Showalter (left) in Wet Hot American Summer (2001).
"I'm OUTTA heeeerrrrrrre" - Doug
"I want you inside me!" - Gerald "Coop" Cooperberg
The above two quotes represent one of two likely possibilities for people's first impressions of MICHAEL SHOWALTER, who comes to the Wilbur Theatre this Friday along with his friend and frequent collaborator, Michael Ian Black. The first quote comes from The State, the beloved, subversive MTV sketch comedy show from the early 90s (recently released on DVD) that launched not only Showalter and Black's careers, but also those of (among others) David Wain, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio. The second line is from Wet Hot American Summer, the zany 2001 feature comedy directed by Wain, co-written by Wain and Showalter, and starring Showalter, Black, Marino, and Lo Truglio along with Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Meloni, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper. Though it was a critical and commercial flop during its initial release, it's since become a cult favorite.
For the majority of this decade, Showalter has been performing with Black and Wain under the moniker of Stella. Now, though, with Wain off doing other projects, he and Black will be performing as a duo, in keeping with the tradition established by their new Comedy Central show, Michael and Michael Have Issues. Their humor can be hilariously nonsensical at times and brilliantly inappropriate at others. But mostly it involves the three of them - on Michael and Michael Have Issues, the two of them - sniping at each other in the funniest way imaginable. I talked to Showalter on the phone today about this tour and the recent renewed interest in The State; he was driving at the time.
How has the tour been going so far?
What made you want to do this show as a tour, specifically?
We wanted to go on tour. It was more just that we're both in it, so it seemed like a convenient thing to cross-promote it. But it's not like we're doing scenes from the TV show or anything like that.
What can people expect from this show?
Eugene Mirman is opening. He'll do a set, and then Mike and I are onstage together kind of telling stories and riffing. Performing together. Making humor. Showing videos.
How does this differ from a Stella show, other than not having David with you?
Well, we're not wearing suits. It's much less scripted than a Stella show. A lot of the show is just sort of rolling with the punches. But it's been going really well.
I notice that on both Michael and Michael Have Issues and on Stella, a lot of the humor is you guys acting like you are barely concealing resentment for each other. Not that you actually resent each other, but that's part of the joke. Did that just develop organically or was that what you were going for?
I think it was a pretty natural progression. I think that was comedically the relationship that was apparent to us, was kind of an adversarial relationship.
Does that ever carry over offstage?
Never. Absolutely not. In real life, it's just nothing but warmth.
Do you know what's happening with the show as far as a second season is concerned?
They've ordered scripts, so we're going to start writing again in a couple of weeks, but we don't know yet about an actual pickup.
Gotcha. I also have some State questions if you don't mind . . .
Okay. Ever since DVD was invented, practically, it seemed like there were people saying "oh man, they gotta put The State out on DVD!" Why do you think this show has resonated all these years later?
Maybe people just thought the show was funny and wanted to watch it again. What do you think?
Partly that and partly timing.
That's my answer then. Nostalgia.
How much of it did you watch again?
I haven't watched any of it - only what I did commentary on.
In doing that, was there anything that surprised you?
Just that it was funny. I haven't watched it in over ten years. And I thought some of it felt dated and kind of specific to that moment, but a lot of it I thought was still pretty funny. For a bunch of young kids, anyway, a lot of it holds up and feels true to itself. Not contrived.
Was there ever a point in time when you did not have people coming up to you and asking about Doug?
There was kind of a lull. There was sort of a six-year period after The State ended, and then there was kind of a lull. And then in the last couple of years it's picked up again.
Is it true that Doug was created as your response to MTV's request that you guys create a recurring character with a catch phrase?
Yeah. We didn't want to be like SNL. But it really was Louie [who] was the kind of corprorate catchphrase character, but then of course everybody loves the character, so we kept doing it.
What do you think would be different if you guys were younger and just getting out of college two years ago and trying to get The State off the ground in 2009?
It's a good question. I imagine it would be a lot harder now, because when we were doing it, there really weren't a lot of sketch groups out there. There's been a boom of it, since the internet - the advent of YouTube, really, and the whole viral video [thing] and the ability to get your stuff seen by yourselves. And then there's the UCB and these theaters now where kids can find each other and make a troupe. And now there's a lot of troupes. When we were all the way back then, there was very few scripted sketch groups. So it was a little bit more of a novelty. There was only one real way to be seen, and that was to get your own television show.
MICHAEL SHOWALTER + MICHAEL IAN BLACK | Wilbur Theatre | October 30 | $32