July 28, 2005



There hasn't been much to giggle about at Casa del Salad the past few days. (See previous post)

But last night, when laughs were at a supreme deficit, we clicked the DVR and punched up an episode of "Stella" that I had recorded off "Comedy Central."

It saved the night.

Salad Boy, who had been in an understandably mournful funk most of the day, started launching high-pitched chortles. His mother tolerated it at first, then threw in a few laughs. I kept shaking my head and uttering, "This is soooooo stooopid." But in a highly complimentary way.

It's not a show for everyone. We do not live in absurdist times. This might not be the decade where people get the joke that three simpletons in suits put on blackface so they can hide the scars of an assjacking they got from a band of juvenile delinquent paper boys. This is "The Hudson Brothers" only dumbed down - in a very smart way.

But it becomes funny once you surrender to the stupidity and let it flow over you. You'll probably feel a little dirty afterward, the kind of guilt you get when you laugh at graffiti on a bathroom stall or the reverse playback of an old man falling off a swing set and losing his teeth and trousers on "America's Funniest Videos." But it will happen. Trust me.

Anyway, I found an interesting Q&A from Newsweek with one of the cast members on the "Stella" site. Seems to explain the reaction to the show pretty well:

What are you trying to do with "Stella"?
Michael Showalter: Weíre really just trying to make a funny show. We donít have any real agenda or target audience or any larger thing weíre trying to accomplish. Itís a sensibility weíve developed over the last seven or so years. It seems to have somewhat of a broad appeal. Itís really rooted in old-school slapstick comedy. Really itís a love for silliness.

Dumb comedy dressed up in a suit, as your tagline goes. There is hopefully an intelligence to what weíre doing. Itís not just being thrown against the wall, but weíre not trying to be too serious about it.

Whatís your take on feedback so far? There have been really mixed reviews. People seem to either love it or hate it.
It does seem to be that people are kind of taking sides, doesnít it? Most of whatís been said has been really positive. There are a lot of people who say ďI think itís great but I donít know if you will.Ē For a show that only just started being on TV, already thereís this debate: is this funny or not? And thatís such a funny debate to me. Of course itís funny. Weíve been doing this now for a long time. I think the debate should be: why is it funny? I donít think we know or understand whatís so challenging about this material.

Well you say yourself that over the years youíve developed your own sensibility. In "Stella" that can come across as overly silly and inside-jokey.
Probably. Thatís what was said about "The State," and thatís what was said about ďWet Hot.Ē Iíve only done this onceóand once was enough: I went to Netflix to read the audience reviews of ďWet Hot American Summer,Ē and itís either [five] stars or no stars. Nothing in between. Either people absolutely love it and think itís the greatest thing theyíve ever seen, or they think itís [an] absolutely unwatchable, worthless, completely unnecessary piece of film.

When you see stuff like that do you think ďwell obviously weíre doing something right?Ē I would imagine itís hard not to second-guess yourself.
Of course. Part of me just has to throw my hands up in the air. Itís a strange position to kind of have credibility and yet to continually be in this place of having people debate the material that weíre doing. A comment that I heard from a friend about "Stella" that resonated for me was that a lot of the jokes need to be understood on a second level. A lot of the jokes need to be thought about. "Why was that funny?" That may be something that people donít want to do. They just want to be made to laugh.

Can you give an example?
There is a joke where we see a flier advertising that thereís going to be an open house for an apartment. The flier is around the cornerówe couldnít have seen it from where we were sitting. I read something by someone who didnít see it until the second time he watched the episode. So I think that thereís a lot of moments like thatóthereís a joke that people donít see the first time. In ďWet Hot American SummerĒ there is a scene Iíve heard people criticize where my character slips on a banana peel. Our joke is: we did a banana-peel joke. Thatís kind of an esoteric joke. Itís a joke about comedy. That movie came out in the summer of 2001 and weíre now four years later and people are starting to really get it. Itís been a really slow build.

Does that mean it will take four years for people to get "Stella"?
I hope thatís not the trajectory for it. I hope people get it faster than that. There was one review that said in the year 2008 people will love this show. I hope people get it right away because itís really funny.
Posted by Jeff at July 28, 2005 05:40 AM | TrackBack

I've been contemplating a similar post about "Stella." There's a dadaist quality to the show; it's so stupid it's brilliant. Took me a couple of episodes before it clicked.

Very sorry about Hobart.

Posted by: Bill at July 28, 2005 11:30 PM
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