For more than a decade, the name David Wain has been catnip among a certain class of comedy nerds – the kids who, in the wild days before YouTube, bootlegged VHS copies of The State and followed the former MTV sketch troupe’s diaspora to Comedy Central shows like Viva Variety, Reno 911 and Stella. In 2001 and 2007, Wain directed reunion films of sorts. Wet Hot American Summer, and The Ten (a spoof of the ten commandments) both featured ex-State members and honorary alumni like Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks.
However, for the MyDamnChannel web series Wainy Days, the film director has put himself out front. The self-critically balding and slightly overweight Wain writes, directs and stars in the series, exuding prepubescent glee at playing “himself,” living a life of frustrated romance and absurd heartbreak in brownstone Brooklyn.
“It’s a little more personal, in a weird way, than anything else I’ve done, because it’s closer to the real me than any other character I’ve played. I think it’s definitely found its way to people beyond those who know my previous work, which I’m very happy about,” Wain told me over e-mail.
For each three minute episode, Wain recruits recognizable faces and professional New York actors to fill the varied second banana roles of love interests, horny waiters and angry boyfriends. “I love the opportunity to work with so many great actors who I haven’t had a chance to before, and would probably be harder to nail down if it was a ‘real’ show which would involve going through agents and managers.”
In the series, Wain works in a literal “sweatshop,” gossiping over a sewing machine with friends Zandy and A.D. Miles, a mocking counterpoint to white collar workplace comedies.### But nothing about Wainy Days requires over-analyzing, as the show often breaks into spontaneous dance numbers to skip from one scene to the next. During his walk-and-talk monologues, Wain shoves unsuspecting pedestrians to the ground. On paper it might sound offensive, or worse, reductive. But it works, mostly because Wain seems so innocent, even when he’s drowning an occupied baby carriage with a garden hose.
Women are of course Wain’s primary vexation. In the first episode, he bumps into a flirtatious old friend, Shelly, played by Elizabeth Banks. During an episode two lunch date, Shelly is double-teamed by her ex-boyfriend and the waiter in front of the hapless Wain. In episode nine, Jonah Hill appears as the mute, wheelchair-bound brother of Wain’s Los Angeles crush, speaking though a Stephen Hawking-style voicebox. Later in the series, Paul Rudd makes a cameo as Alias, a spoof of VH1’s pick-up artist extraordinaire Mystery, who teaches Wain the secret to attracting women: insulting them, which works with surprisingly fast results.
As you would expect from a professional like Wain, the series is polished and packed with enough talent to obscure a shoestring budget. His sketch-comedy background comes in handy for the short-form web format, and a majority of episodes are hilarious. Wain’s innocent/frustrated persona works well in these concentrated doses. The series’ second season finale aired earlier this month – featuring yet another State alum Michael Showalter – and plans for a third 10-episode season are “underway.”
Courtesy of the web, Wainy Days offers the most personal comedic vision of David Wain ever seen. “I like the immediacy in that you can finish a piece and everyone can see it minutes later. Plus, at least in my situation I get NO interference from anyone: networks, financiers, distributors, studios, censors. This part is great!”