Michael Showalter is best known as one-third of Stella, the Marx Brothers-inspired comedy troupe whose unfortunately short-lived 2005 Comedy Central show (hey, at least now we’ve got Mind of Mencia!…that was sarcastic) nonetheless gained a considerable cult following and had fans hungering for more absurdist humor from Showalter and Stella co-members Michael Ian Black and David Wain.
The redundantly titled short webisodes, which began in January 2007, star Showalter’s same-named alter ego, a vain, assholic prima donna whose supposedly serious show (all-black backdrop, espresso props for fellow comedian guests) is repeatedly undermined by “behind the scenes” footage revealing Showalter’s manipulative, childish behavior.
For example, between chewing dip, admitting his hatred of performing stand-up “en stäge,” and talking about his father’s problems with the KKK (“He’s Greek, so he had trouble joining it”), Showalter stop-by Zach Galifianakis confronts his host about the strange emails Michael keeps sending about wanting gas money for a long past two-mile trip.
David Cross must put up with Showalter pushing his script containing a custom made role for the bespectacled funny man, while Andy Samberg gets insultingly confused with Adam Sandler (and also addressed as “Ami Sanderg,” among other names) and Jack McBrayer is treated with complete disrespect for not bringing along 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey (Showalter: “We’re going to be back here next time with someone else better”)
Rudd, Galifianakis, and Wain (his and Showalter’s passive-aggressive back and forth on the failures of their collaborative work in Wet Hot American Summer is a perfect example of comic timing honed from years of working together) are terrific, while Cross, McBrayer, and Michael Cera often seem detached and adrift. But there’s rarely an episode that’s entirely unfunny, and if worse comes to worse there’s always Showalter himself, who’s simply terrific to watch even as an intentionally bad interviewer.