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With the continuing drought plaguing the Bay Area, it will be a relief that “Wainy Days” are coming soon.
At least writer-director-comedian David Wain’s appearances at SF Sketchfest might help take our minds off the local lack of precipitation. He will present “Wainy Days Live” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, at Marines’ Memorial Theater and will be part of the three-headed monster known as Stella at 10 p.m. on Friday, January 31, also at Marines’ Memorial.
“Wainy Days” was Wain’s wacky (sorta fake) look at his love life in the form of a Web show, and the live version will feature special guests like Rashida Jones from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Wain’s old comrades, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black.
“It will be like a variety show of ‘Wainy Days’ scenes. We’ll do a staging of one or two sketches. We might show some bonus things, a staged reading of an early ‘Wainy Days’ sketch I wrote when I was in middle school. It will be a grab bag,” Wain said.
Jones played a version of Wain in drag in an early episode of “Wainy Days.” “Since Rashida is such a great singer, we might also do some music stuff,” Wain said.
He was en route to the Sundance Film Festival during this interview, for the premiere of “They Came Together,” a romantic comedy he co-wrote with Showalter.
“I’m sure we wouldn’t have done the film if we had not done a reading of the script at Sketchfest,” Wain said. “The project had been sitting on the shelf for years and years. I just sort of had an inkling it would be fun to read. When we read it out loud, the reaction was so strong, and we had so much fun, that immediately after Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler came up to me and said, ‘Please, can we do this and soon?’”
SF Sketchfest has been a special gathering for The State, the groundbreaking sketch comedy troupe that first appeared on MTV 20 years ago and helped launch Wain, Showalter, Black and others into the sketch comedy zeitgeist. The State had its last full reunion of all 11 founding members at Sketchfest four years ago, and different clusters of State members have presented a (viva) variety of performances throughout Sketchfest’s history, including a re-creation of the cult 2001 film “Wet Hot American Summer,” directed by Wain and co-written with Showalter.
“The other thing that’s great about Sketchfest is the entire comedic community gathering,” Wain said. “It’s great to check in with people I worked with in the past and say hello to old friends.”
Six of the 11 (or 55%) members of The State will be part of this year’s Sketchfest, including Wain, Showalter, Black, Kevin Allison, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Wain said Sketchfest is one of the few opportunities for him, Black and Showalter to perform together as Stella.
“We’re on different coasts,” Wain said. “It’s like riding a bike though. Once we’re on stage, it’s like being in a band.”
Stella formed in 1997, and quickly became a magnet for the burgeoning alternative comedy scene in New York City. The trio create a Rat-Pack-meets-the-Marx-Bros. vibe, chock full of nonsense and vigor.
“Stella was a means of giving comics a place to refine that stuff that they were trying out in these rougher rooms. The whole edict of Stella was to be a little more upscale, a little more refined, a little more put together,” Michael Ian Black said. “It had music. We wore suits. There were drinks. It was all designed be an alternative to a traditional stand-up comedy space.”
Stella’s Showalter has also written a new book about one of his passions, cats, called “Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too.”
“Cats, they are endless sources of entertainment and fascination and conversation. We love them like they are our children,” Showalter said.
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, Black and Showalter will perform a live version of their Adult Swim infomercial parody, “You’re Whole.” It’s a co-billing with State alumnus, Kevin Allison, whose Stitcher Award-nominated storytelling show “RISK!” at the Brava Theater.
“It doesn’t have to be something that would ever be able to air on NPR,” Allison said about the raw, revealing stories heard on “RISK!” “It doesn’t even have to be funny. Just take a risk, and say something that is truly, authentically you.”
“RISK!” storytellers will include Dana Gould, Nato Green, Stephen Tobolowsky and Brendon Walsh.
Members of The State may actually reunite to attend this summer’s London reunion of Monty Python, the troupe that helped get their comic juices flowing.
Thomas Lennon, who will appear at SF Sketchfest in the shows “Dead Authors” on Jan. 24, “Superego Podcast” on Jan. 25 and “One Star” on Feb. 8, is proud of his collection of all the Python’s autographs.
“Graham Chapman was actually speaking at the University of Indiana,” he said, “and I ended up being able to get his autograph there, which was pretty amazing.”
Robert Ben Garant, State alum and Lennon’s screenwriting partner, is a special guest for “One Star” at the Eureka Theater. Visit sfsketchfest.com for the full schedule of shows and ticket information.
You can watch all five seasons of “Wainy Days” by visiting www.MyDamnChannel.com/WainyDays
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. He recently published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family several years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/coreyshame.