Showalter & Wain At SF Sketchfest This Sunday


From The Onion

January 25, 2006
By Marc Hawthorne

Q&A
Michael Showalter & David Wain

As two-thirds of the whip-smart comedy group Stella (which got its own show on Comedy Central last year), two-elevenths of sketch series The State, and the writing team behind Wet Hot American Summer, Michael Showalter and David Wain are experts at garnering a cult following—and the fanaticism is deserved. After years of collaboration, Wain and Showalter’s humor is so finely tuned it practically hums. The two New York-based comedy craftsmen—who will present a lecture and participate in a Q&A session with the audience on the final day of this year’s SF Sketchfest—e-mailed The A.V. Club about their storied past, San Francisco present, and uncertain future.

The A.V. Club: What Will Your Sketchfest Appearance Consist Of?

Michael Showalter: It will consist of David and I showing archival footage of past failures and making light of it, among other things.

David Wain: I think the two of us will just do a little presentation/talk with some video clips; then we’ll answer questions.

AVC: The State Was Canceled Soon After Your Move To CBS. What Exactly Went Down?

MS: We accused the CBS executive in charge of late-night programming of being a racist. They didn’t like that too much, so they didn’t promote our show, and as a result of them not promoting the show, no one watched it. And as a result of no one watching it, it got canceled.

AVC: Did You Regret Leaving MTV?

DW: There was some regret, only because we gave up a solid home in favor of taking a chance and going for network. In truth, The State always took the chancier path, and things might have gotten negative had we stayed at MTV. But who knows? Basically we did that first prime-time special on CBS—the idea was to do three more specials, then move to Saturday nights, but all that was scrapped when the first broadcast got terrible ratings.

AVC: Why Hasn’t The State Been Issued On DVD?

DW: We’ve been trying to get MTV—the owners of the material—to release the DVD for years. It’s been on and off their slate many times, but never went into production. They don’t seem to feel that anyone would buy it, I guess. I get several e-mails every day asking for it. It’s frustrating to have no information. You’d think with all the stuff that the members of the group have done since, the constant eBay bootleg market, and the overall ongoing fan interest, that MTV would release a DVD. There was an article saying so this month in Rolling Stone.

AVC: Craig Wedren Has Created A Lot Of Music For Your Projects. Were You Big Shudder To Think Fans?

DW: Craig and I met at age four and grew up together in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He’s done music for just about everything I’ve done: The StateWet Hot American Summer,Stella, and most everything in between. Even though I grew up with Craig, I’m also a genuinely obsessed fan of his work. I went out on tour with them in ’95, shooting video footage. They are an amazingly underappreciated band. I love it because the music is filled with unconventional ideas, always trying something new, fresh, interesting, but at the same time rocks so fucking hard. And is often moving and beautiful. I strive for a comparable feel from my own work.

AVC: What’s Going On With Stella? Are You Still Waiting To Hear If Comedy Central Will Pick It Up For Another Year?

DW: Yes. The ratings were disappointing, but the network likes the show, so they still haven’t made any definitive plan as to what they’re going to do.

AVC: How Confident Are You That It Will Be Picked Up?

MS: On a scale from one to 10? Four.

AVC: A Lot Of Great TV Shows Have Been Canceled Due To Low Ratings, Since It’s Difficult To Get A Lot Of People Interested In Material That Pushes The Envelope. How Discouraging Is That, And How Do You Keep Yourself Excited About Working In This Business?

DW: Personally, I just enjoy creating this kind of comedy. The three projects I’m most known for—The StateStella,Wet Hot—all have cult fan bases, but didn’t find large mainstream acceptance. But I enjoyed making them so much, I can’t imagine adjusting what I do just so it will be more successful. I maintain faith that if I keep working hard and being true to myself, that enough of an audience and financial reward will come to keep me going. The fact that the relatively small number of fans we have are so vocal and so loyal and passionate definitely makes a difference, and makes me feel like I’m not wasting my time. If I was writing for a crappy sitcom or something, even if I was making 10 times the money, I know I would not be happy at all.

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