Michael Showalter
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Michael Showalter

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The best kept secret in music


"How Did It Go?"

Michael Showalter was the perfect way to welcome first-years into our community and returning students back to campus. The place was absolutely packed (pretty much breaking every fire code law we have) and he had them laughing from start to finish.

All in all, a fantastic event. - Sarah Lawrence College

"“Kill the Cats, but Keep the Career”"

For sketch comedy fans the ’90s were nothing short of a renaissance, thanks in no small part to the pioneering efforts of Michael Showalter. While troupes like Kids in the Hall, from Toronto, and Upright Citizens Brigade, from Chicago, hit pay dirt with their own acclaimed television shows, amassing legions of fans along the way, “The State” on MTV, adapted from the New York University improv group of the same name, was probably the period’s most groundbreaking.
In just three seasons its prodigious cast produced dozens of esoteric sketches (mailmen delivering tacos, anyone?) and a spate of indelible characters. Among them was Mr. Showalter’s doofus rebel poser, Doug, whose screechy “I’m outta heeere!” entered American high school vernacular as soon as it hit cable.
As a result Mr. Showalter emerged as one of the show’s breakout stars, alongside the director David Wain and the sketch-stand-up madman Michael Ian Black. “‘The State’ really influenced everybody” in the troupe, said Mr. Showalter, 37.
During an interview at his apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn — a large Wonkaesque affair furnished with vintage couches, plank-and-cinder-block bookcases and a different color of paint on each wall — he recalled commuting to Manhattan once a month to perform with the State after transferring to Brown his sophomore year. (The group’s show was on the air from 1993 to 1995.) “We kind of developed our own sensibility together, and that’s sort of the through line,” he said.
In 1997 the three reunited and started performing in nightclubs around New York as the sketch trio Stella. During that time Mr. Showalter and Mr. Wain drew on their summer camp experiences, Mr. Showalter’s in the Berkshires and Mr. Wain’s in Maine, to write the 2001 comedy film “Wet Hot American Summer,” in which Mr. Showalter and Mr. Black starred as lovelorn camp counselors. Despite tepid reviews, it quickly developed a cult following, with “Rocky Horror”-style midnight revivals still playing to this day.
But after film critics dismissed his directorial debut, “The Baxter,” released in 2005, and the TV adaptation of “Stella” was canceled after a 10-episode run on Comedy Central that same year, Mr. Showalter decided to try stand-up. Opening for the likes of Mr. Black and Janeane Garofalo, he quickly developed an act that married his academic upbringing in Princeton, N.J. — his father, English Showalter, taught French at Rutgers; his mother is the feminist literary critic Elaine Showalter — with his appreciation for the absurd.
“I’m not up there talking into a microphone for an hour,” Mr. Showalter said. “It’s almost like I’m putting on a little show-and-tell routine.”
Whereas stand-up storytellers like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock tear through tightly scripted bits like comedic machines, Mr. Showalter’s routine is more akin to a college lecture (he does teach graduate screenwriting workshops at N.Y.U.) spliced together with music, pictures and jokes. In the course of a set he may play Train and Sufjan Stevens songs from his iPod’s “guilty pleasures” playlist; sing about mountaineering, erotica or adventure journalism; or even narrate news clippings with the aid of a PowerPoint slide show. After a year and a half on the road he had perfected enough material for his debut album, “Sandwiches and Cats,” released late last year on the JDub label.
“Sandwiches are very funny to me; I don’t know why,” Mr. Showalter said between bites of a turkey hero. “I love eating them. I’m eating one right now. Actually” — he paused to take a bite — “I just finished eating one.”
His love of sandwiches was so profound, he explained, that he was once asked to write a column for a sandwich Web site. “For whatever reason that never panned out,” he said. “But I had written these ‘Sandwich Commandments,’ so I started reading them in a stand-up context and then added music.” The bit, sort of a mash-up of poetry and a Jane’s Addiction song, is one of the album’s more inventive tracks.
“We all brought our distinct sensibilities to ‘The State,’ ” said Mr. Black, who released his own debut album, “I Am a Wonderful Man,” last fall. “Showalter’s niche was and continues to be sandwiches. Sandwiches are to him what rednecks are to Jeff Foxworthy.”
In various forms food is part of Mr. Showalter’s routine, but he is often at his best when directing what he calls his “generic anger” at the things he finds absurd. Whether that means railing against newfangled pharmaceuticals (in a bit called “Requip”) or his celebrity double (“Screech”), or simply telling hecklers he’ll beat them up, his mock-angry stage interactions elevate his act to the comedy danger zone that hovers between too far and just enough.
Which is where the cats enter the picture. Last July, while recording a show for the album at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Mr. Showalter heard a noise emanating from the floor beneath a young woman sitting in the front row. “She had a cage with two meowing cats in - New York Times, February 3, 2008, By Michael Slenske

"“’Wet Hot’ Showalter goes to Hillel”"

Writer, comedian tells of childhood camp experiences, career

Complete with a PowerPoint slideshow of childhood memories from summer camp and clips of his cameos in television shows like “Law and Order,” the writer of the 2001 cult classic about a Jewish summer camp, “Wet Hot American Summer,” spoke to an audience packed full of UW-Madison fans Wednesday night.

Writer, actor and comedian Michael Showalter made fans double over at an event sponsored by the Jewish Cultural Collective and Hillel.

Probably best known for his role as Coop in “Wet Hot” and as a third of the sketch comedy trio in the Comedy Central show, “Stella,” Showalter focused heavily on his experiences at Jewish summer camp, where he said he “discovered hip-hop,” thus validating his and his friends’ views of themselves as “badass.”

However, his musical tastes have not changed for years, he said, playing the audience a mix of music “he’s not afraid to admit he likes anymore,” the likes of which included Dave Matthews Band, Christina Aguilera and Creed.

After presenting his photographic amalgam of childhood memories and showing the audience some Microsoft Paint Smurfs he has been drawing lately, he took questions from fans.

When asked where the idea of Gene—the neurotic, antisocial cook in “Wet Hot”—originated, Showalter said, “Every summer camp I ever went to had an angry Vietnam vet cooking the food.”

“That’s Vince,” Showalter recalled. “Don’t go near him.”

Showalter met Michael Ian Black and David Wayne, his “Stella” co-stars, in college, where they formed a comedy group that eventually became “The State,” a show that aired on MTV from 1993 to ’95.

As of this point, there is going to be no “next” season of “Stella,” Showalter said of the show which became a television adaptation in 2005, but he, Black and the cast of “Wet Hot” are considering a “10 years later” feature film of “Wet Hot” or possibly a sequel.

“We work really hard during the summer to attract speakers that we think students will benefit from,” said UW-Madison junior and chair of the JCC Andrew Rubin, adding that the speakers are paid.

Showalter was the third speaker of four in JCC’s and Hillel’s Fall 2006 Major Event Series. - Daily Cardinal by Erica Pelzek


As the student programmer of lectures at New York University I am well aware of the challenges of finding a speaker who will attract crowds and entertain while having something substantial to say. I was given the responsibility of finding a lecturer to book for New York University’s Skirball Auditorium which seats over 500 people. I needed to find a person that the student body could relate to and who would fill up seats. I am so grateful and pleased to have booked Michael Showalter for the job. Not only was Michael a pleasure to work with, which is something that any programmer is always grateful for, but he was also an amazing lecturer.
Michael was able to employ his comedic ability while giving a self-reflective lecture that emphasized failure as a necessary ingredient to the road to success. He presented an innovative, multi-media presentation which gave the audience an overview of his career. His use of video was especially impressive and allowed the audience regardless of familiarity with Michael’s career to feel connected to him and his body of work.
The event was a huge success. Over 500 students attended and the auditorium swelled with laughter during the entirety of the show. Michael left us with stitches in our sides from laughing so much as well as pearls of wisdom telling us that if we dedicate ourselves to a job we love, no matter how we many failures we experience in it, we will be happy. I would recommend any campus programmer in need of an innovative, fun, and successful event to book Michael Showalter for a lecture, they will not be disappointed. - NYU Program Board – Lecture’s Chair





Michael Showalter is a man of many talents. He was an original member and co-creator of the groundbreaking sketch comedy show The State which ran for a total of six years on MTV and CBS. The State also made a comedy book for Hyperion, State By State With State, and recorded a comedy album for Warner Bros. Showalter went on to co-write, co-produce and star in the classic summer camp comedy, Wet Hot American Summer, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, and was released nationally in the Summer of '01 by USA Films. The film, which co-stars Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Molly Shannon, and David Hyde Pierce, is a now a cult phenomenon.

Showalter is co-creator/co-star of the acclaimed Comedy Central show Stella. Alongside David Wain and Michael Ian Black, Showalter created Stella in 1997 as a stage show and the troupe has spawned a series of successful short films, DVDs, and performed to sold-out audiences in clubs and on college campuses around the country ever since. Most recently, Showalter directed, wrote, and starred in the romantic comedy The Baxter, which co-stars Elizabeth Banks, Justin Theroux, Peter Dinklage, and Michelle Williams. It premiered this spring at The Tribeca Film Festival and was released nationwide in theaters in the summer of 2005 by IFC Films.

Michael was a commentator on VHI's successful I Love The 80's program as well as a series regular on MTV's sketch show You Wrote It, You Watch It and VHI's Random Play. As an actor, Showalter has appeared on the hit TV shows Sex and the City and Law and Order. His feature film credits include Kissing Jessica Stein and M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Showalter was in the original cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned To Drive with Mary Louise Parker and David Morse. Showalter has written for the MTV Movie Awards, as well as numerous film scripts and television pilots. Michael co-wrote with David Wain and Joe LoTruglio the comedic play Sex (aka Weiners And Boobs), which is being performed at colleges, high schools, and comedy clubs around the country. He is currently working on a new screenplay.

Showalter was born in Princeton NJ and graduated from Brown University.

Speech Topics:
>The Life and Times of a Semi-Famous Basic Cable Sketch Comedian