Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black are coming to the Ottobar in Baltimore this Sunday, the only show on this tour in the area. Michaels part of the incredible empire of alternative comedy that grew out of the brief early 90s glory of MTV’s the State. He’s basically done everything that an extremely funny person can do except be not funny: he’s written a cult classic (Wet Hot American Summer), directed another (The Baxter), been a fake host of a real TV program (Cheap Seats on ESPN) and the real host of a fake one (The Michael Showalter Showalter on Collegehumor). He draws cartoons and writes poems about the death of Saddam Hussein (Goodnight Sweet Tyrant / It didn’t pan out so good for you and stuff.) His new album contains songs from his folk duo project the Doilies (with music produced by Craig Wedron of Shudder To Think, extending the harDCore connection that began with Nation of Ulysses in the State’s theme song), as well as what is a new direction for him, standup comedy. Of course, his version of stand-up is a lot more improv-based and quirky than the usual rantings and relationship jokes. The album is called Sandwiches & Cats because a woman brought her mewing kittens to the front row of the show he was recording, so he paused his written jokes for a while and just made fun of her, to the extent that it became a kind of meta-joke about comedians getting mad at hecklers. One wonders what would have happened if she’d brought her baby?
BYT pestered the busy auteur into chatting over email about hecklers, the New Yorker, and David Wain’s penis.
BYT: You’re skipping DC on this tour and just going to the Ottobar in Baltimore (good decision by the way, Baltimore crowds drink way more…), do you find certain cities have a naturally cooler, more receptive audience, particularly at standing-in-a-bar shows?
Michael Showalter:Unquestionably. In fairness to D.C. I’ve had only great experiences doing shows there. Ottobar is one of my favorite places to play because the environment is so intimate. I’m not really sure that’s the right word. Intimate suggests soft. There’s nothing soft about Ottobar. It’s raw. So let’s say raw intimacy is what you get at Ottobar. San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philly, Portland, Seattle are always great places to do shows. The only city that always feels a little underwhelming is LA.
BYT: Which is more grueling, touring the US or touring the internet on your blog tour?
MS:Both. I hate flying and living out of a bag. I always wind up wearing the same pair of underwear for like three days in a row and brushing my teeth with my finger. Blogging is grueling because it shows me how little I actually have to say about anything. It’s emotionally grueling.
BYT: Your new album, like a lot of your comedy, is full of some really raunchy stuff cloaked in sophistication. Like in Erotica, where your attempts to be dirty end up sounding more like a novel by a Wes Anderson character than pornography. It seems like a lot of the funny comes from a contrast with your supposedly sweet and innocent disposition. Is that persona something you’re aware of when writing?
MS:Hm. I think I’m both of those things. I’m sort of a polite, fairly composed, maybe even buttoned up kind of character but I’m also obsessed with sex and degradation. Make of that what you will.
BYT: I’ve heard that the sketch comedy movie for which the State will be reuniting will be a history of the US. How is that going and how sick are you of the Mel Brooks comparisons already?
MS:Ah. Who cares? (I mean that in a nice way. It’s a fair question and that’s my response.)
BYT: Judd Apatow is owning Hollywood pretty hard right now. Do movies like his appeal more to you than the gross-out fad from earlier this century? Is there going to be comeback of sweet romantic comedies (like the Baxter, which I dearly love) that are still absurdly hilarious?
MS:Truly don’t know. If I understood Hollywood trends I’d be a very rich man right now. Instead I live in Brooklyn and splurge on things like iTunes. Wow! I bought 5 entire albums on iTunes today!
BYT: The doodles on your website are fascinating. I especially have a strong affinity for Man Holding Small Pontiff. Ever considered being a cartoonist for the New Yorker?
MS:When I was in 5th grade I sent them a doodle. It was of Santa at a home computer making his list. They rejected it.
BYT: Our resident comedy nerd Cale insisted that I ask you whether, on the State DVD that may or may not be coming out ever, you’ll be using the original music from the MTV airing or did you have to replace it with different music? Can you say anything about the progress with that?
MS:Replaced music. It kinda sucks a little. Not the music per se but just the fact that we had to replace it. Ultimately that’s been the hold up all along.
BYT: Speaking of music, we’re doing our fancy end-of-the-year Top Ten lists, unlike everyone else on the internet. Care to give us a Best Albums of Year list, comedy or otherwise? Or worst?
MS:I like the new Spoon cd.
BYT: Who is a better dry-humper, MIB or David Wain?
MS:Thankfully, I have never actually felt either one of their penises against my leg. Just thinking about is triggering my gag relax. I can assume that David’s better because he’s had more experience with dry humping than anyone I’ve ever known or ever will know.
Showalter the Blogtour: http://www.stereogum.com/archives/video/michael-showalter-tours-blogs-lies-about-mp3s.html
Showalter the Doodler: http://www.michaelshowalter.net/doodles.html
Showalter the Record Artist: http://store.jdubrecords.org/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=145
Showalter the Showalter: http://www.collegehumor.com/tag:michaelshowalter