For those of us who've been following Michael Showalter since he was but a flop-haired 20-something on MTV's The State — where he gave us, among other absurdist treasures, Doug, a rebellious teenager whose cool dad gave him frustratingly little to rebel against — there is no Showalter project too silly, too cranky, too obscure to love. Whether it was Stella, Michael and Michael Have Issues, or, say, the training montage from Wet Hot American Summer that burrowed its way weirdly into your heart, there's something about the comedian that's eminently, endearingly watchable.
Ahead of his appearances Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at SF Sketchfest, we caught up with Showalter as he took a break in the writers' room of the Rebel Wilson TV show Super Fun Night (he's a producer) to talk cats, comedy, and what makes him feel like a loser.
San Francisco Bay Guardian: You have several projects going on right now, but the first thing I need to ask about is a male-centric cat ownership guidebook you published last October: Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too. How many cats do you have?
Michael Showalter: Right now I'm living in LA, and we have four indoor cats here. And then at our place in Brooklyn, there's a small posse of cats that live in my backyard, that are now being taken care of by the people subletting our place. At any given moment there are between three and six cats back there...so using the law of averages, I'll say I have seven.
SFBG: Why did the world need a book about how to be a male cat lady?
MS: Basically, I really took to heart the saying "Write what you know." I looked around me and said "What do you know?" As I was saying that I probably had two cats on my lap. My next book is going to be about drinking coffee.
SFBG: Since it's premiering at Sundance this week, what can you tell us about They Came Together (in theaters Jan. 24) , the Paul Rudd-Amy Poehler rom-com you made with your usual partner-in-crime David Wain? Do you think it will appease the hordes of Wet Hot American Summer fans who are hungry for a sequel — or prequel, as has been discussed?
MS: I'd say it's a parody/homage to the romantic comedies of the '80s and '90s that myself and David Wain sort of grew up on and loved. It's a combination send-up/love letter, based in New York. Obviously it's got a great cast...and yeah, it's very similar in a lot of ways [to Wet Hot]. It has a lot of the same sensibility to it, the reference points, the sense of humor.
SFBG: Because I have to ask anyway: Is there still a Wet Hot prequel in the works?
MS: Yeah. We're figuring it out. But I've been instructed by David Wain not to talk about it, because we want it to be shrouded in mystery. Like the new Star Wars movie.
SFBG: Fair. Shall we talk about your podcast with Michael Ian Black? How is that kind of writing different from screenwriting or, say, cat books?