DVD Review: ...Stella: Season One... DVD Released Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain shine in their latest TV series
By George Marzloff
Last week, a year after the first season of “Stella” premiered on Comedy Central, the “Stella: Season One” DVD two-disc set was released. Tag-lined by the creators as “Dumb comedy dressed in suits,” the series is the brainchild of Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain. The series is based on their short films and stand-up routine as the “Stella” comedy troupe. The show follows the wacky adventures of the three that occur in their daily lives — such as their performing open-heart surgery on their landlord, camping in the woods, crashing the neighbors’ office party, or defending their paperboy from the bullies in town.
One of the most notable “Stella” episodes is “Vegetables,” in which the trio starts up a profitable large-scale plantation in their apartment, only to lose everything by “over-farming the land.” Showalter admits, “I didn’t know you couldn’t water the floorboards!”
In “Campaign,” Black runs for the building’s resident board president because the incumbent would neither let them skateboard nor have bonfires in their apartment. However, as the campaign escalates, politics comes between friends, and Wain must make a drastic decision.
The quirky trio’s absurdist material typically draws a polar response from viewers, who either love it or hate it, but even big-name celebrities such as Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Janeane Garofalo have loyally participated in much of the trio’s work (“Stella,” “The State,” “Wet Hot American Summer,” “The Baxter”).
The DVD set includes all ten episodes with audio commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, a documentary about the history of the “Stella” comedy troupe, and “Stella’s” performance on “Comedy Central Presents”. According to the “Stella” website (www.stellacomedy.com), the set also includes hidden Easter eggs. Episodes can be watched over and over, and the jokes never get stale. Humorous subtleties occur in the background of scenes, and only become noticeable after multiple viewings.
In the audio commentary, the creators reveal behind-the-scenes information about writing, filming and editing each show amidst their sarcastic banter. The DVD has fourteen minutes of deleted scenes that are worth watching and probably were just cut for time constraints. Despite the quality, Comedy Central has not picked up “Stella” for a second season yet.
The first season DVD set is definitely worth buying, as it will provide hours of classic comedy that will keep you entertained for years.
I recently called Michael, Michael, and David to talk about “Stella,” their other projects, and their advice for students.
The Tech: What would you say to someone who has never seen the show before to try to get them to buy the DVD?
Michael Ian Black: If you buy it, MIT will reimburse anybody who buys the DVD.
David Wain: The truth is if you buy the DVD, you will get a free cone of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Michael Showalter: If you like “Lost,” or “The Sopranos,” you’ll love “Stella.”
TT: How does the “Stella” stage show differ from the television series?
DW: We had developed the “Stella” personas in a stage show, but the TV show was invented from scratch, somewhat from the [“Stella”] shorts we had done. The stage show was a live, kind of nightclub-comedy show, and then it became a touring, kind of stand-up comedy show. And the television show is more of a hybrid between a sitcom and sketch comedy show.
TT: What kind of demographic are you hoping to reach with the release of the “Stella” DVD?
DW: For some reason, it seems to be elderly, female Koreans, mostly in Korea.
TT: Since “Stella” wasn’t renewed for a second season, how are you planning to reach college students through the media?
MIB: I’m joining the cast of “CSI: Miami.”
DW: And I’m joining the cast of “CSI: Cleveland,” which is a local show there. So if you’re in the Northeast Ohio area, you can check that out.
TT: The Hollywood Reporter calls you “the Marx Brothers on acid”. Would you agree with that?
DW: You know The Hollywood Reporter is just a rag, right?
MIB: You know nobody reads that newspaper, right?
TT: Well, it’s on the back of the [“Stella”] DVD.
MIB: People read the DVD. People definitely read the DVD.
DW: The back of the DVD is really just a rag, you know that right?
MIB: Nobody reads that.
DW: Nobody reads it anymore.
MS: It’s only a rag.
MIB: I think any comparison to the Marx Brothers is flattering, and any comparison to acid is also flattering.
MS: The Hollywood Reporter didn’t mean the comedy troupe, the Marx Brothers; they meant Karl Marx and his brother Nieschke.
MIB: I actually don’t know if that’s true, Mike.
MS: It is true. I asked them.
MIB: Oh, then that is true.
TT: Was there something you wanted to have in the episodes that you couldn’t because of regulations on cable?
MIB: I wanted to have a woolly mammoth, but we couldn’t. But that had nothing to do with the regulations on cable and everything to do with the fact that they’re extinct.
MS: So we just had to go with a regular mammoth.
TT: Why did you guys choose to wear suits for all of your skits?
MIB: Yeah it was a coincidence.
MS: Wait, can I give a serious answer to that? It wasn’t a coincidence, it was a coinkydink. Hey David or Michael, did I get either of you guys with that one?
DW: Yeah, yeah.
MIB: Sure, definitely. LOL. LOL. ROTFL, dude.
TT: How often do you hang out together outside of work, and what’s the conversation like?
MIB: Well, we definitely party pretty hard. The conversation might go something like “Hey man, how you doin’,” and then one of the other guys might be like “Pretty cool, how are you?”
DW: Or it might be something like “Pretty good.”
MIB: Yeah, it might be “Pretty good” or “Pretty cool”, or if someone’s down, [he] might say, “Eh, not so good.” Then you could either follow that up with a “Why?” or like “I’m sorry to hear that,” that sort of thing.
TT: Have all three of you guys ever lived together before, and how often do you shower together?
MIB: We’ve never all lived together, but at different times, we’ve lived in different permutations of that. David, have we ever lived together?
DW: Not in any official way, no.
MIB: Right, and in terms of showering together, I don’t know, once a week?
MS: But in all fairness, it’s a golden shower. It’s not a shower where we get clean.
DW: And I wouldn’t call it “together.” It’s usually two of us provide the golden shower, and one person washes off.
MS: I mean, what we’re saying is that we pee on each other.
DW: But, in case you were thinking of something gross, obviously we wash off afterwards, with a regular shower. Or a bath.
MS: Sometimes. Sometimes, not always.
MIB: But the water that comes out of that showerhead is pee.
TT: Do you consider yourselves actors or comedians?
MIB: I’m more of a Latin scholar than anything else I think.
DW: I am first and foremost a Jew.
TT: If you could be any other person for a day, who would you be?
DW: Greg Louganis.
MS: Because he has AIDS?
DW: Does he? Well if he does, then no. I’ll go with Lou Gehrig.
TT: Michael Ian Black, tell me about your interest in poker. Any plans for more TV tournaments?
MIB: Well, I love to do [the celebrity poker shows] when they ask me, but I’m actually not joking. I am playing it online right now as we speak, which is why I haven’t been particularly funny or interesting in the interview — because I’m really paying far more attention to poker than I am to you.
DW: And I’m looking at pictures of little kitties on cuteoverload.com.
TT: Can you tell me a little about your writing projects and what the future holds for you?
DW: My movie, “The Ten,” is just starting the editing process right now, and then we’re going to take it to festivals and hopefully release it and everybody in “The State” is in “The Ten” including Michael and Michael.
MIB: And my movie, “The Pleasure of Your Company,” is a romantic comedy about two strangers who decide to get married. It stars Jason Biggs and Isla Fisher and it will be out sometime in spring ’07.
TT: Would you consider writing a musical or other type of stage productions?
DW: We do have an album coming out of soul music. It’s called “Stella: Dreamscapes.”
MS: Babyface Edmonds and L. A. Reid produced it. And there are a couple tracks on there produced by the Neptunes. It’s a really hot cut. It drops next month. But to answer your question, I’m actually adapting a Vaclav Havel novel into a poem. I mean a Vaclav Havel poem into a play. It’s not comedy.
MIB: Which poem, Michael?
MIB: Now are you writing it in Czech, or are you writing it in English?
MS: I’m having it translated first, and then I’m adapting it.
DW: So how long will the translation take?
MS: It’s done. I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It’s on my e-mail. It got sent to me yesterday.
MIB: And when can we look for that?
MS: It’s gonna drop sometime next month.
TT: Will “The State” be released on DVD anytime soon?
DW: “The State” seasons are coming out on iTunes very soon. Depending on how they do, there might be a DVD.
TT: If you could do absolutely anything with your lives, do you have any secret dreams you’d like to accomplish?
MIB: I’d like to be a reporter for a college newspaper, but that’ll never happen.
DW: I wish I was on the front lines in Afghanistan. My dream just didn’t work out. Or I’d like to be in prison.
TT: What tips would you give to someone wanting to live a “Stella”-inspired lifestyle?
DW: I have two main tips: Par, tay.
MIB: You gotta get yourself a suit, you gotta get yourself a three-person bicycle, and some bike helmets.
TT: Do you have any advice for students that want to follow in your footsteps?
MIB: The best place to do that would be in the sand where you can very clearly see our footsteps. Or the snow.
DW: If it was tightly packed snow, and we were each wearing very distinctive boots.
MS: For me it would be very difficult, because I have no feet.
“Stella: Season One” is available now. Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black will be performing at the Paradise Rock Club on Oct. 8; tickets are on sale now.