Week Two: Interview With The State

From The Onion

January 22, 2009
By Allan Hough

Formed in 1988 at NYU, sketch-comedy group The State eventually hit it relatively big in the mid-’90s with an eponymous MTV show known for its face pace, absurdist sensibility, and memorable catchphrases. After closing up shop with MTV in 1995 and a short-lived, ill-fated relationship with CBS, members of the group went on to more success collaborating on projects like Wet Hot American Summer, Reno 911!, and Stella. On Saturday, all 11 members will take the stage together for the first time in more than a decade for a pair of performances at the Eureka, which will be followed by the Sketchfest Tribute the next day at the Herbst. The A.V. Club took statements from David Wain, Thomas Lennon, and Kerri Kenney-Silver on the subjects of reuniting, writing, and where the hell that DVD is hiding.

On Performing New Material:
David Wain: It was exactly what we did when we were 18 years old: We were going to the thrift shop and getting costumes and props, and rehearsing the sketches and running around and just cramming backstage.
Kerri Kenney-Silver: These particular sketches were written about the history of the United States. Certainly when you’re writing something with one subject matter in mind, that’s different than writing a half-hour sketch show.

On How The Writing Process Has Changed, Or Not:
KKS: There are computers now. And I think we’ve gotten better at editing ourselves and trusting ourselves a bit more. But I think it’s surprising how little has changed at the same time. Fart jokes make us laugh, and we’re almost 40, so that’s a good thing.
Thomas Lennon: I hate to compare us to The Police or something, but there is a certain dynamic in the group that is just constantly in turmoil. But as much as we may bicker and we may fight, and once in a while someone punches someone in the group, we understand each other really well. Certainly some of the fighting in The State has led to why the material was always pretty good.

On The Making Of The Fabled State DVD:
DW: We put together these beautiful masters of our entire series, did commentary on every episode, threw in tons of extras, deleted sketches, never-before-seen material of all different types, in a beautiful package, everything all done. And for some reason, there’s been this unwillingness to actually release it. I get asked via e-mail dozens of times a day, ‘Where can I buy it? I will pay any price.’ The latest that I’ve heard is that they are planning on releasing it probably in the first half of this year, but I would be foolhardy to promise anything.
KKS: Nothing has ever made me feel as old as that did, watching my precious little 23-year-old skin dance around. And the fact that half the time, as we were watching them and commenting live, we could not remember what was coming next in the sketch, that we wrote, that we were in. It’s really scary to realize how many brain cells we burned, but it was great to be able to watch what we did and not cringe as much as I expected we would.
TL: I’ll be honest. Half the time I cringe, because there’s a couple of sketches that I wrote that were awful.

On The Future Of The State:
DW: We’ve been loosely working on a project that has evolved from a movie to possibly a special. It continues to be a logistical hurdle, corralling all 11 of us together to get it done.
TL: We do have one thing going at The State: We decided that as we start to die off, the living members will get to dress whoever dies for their coffin. Yeah. People are going to be buried in swimsuits and roller skates, or like a full Iron Man costume.
KKS: You try and stay alive as long as you can, because if you’re early to go, then you’ve got nine boneheads who are gonna dress you in the most embarrassing outfits in your open casket in front of your entire family. I’ll tell you that I’ve got a lot of jockstraps and scuba gear ready.

The State performs Jan 24. at the Eureka Theatre at 8 & 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 and the shows are all-ages. The SF Sketchfest Tribute to The State is Jan. 25 at the Herbst Theatre at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and the event is all-ages. Related events include a screening of Wet Hot American Summer Jan. 24 at the Clay Theatre at midnight with cast members, and Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain will perform as Stella Jan. 25 at Cobb’s Comedy Club.

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