brothers (real-life former comedy partners Brett Gelman and Jon Daly, respectively) — as well as the friendly little Ghost Boy (Allan McLeod) and Nick Wiger’s Leo Carpazzi — taunt him to kill himself, though never successfully. The “Comedy Fang Fang” episodes, as they’re known, are among the funniest in the show’s history, with Messmore and Bueford’s two-man shtick frequently the high point. In the best of their appearances, Gelman, Daly, and McLeod cycled through a 21-character freestyle rap battle that was so good it was almost … scary. —SM

67. Coco Marx

Longtime friend of the pod Horatio Sanz is infamous for half-assing his CBB appearances (I’m looking at you, Peppers McGilly). So the pleasure of hearing this master improviser go full-bore into a new character, complete with prepared premises and material, cannot be overstated. Coco Marx, the casually offensive stand-up comedian grandson of Groucho he introduced on the 2013 CBB tour, is more voice than personality. But it’s a deceptively perfect voice — vaudevillian and pleasant — for jokes like this (trigger warning): “I once shot a teenager in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I’ll never know. But he was carrying Skittles and iced tea, so it was justified.” Even with Aukerman constantly derailing him with driving directions, Coco always makes an impression. The end. —SM

66. Huell Howser

Well golly gosh and howdy doody, gee shucks, am I happy to see James Adomian’s loving impersonation of late California TV host Huell Howser on this list. Howser approaches the natural and manmade wonders of California’s bounty with a childlike glee that seeps into head-injury idiocy. The subtext is made text when the always chipper Huell suffers bouts of PTSD from his time as a Marine, a buried inner darkness he cannot square with his present demeanor. Huell malfunctions and joins Jesse Ventura’s Enigma Force Five. When the real Howser died, I cried very real tears because Adomian’s firecracker impersonation introduced me to Huell’s archive of videos on YouTube. I’m sure I’m not the only non-Californian who also learned about him through CBB. —RA

65/64. Memphis Kansas Breeze

Brantley Aldean (Drew Tarver) and Harlan Haywood (Carl Tart) are a modern country-radio outfit in the vein of Florida Georgia Line, only they are called Memphis Kansas Breeze, and neither of them are from Memphis or Kansas. They’re the “No. 1 band for guys who watch stepmom porn,” and they’ve won every award at the CMAs for the past three years for their first album, which is also their only album. The duo introduce their music as being about beer, women, and trucks, but as their first song begins, you quickly realize that out of those three things, they really only care about the trucks. Their songs, like “Truck Prom Dance” and “Human Skin Truck Baby,” are full of Pixar-ish details about trucks: They go to truck school, they cry oil, they wear traffic cones instead of birthday hats, and the tailpipe is the pussy. The funniest thing about their bit, though, is that they sing these increasingly kooky lyrics with undeniably beautiful country harmonies. Fans of the original will love their Christmas album, which is mostly the same but with jingle bells and suggestions of a truck Jesus. —RA

63. Bane

When Batman arch-nemesis Bane pivoted from crime to stand-up comedy, he chose the perfect platform to test out new material: CBB. Hacky, stale, and handicapped by an unfortunate voice-modulation device, Bane proved in his one appearance that he’s way better at being evil than funny. That appearance was nevertheless an instant classic, with fans praying since that 2018 episode that Gil Ozeri, a regular of the show, will bring his most memorable character back soon. Just don’t heckle him — it’s the bane of his existence. —SM

62. Rum Tum Tugger

Aukerman and Tawny Newsome became pals in 2016 when Newsome joined the cast of Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, the wonderful Seeso show created by Aukerman’s former girlfriend Kulap Vilaysack. Since then, Newsome has submitted several great recurring characters to the CBB pantheon, like accidentally racist Chicagoan Gary Urbansky and Icelandic anti-tourism advocate Hekla Jonsdottir. The top of the heap, however, is occupied by her fast-scatting version of Cats’s (the musical) main Jellicle, Rum Tum Tugger. In Newsome’s telling, Tugger is actually a Broadway actor who, once hired to play the Rum Tum Tugger, now can’t get out of the Jellicle cat’s body. Confusing, maybe, but it still beats Jason DeRulo’s interpretation. —SM

61. Sprague the Whisperer

After establishing fan-favorite status with Rudimentary North, Shaun Diston proved his versatility as an improviser with a new character called Sprague the Whisperer. Don’t let the devilish British accent fool you: The only thing Sprague whispers is good advice to his clients as a producing manager and agent for Abrams Artists Lit (formerly Mosaic). Unlike some of Aukerman’s other guests, Diston’s performances are distinguished by his prepared premises, the goal being to add to an already complex personal mythology (a subject Diston seems obsessed with). As a result, this mystery man’s episodes can seem like a tangle of extratextual details and inside jokes about Diston’s time as a writer on TBS’s Wrecked. I suggest you start listening now before it gets even further out of hand. —SM

60. Power Wheels Beth

Jessica McKenna’s Beth appears to be a kooky 8-year-old girl whose mom works in Earwolf’s marketing department, but she might also be an unholy demon from hell. Take, for instance, episode 452, named “Pow! Pow! Power Wheels!” for Beth’s favorite motorized toy. In the episode, which was released in October 2016, she curses Leonard Cohen during one of her brilliant freestyle raps; the singer died in real life ten days later. Suspiciously, Beth has not again acknowledged the darkness inside her in any of her four appearances since, preferring to gallivant around the studio on her battery-powered Jeep. Pow-pow, indeed. —SM

59/58. Cyberthug & Miles Archer

When Cyberthug (Jerry Minor) and his sidekick Miles Archer (Sean Dickerson) take over your airwaves, all you can do is go along for the ride. The duo “hijacked” (i.e., guest-hosted) Indie 101.3 multiple times in the Comedy Death-Ray days, inspired in part by “those Somalian pirates, jumping those stations!” Instead of giving Aukerman’s “nerd” listeners the comedy they craved, Thug and Archer insisted on spinning hip-hop records and talking shit with their hoodlum friends like Nick Kroll’s Bobby Bottleservice and Matt Besser’s Kanye East. Neither Minor nor Dickerson has visited the show since CDR became CBB, so we’ve probably heard the last of their Anonymous-by-way-of-Tupac routine. —SM

57. Hot Dog

A classic Andy Daly character, Hot Dog is a washed-up former stunt-waterskier, which was cooler than surfing in the ’60s, according to Hot Dog. He’s obsessed with the greaser doo-wop band Sha Na Na and also happened to commit war crimes in ’Nam. Like the best Daly characters, Hot Dog starts out a smooth talker and soon descends into deep, “Scott Tenorman Must Die”–ish evil and perversion. In this character’s case, it takes about three minutes into his first appearance before he explains his plans for his dead body being turned into hot dogs and fed to unknowing customers, including his ex-wife. Dip-didda-dip-dow. RA

56. Werner Herzog

Another classic PFT creation, the maestro of New German Cinema has more than a dozen appearances under his belt across the podcast, live shows, and IFC series. Cold, dour, and analytical, he arguably pioneered the strategy of antagonizing Aukerman for laughs that so many of Tompkins’s other characters (Santa, Big Chunky Bubbles) employ. So popular has Tompkins’s impression become that the real Herzog was recently asked to comment on the comedian’s version. His review? “The accent could be better, but it’s a very funny text. That’s good stuff.” —SM

55. Bean Dip

I can’t for the life of me understand a word Bean Dip says, but it hardly matters. Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones star Edi Patterson has so perfected the role since introducing her at the Groundlings that simply saying her name is now utterly hilarious. Bean Dip is a study in contrasts: a southern-fried hillbilly type who also happens to be the ultrahorny multimillionaire owner of the W Hollywood. There’s not a celebrity old Dip hasn’t kissed (or in Adam DeVine’s case, shagged), nor a business venture she hasn’t mastered. If there’s justice in the world, she’ll have her own spinoff podcast next. —SM

54. John Lennon

Yes, this is the John Lennon, the formerly murdered Beatles front man who suddenly returned after four years and has been in hiding from Yoko ever since. Lennon is one of the show’s most popular recurring characters, sometimes as Aukerman’s co-host and more recently as the host of his own podcast, Questions for Lennon. Voiced by the Birthday Boys’ (and former CBB TV show writer) Mike Hanford, Lennon is a hippie airhead, a sweet dope still close with Ringo and not afraid to lend his guitar out to friends. At a live CBB show in Austin in 2016, I watched Hanford switch from his street clothes into the Lennon costume in between bits. As he returned to the stage, a roomful of 1,000 people exploded out of their seats with excitement. He didn’t even have to say “drums.” —SM

53. Kayla Dickie

Kayla Dickie is an absolutely scathing satire of joyless heterosexual pan-truck-sexual relationships: She’s a woman who works at the David’s Bridal across from the Big Lots in Colorado who comes on the show to talk about her boyfriend, Cart, who just got a new big truck and who made her watch The Big Lebowski on their first date and who won’t propose to her after seven and a half years. Lily Sullivan makes this character so specific but oddly universal. We all have a little Dickie in us. —RA

52. H.R. Giger

You may not know the late Giger’s name, but you most likely know his work. The demented Giger’s sexually violent, biomechanical inventions are the stuff of cinematic nightmares, including the xenomorphs from Alien. The genius of Matt Gourley’s long-standing portrayal of the man (in several episodes of CBB, as well as on fellow podcasts Superego and The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project) is in his innocence. Rather than playing Giger like a tormented, sadistic freak, Gourley’s version is a down-to-earth, playful chap whose grotesque illustrations are perpetually misunderstood. As covered by the A.V. Club’s Erik Adams, Giger’s participation in the exorcism of Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro remains one of the funniest moments of the 2010s. —SM

51. Don DiMello

This list wouldn’t be complete without a little something for daddy, which is why we have to tip our hat to horny theater producer Don DiMello, who stages perverse unauthorized adaptations of Disney-licensed fairy tales for children, using lessons learned from sexually exploiting the Radio City Rockettes. Like so many of Andy Daly’s characters, DiMello puts up a smooth-talking front to not-at-all-conceal absolute pits of immoral evil. His appearances dating back to 2011 satirize corruption in the entertainment industry as good as any post-#MeToo dark comedy.

50/49. JJ and Murphy O’Malaman

JJ and Murphy O’Malaman are plucky kid detectives played by Thomas Middleditch and Lauren Lapkus who love to solve mysteries and, disturbingly, explore each other’s bodies. Anything anyone else says can be turned into a clue for them through word association, even if most of those clues lead them to 4 Washington Lane, famously the address of the White House, where they think they’ll follow the next hunch in their mother’s murder. Next stop: Alaska. —RA

48. Mrs. Potts

“Maybe it’s just me, but for me,” Betsy Sodaro should be in the hall of fame of podcast guests. On CBB, her best character might just be Mrs. Potts, the enchanted teapot from Beauty and the Beast. Sodaro’s depressing version of the character follows Mrs. Potts after the end of the movie, when the inanimate objects are turned human again. Now, Potts is just an old woman instead of an eternal teapot-being, and her son Chip died of smallpox the minute he turned human. It’s a tale as old as time. —RA

47. Nite Wolf/Jack Furz

Ben Rodgers, a.k.a. Bang Rodgman, is easy to underestimate. At the Upright Citizens Brigade, he’s used his deep voice, chiseled face, and affable Everyman vibe primarily to trick listeners of shows like Hollywood Masterclass and ActionBoyz into thinking he’s normal. Then, in the guise of characters like failed restaurateur Russell Karate or news-station cameraman Jack Furz, he quietly reveals the depths of his insanity. Even for Rodgers, Furz is strikingly nutz, a fame-obsessed dweeb who moonlights none too secretly as the masked vigilante Nite Wolf, then photographs himself mid-crime, à la Spider-Man. Two appearances deep, he’s quickly become Rodgers’s signature character and will undoubtedly appear on the show again soon. —SM

46. Bro

You always feel a heady high when Adam Pally’s Bro is around. A real nuisance of a guy (by design), Bro is Aukerman’s irritating weed dealer, with a toxic vibe caught somewhere between Tyler Durden and the Z-Boys. Pally, an underappreciated comic actor, nails the voice and the attitude, cutting through Aukerman’s punch lines with a 17-year-old burnout’s nihilistic delight. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the show came in episode 109 during the recording of the “Hollywood Facts” theme song, in which Bro yells his own name. Although he has not returned to the show since 2016, that “Bro!” lives on in CBB infamy. —SM

45. Morpheus the Dream Lord

Arguably Will Hines’s most popular character (and certainly the one with the most air time), Morpheus is the master of sleep and the lord of the dreaming. The immensity of his power is itself hilarious: Though Morpheus can ostensibly control the guests and host by putting them to sleep, he just uses it to force them to say the same dumb puns and play the same absurd improv games as in every other episode. That Inception-like premise is basically impermeable, which is why all five of Morpheus’s appearances are must-listens. B-b-b-b-bonus-s-s-s fact: Hines, a devoted comic-book fan who hosts the podcast Screw it, We’re Just Gonna Talk About Comics, took the character from Neil Gaiman’s classic The Sandman. SM

44. Claudia O’Doherty

Comedian and actress Claudia O’Doherty is maybe best known as the roommate on Netflix’s Love. Her most enduring character, though, is a fictionalized version of herself, a sweetly clueless new girl in town who keeps winning contests devised by her mum to send her away from Australia to Universal Studios Hollywood. She can’t do an American accent, unless it’s a Kim Cattrall impersonation, in which case it’s flawless. The episode where she’s paired with Nick Kroll’s outback explorer R. Shrift is a genius Aussie combo. —RA

43. Fabrice Fabrice

The name so nice you have to say it … again. No one does craft services like Fabrice Fabrice, the spoken-word poet–young Hollywood maven that Nick Kroll played for more than a decade. Across nearly a dozen appearances between the podcast and the IFC show (not to mention Kroll’s own Comedy Central series), Fabrice regaled his audience with behind-the-scenes stories from famous movies and TV series with his customary sassy flair. Unfortunately, we may never hear from “The Beast From the East” again — the optics for this uncomfortably stereotypical character aren’t very good in 2020, regardless of his comic brilliance. Fabrice’s legacy, however, lives on here. —SM

42. Entree P. Neur

Entree P. Neur is an entrepreneur who has a problem: Every new invention idea she puts forth is a concept for something that, unbeknownst to her, already exists. Here’s the other problem: She doesn’t seem to have heard of extremely basic things, like cars, beds, or rooms. Played by SNL’s Ego Nwodim, this plucky, clueless inventor keeps plugging away. One day, she’ll make Ma Neur proud. —RA

41. Ming

One thing is for absolutely sure: Ming will not be clowned. But where is Ming from, you ask? What does he look like? Does he have any family? Even after eight appearances between 2016 and 2018, Ming’s details are unusually hazy, with only a passing interest in baseball and his love of hometown Sherman Oaks to cling to. Given his name and accent, however, it has been widely suggested that Ming might be an Asian character voiced, potentially inappropriately, by white Groundlings alum Jeremy Rowley (though Ming bears no other racially distinct qualities). Perhaps wisely, the character has not been reprised since 2018. But fans of Rowley, a gifted voice actor and comic, await his return in another guise. —SM

40. Ho Ho the Naughty Elf

Lauren Lapkus can make a character a “total piece of shit” and a “magical ball of whimsy” all at once, and no character exemplifies this more than Ho Ho the Naughty Elf. Ho Ho is a tiny little rascal as tall as “an inch to grow a smile” who has made it his job to reward all of the bad little boys and girls on the naughty list with gifts like knives and guns. Santa hired him “on purpose” for this fanciful task and paid him “two wishes and a dream” for that service, and when he’s not working, he cums snow out his dick. His catchphrase is either repeating his own name or vomiting. Before Werner Herzog ever interacted with Baby Yoda on the set of The Mandalorian, he found himself quite entranced with this strange little creature. —RA

39. Santa Claus

Paul F. Tompkins’s version of Santa Claus is one tough motherfucker who comes round Christmas time to spread holiday cheer and bully the living daylights out of Aukerman. The contrast between his jolly, hearty Santa laugh and his rude ’tude make him the Santa the CBB-verse deserves. When he married Big Sue and made her his Mrs. Claus, it was a match made in the North Pole. —RA

38. Little Gary

Little Gary is a tiny man — there’s no use pretending otherwise. Caught somewhere between three feet and a whisper, he’s only a touch bigger than other diminutive CBB regulars, like Mayor Junius Bobbledoonary or Ho Ho the Naughty Elf. He’s also, in recent years, been less vocal than those guys. Though introduced in the very first episode of Comedy Death-Ray as an Andy Richter–style sidekick and announcer, Gary has not returned to the program since 2013 except for a cameo on 2019’s tenth-anniversary show. I’m not sure not everyone minds as much as me. Gary (or rather, Thomas Lennon) squawks in a pidgin dialect that, at its best, cracks Scott up; at its worst, however, every word is indecipherable. —SM

37. Donny Gary

Donny Gary, a musical creation written by Brad Evans and Nick Ciarelli and performed by Drew Tarver, arguably made more of a splash on the CBB TV show than in his appearance on a 2016 podcast tour episode. Nonetheless, the character — a down-on-his-luck, mustachioed soul singer who keeps his sales tags on his suits because he’s a cheap bastard — left an indelible impression. Aukerman sometimes brings up the “McDonald’s cups guy,” a reference to one of the old coot’s ’80s-style tunes about stealing infinite refills of fountain soda with moldy paper cups. Donny Gary and his oddly southern-inflected voice haven’t returned to the podcast since 2016, but his mark is long since made. —SM

36. Björk

It’s been oh-so quiet these last few years without Matt Besser’s psychotic Björk. Allegedly retired in 2017, this screechy harpy of an impersonation is arguably Besser’s signature CBB character, having made appearances as Björk first on the 15th Comedy Death-Ray episode and later on the IFC show. Besser uncannily channels the Icelandic singer’s singularity and peculiarity by turning her into a magical, visionary diva with rage issues, like a waifish Joe Pesci. It’s uniquely volatile body-swapping that really only Besser, one of the improv world’s greatest wits, could pull off. —SM

35. Rudimentary North

You can bet that if Rudimentary “Rudi” North is on an episode of the podcast, he’s coming in hot. Yes, that’s Rudi’s catchphrase, but it’s also the undeniable energy of Shaun Diston, who plays him like he just jammed a fork into an electrical socket. Caught somewhere between Steve-O and Aladdin’s genie, Rudi is a magical dirtbag of the highest order, a shape-shifter who can assume a new body simply by clocking a guy in the throat. He can even make prophecies — for instance, that he would become an instant fan-favorite — come true. The evidence of that is clear: Rudi appeared on the show nine times in two years, even more than Diston’s other key character, Sprague the Whisperer. —SM

34. JW Stillwater

If you hear a crime go, vigilante JW Stillwater won’t be far behind. Riding his trusty fan boat through the glades of Cumberbatch County, Florida, this Paul F. Tompkins character is something out of a deranged Cajun comic book. He has taken on a child ward in Cameron Esposito, whom he calls Caramel, and he has as good a backstory as any mainstream superhero: When investigating the case of someone stealing California’s water supply, he discovers that his daddy’s last name sounds a whole lot like “steal water.” Stillwater is quick with a charming Florida platitude, and his “Closing Sentiment-Off” contests with Traci Reardon have led to such nuggets of improvised wisdom as “Fool a man twice, he fishes today. Fool a man twice, shame on me.” —RA

33. Bone Queef

Though he is a relative newcomer to the CBB fold, Zeke Nicholson has quickly become one of the show’s most reliable improvisers. His signature character, Bone Queef, makes it clear why. Low on backstory but flush with wit, every B.Q. appearance requires Nicholson to improvise a slew of new catchphrases anytime someone inquires about her unusual name. “Bone like a dog and queef like a pussy fart” is just one example among several dozen. It’s a challenging, high-intensity personality (not to mention a saucy Georgian accent), but Nicholson inhabits her flawlessly, especially in the company of his White Women comedy group colleague Carl Tart. —SM

32. Charlotte Listler

Since being introduced as CBB intern Marissa Wompler’s teacher and de facto guardian in 2012, Charlotte Listler (Lennon Parham) has divulged many secrets: She was a sniper in Afghanistan; she can wipe your memory clean, B.A. Baracus style; she can slip between genders for purposes of espionage. But the key to the character is her undying devotion to protecting her young ward from mistreatment by fellow students like Danielle Bartiromo, on-again-off-again boyfriend Eric “Gutterballs” Gutterman, and even her stepfather, Seth. With her signature masculine deadpan, Listler is the perfect foil for the more bombastic Wompler, and Parham the Dean Martin to St. Clair’s Jerry Lewis. —SM

31. Marissa Wompler

Aukerman’s hypersexual, upside-down pyramid-shaped teen intern Marissa Wompler is the ultimate CBB success story. First introduced in episode 60, Jessica St. Clair’s character quickly expanded into an ever-growing cohort from Marina Del Rey High, most notably Wompler’s “gifted students” instructor Miss Listler. Their world became so complex, and the characters so popular, that in 2015 Wompler and Listler were given their own Earwolf spinoff series, WOMP It Up! No new episodes have come out in a year, as both St. Clair and Parham are in high demand as showrunners and performers. But the curious can always catch up on the extended Womplerverse with Alexander Swerdloff’s dated yet nonetheless comprehensive and encyclopedic compendium. —SM

30. Nephew Todd

Todd is Aukerman’s middle-school-age nephew who was abandoned by his mom to live with Scott as his ward/hostage/child-abuse victim, played by Lauren Lapkus. Todd has to call Aukerman “Sir.” He sleeps in a crate. He isn’t allowed to watch or read anything. And he has to wear Uncle Scott’s old underwear. God bless Todd for his continued defiant brattiness in the face of Scott’s tyranny. The idea of flipping the petulant teen stock character on its head by making the teen petulant for a very justified reason is part of what makes Todd a winner. Also, one time Todd made a wish to be big like Big, and when he shrank back down, his dick stayed big like a grown-up’s. —RA

29. Janice Cramps

“I’m pregnant!” screamed Janice Cramps, and a star was born. Not the baby, by the way — that was merely one of Janice’s patented false alarms. The star was actually Mary Holland, who, while already a CBB mainstay when Janice first appeared in 2016 alongside PFT’s Big Chunky Bubbles, joined the champion’s league of guests with the first, uproarious appearance as Cramps. Cramps is a perfect embodiment of Holland’s skill with manic, looney characters, the kind of person who rocks at karaoke but lives in a sewer. She’s a faker, a screamer, a nuisance, and possibly homeless, but she’s as lovable as creepozoids get. —SM

28. Sappity Tappity

This drunk British rollerblading pine tree played by Jon Daly started out as a visual gag at UCB’s annual Del Close Marathon, but something about this belligerent tree really pops in audio. Partially because he sounds like a corrupted file of a Hanna-Barbera character, and partially because this drunken quasi-children’s character is so intentionally annoying, he’s guaranteed to make Aukerman break. —RA

27. Larry the Loner 

He’s a rebel, Dottie. A loner. Larry the Loner is another signature Neil Campbell creation, a doofus with one basic idea about himself that he’s really trying to push. In Larry’s instance, it’s being a self-styled lone wolf who just wants to share his deep motorcycle non sequiturs (and jack-off stories) with an admiring audience. His idea of being a “cool guy” and a “loner” extends, in a very Campbellian way, to the idea that he can only have one of everything: a monocle instead of sunglasses, doing long-distance wheelies so he only has one tire on the ground, and so on. Oh, and his watch is in for repair with Desmond Longo, a crucial character in the Time Keeper extended mythos. I’d let him give me a “sweaty treat” any day. —RA

26. Martin Sheffield Lickly

All aboard the Martin Sheffield Lickly train, whose conductor is a kiss. Poor Martin lost his son to disease, but that hasn’t stopped him from singing the New Wave hits he wrote with his band 2 + 2 = Love in the ’80s. Created in a collaboration between performer Drew Tarver and the writers Nick Ciarelli and Brad Evans, Sheffield Lickly is a cringe masterwork, a clearly depressed cross between Martin Fry and Austin Powers with a slight southern twang mucking the whole thing up. In a just world, Martin will get his own musical spinoff podcast soon. —SM

25/24. Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland

Real tuna-heads know: Before Kroll Show, and before their Br’dway run, Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland Oh Hello’d their way into our hearts as cantankerous Upper West Siders who flew Pan Am all the way to Earwolf Studios to spread their miserly, pissy worldview on CBB. Is it possible to hear a podcast guest’s bad breath through your headphones? —RA

23. Dalton Wilcox

It gets lonely out on the range. Hence why Dalton Wilcox, modern cowboy and likely wife-murderer, keeps sticking his penis in a hole in the ground. This also explains why Wilcox, like many a character created by Review’s Andy Daly, has gone quietly nuts and delusionally assigned himself the title of “Poet Laureate of the West.” That’s not to say that he’s not a real poet; on the contrary, he’s performed many an elegy to the Old Country on CBB over the years. In fact, the poems are so popular — and Daly so adored by the show’s fans — that a nonexistent collection of them is currently rated 4.9 stars on Goodreads. —SM

22. El Chupacabra

Nick Kroll has been performing characters on CBB since episode 12 years before Kroll Show began, and El Chupacabra is one of these long-running fixtures. The explosive Latin radio DJ is something of a package deal: His turning the studio into his own call-in show means visits from tertiary Kroll-voiced Chupa fans like the little baby, Old Man Juarez, and a goat. Chupa has appeared in more Earwolf podcast episodes than maybe anyone, as for years he did the network’s signature sign-off stinger, “Earwolf Radio puuunto com!” along with a wolf howl, a squeal, and “the wolf dead.” Was it jarring? Sure. Do we miss it? Siiiii. RA

21. Fourvel

Stabby little orphan boy Fourvel (like Fievel the mouse but one less) was introduced in the 2012 episode “Time Bobby,” which was so beloved it spawned three sequels. Bobby Moynihan plays him as a whimpering Dickensian lad who has to scrounge for scraps and beg for affection from daddy figures like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Thicke. But watch out! Get too close and he’ll stab ya! —RA

20/19/18. The Calvins Triplets

First, there were two: Chico Hands and Bever Hopox, the irreverent horse-breeding prizefighters known as the Calvins Twins played by Saturday Night Live colleagues Taran Killam and Paul Brittain. So immediately popular was Hands and Hopox’s first stand-alone episode — featuring their motto, “Ya gotta laugh!” — that Aukerman was forced to produce Calvins Twins tie-in swag (it quickly sold out). Then came Bisby St. Hancock (Ryan Gaul), a rival turned business partner who also, it turned out, was a long-lost Calvins triplet. Over his three appearances with Killam and Britain, Gaul’s character has implied that there may be a fourth brother named Jisby somewhere out there. I can’t wait to meet him. —SM

17. Big Dawg 

It may be wrong to speak ill of the dead, but let’s face it: Big Dawg was one fucked-up dude. Sure, he didn’t hold no grudges (according to his dank T-shirt). But what kind of freak puts a half-gallon of blood on his crunchy nachos and uses five different catchphrases? Despite his many eccentricities, Big Dawg stole the show when Thomas Middleditch introduced him in the final minutes of the 2018 Christmas episode. Unfortunately, we may never hear from him again. According to Jason Mantzoukas, he committed suicide immediately after leaving Earwolf Studios. RIP. —SM

16. Stanley Chamberlin

According to Aukerman, Will Hines never intended to venture into the depths of hell when he introduced Stanley Chamberlin in episode 625. A simple physical therapist with a degree from Johns Hopkins, Chamberlin was, like many of Hines’s characters, designed to seem docile, harmless, and a touch dull (unlike Hines himself, one of the most clever improvisers in the world; he even wrote a book about it). Perhaps as a result of too much “Yes, and,” Chamberlin eventually morphed from the basic bitch he was imagined to be into a lovelorn accidental Satanist with a pile of dead bodies strewn behind him in a C.H.U.D.-like subterranean society. Giving more details than that would give the game away, so we won’t, except to say that poor soft-spoken Stanley may be Hines’s defining creation. —SM

15. The Chief

Of all the psychosexual basket cases that have entered Aukerman’s open door over the years, the Chief is surely one of the most sexual if not the most psycho (so many episodes of CBB just devolve into cartoonish violence). The Chief, played by Carl Tart, is eternally hot on the trail of that criminal mastermind, Carmen Sandiego, having traveled across the world — from the great island of America to that most legendary isle of Egypt — to capture her. Chief claims that her driving motivations are Carmen’s lawlessness and the thrill of the hunt, but it’s clearly much more a lusty game of sexual-domination cat and mouse for these two children’s educational CD-ROM characters. The horny, flamboyant Javert of the CBB universe, Chief is loved by listeners who have heard her. And if you haven’t heard her yet? Greetings, gumshoe! —RA

14/13. Jack Sjunior & Brian Pieces

Harris Wittels’s comedy gift was ripped from the world with his untimely passing in 2015. Luckily for Earth, he’d had enough time in his short life to participate in the “Farts and Procreation” episodes, a series of four beloved riff sessions with Wittels and his Parks and Recreation colleagues Chelsea Peretti and Adam Scott. In the first of these, the group improvised a bone-dry spin on Waiting for Godot set in a lumberyard owned by Carl Sjunior (of the famous hamburger chain), with Wittels as Carl’s administrator son Jack and Scott as his lumberman friend Brian, the son of Reese’s Pieces. For those first 25 long minutes, CBB was completely devoid of jokes, a story, or stakes, which naturally inspired Wittels and Scott to reprise the characters in all their unfunny-funniness several times. Four years since his final appearance, we miss Harris more than ever. —SM

12. Bob Ducca

Seth Morris’s woefully, elaborately ill sad-sack creation, Bob Ducca, is a Comedy Death-Ray OG, appearing as early as episode 39 to give Aukerman ex-step-fatherly love and attention. Just because he was only married to Scott’s mom for seven months when Scott was 33 doesn’t mean Ducca’s work as a stepdad is ever done. Ducca’s sorry lot in life consists of rattling off elaborate lists of fictional horrible-sounding diseases. Even though his appearances aren’t as frequent as they were in 2010, his status as an all-time foundational character of the show is enshrined. —RA

11. Intern Gino 

Gino Lombardo is a lot of things: perilously thin, bisexual, a Long Islander, and a radio-tech student at Nassau Community College. He has also emerged over the latter half of the show as maybe the closest thing Aukerman has to a co-host, popping in semi-frequently to check the levels, pour the water, give more hints at his troubling home life, and rattle off LIRR stops by memory. Mostly, though, Intern Gino is an excuse for Jon Gabrus to exercise his considerable improv muscles without any sort of fear of sounding ridiculous, filthy, or offensive. Gabrus is one of the quickest wits in comedy, and his speed with a comeback or insane word-association line of joking will take the wind out of you every time Gino pops in for some community-college credits. —RA

10. Willard “Willie” Mapleton

Talented but painfully shy singer Victor Diamond, his manager Tiny, and their vocal coach (and landlord?) Willie are a package deal, which makes Brendon Small’s performance of all three at once all the more impressive. Small’s virtuosic performance represents the magic of CBB at its best as a platform for the ludicrously talented to showboat and get weird for much longer than a typical sketch would abide. At some point, Small must have thought that holding court for entire episodes playing two characters who talk back and forth wasn’t challenging enough, so he added vocal coach Willie into the mix. Out of every guest who has ever taken advantage of Aukerman’s open-door policy, Willie seems to be the one who annoys him the most, enough for Scott to break his usually bemused character to get genuinely snappy. Willie will teach you how to do a very specific Australian accent, he’ll produce some Victor Diamond bangers, and he’ll always push Scott to the absolute brink. —RA

9. Tiny

Victor Diamond’s manager has a big ol’ gravelly voice for a guy named Tiny, and listening to Small switch on a dime between him and his warbly Cuban-accented client is a joy. He’s Victor’s No. 1 fan and truest believer, conducts business from a pay phone, and lives with him in a tent. —RA

8. Victor Diamond

Victor’s main game (besides suffering from Adult Freckle) is that he apparently has a beautiful voice, but he gets so nervous when he sings in front of people that he faints, so we never get to hear it. When he finally brings in recordings of a podcast he made on his own, the audio quality is so garbled that we still hear nothing. Moments like that, and his constant banter with his manager Tiny, take advantage of what audio-only comedy has to offer. Now “leave him alone!” —RA

7. Jesse Ventura

One of the podcast’s most frequent recurring guests for nearly a decade, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura captivated fans in the early Comedy Death-Ray days. Master impersonator James Adomian perfectly captures “the Body”’s spittle-flecked bluster, from his attempts to get Aukerman off-grid to his formation of an all-encompassing vigilante task force called the Enigma Force Five with PBS host Huell Howser (another Adomian impersonation). Besides a brief appearance in the CBB tenth-anniversary episode, Ventura hasn’t returned to the show since 2017. Surely we’ll be hearing more from him, though: After all, he’s still stuck in the Plug Bag. —SM

6. Little Button Puss

The dog-shaped sex robot known as “Little Button Puss” is a CBB icon. In addition to being the funniest nonhuman character in the show’s history, the HP-DP-69B is also perhaps the most disgusting, with many of its personal details, including a jism-coated interior, a retractable and reversible “vaginder,” and a “real live flesh cock” that Aukerman ripped off while “testing it out,” brilliantly but graphically conceived of by the comedian John Gemberling. Over its two appearances in episodes 310 and 432, Gemberling has invested the character with a growing sentience, à la Bicentennial Man or, more frighteningly, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a testament to Gemberling’s genius that, brief as those appearances were, Little Button Puss’s arc feels complete. —SM

5. Dabney Coleperson

The consummate straight man, Aukerman can’t — or doesn’t — really portray characters other than himself. The closest approximation in CBB’s long history is this intentionally grotesque subhuman who first appeared on episode 304, “Marissa Wompler’s Six Flags Birthday.” Dabney Coleperson bears no relation to the actor Dabney Coleman. But it only took him about 30 minutes to draw deeply inappropriate caricatures of teenagers in front of longtime CBB intern Marissa Wompler and to confess to killing his wife in cold blood. At 97 years young and totally devoid of all humanity, he’s both Aukerman’s laziest, and greatest, creation. —SM

4. Traci Reardon

Traci Reardon is perpetually going through a tough time. Given that she’s living with rhotacism, a missing ear, and a dead grandma, that’s gotta hurt. But over 15 appearances on CBB, Lauren Lapkus, who plays her, has never let Reardon seem self-pitying or simple. Instead, she’s grown into one of Lapkus’s signature characters: a fully realized, ruthlessly sarcastic 17-year-old with a litany of facial piercings and catchphrases. Fans of Reardon can also hear her host her own show-within-a-show on Lapkus’s Earwolf podcast With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus. —SM

3. Andrew Lloyd Webber

Paul F. Tompkins is the undisputed champion of CBB guests. Don’t even try to dispute it. With a few dozen voices in his character utility belt, he has become over the last 11 years the Chris Elliott to Aukerman’s David Letterman. Among his characters, however, is a distinctive winner: his supremely haughty, extra-British version of the knighted composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. His cap doffed and his cane polished, Webber never misses an opportunity to school his dear boy “Scottrick” on musicals, the Queen of England, or good manners. Although he has made 30 appearances altogether, he usually gets the biggest laughs when Aukerman forgets the character’s name mid-episode. Here’s to ten more years of podcasts with the good Dame Sir. —SM

2. The Time Keeper

Before there was TikTok, there was “tick tock” — the cry of the Time Keeper, that is! Don’t let his wizardly name and wizened voice fool you: Maxwell Keeper is just a humble 32-year-old Tallahassee, Florida, native with a passion for the concept of time: units of time, figures of speech involving time, and don’t even get him started on clocks. Neil Campbell was the head writer on the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show, and the gleeful silliness of a character like Time Keeper, who works either as the center of attention or as strange punctuation for other guests, demonstrates why his sensibility pairs so well with the CBB ethos. —RA

1. Leo Carpazzi

If any character embodies the CBB ethos, it’s Nick Wiger’s Leo Carpazzi. Carpazzi, don’t you know, wrote the original Halloween novelty hit “The Monster Mash” before radio execs sanitized it and put Bobby Boris Pickett on vocals. In Carpazzi’s version, “The Monster Fuck,” the monsters have a ferocious orgy, with ghoulish gangbanging and Frankenstein’s Wife-swapping, all narrated by an increasingly horned-up Wiger. Carpazzi first visited the podcast during Comedy Death-Ray’s 2010 Halloween episode and was soon kicked off for playing this utterly disgusting song, establishing a (nearly) annual tradition in which he returns with a supposedly revamped version that is, in essence, the same song again. Fans love Leo’s perversion and pathological lying, though he only ever appears on holiday episodes or the end-of-year “Best Of” specials. Aukerman likes to pretend that Comedy Bang! Bang! “isn’t that kind of show” — Carpazzi proves that it is and always has been. —SM

The 103 Best Characters in Comedy Bang! Bang! history