The word "cult" brands everything comedian and actor Michael Showalter touches. After creating the semi-hit MTV series The State and films Wet, Hot American Summer and The Baxter, Showalter and longtime comedy partners David Wain and Michael Ian Black adapted their stage show Stella for Comedy Central, where it gained a small but devoted fan base. Now the show is on DVD, and Stella is hitting the road.

City Pages: You and your Stella castmates David Wain and Michael Ian Black have been working together for a long time. Does it ever get hard working with the same two people?

Michael Showalter: No, actually. I'm actually surprised to hear myself say that. We change it up a lot. We've done a lot of different types of things together, so it isn't like one act over and over again. We've done movies and TV. There was The State, and Stella, and Wet Hot. So, the projects change. But in terms of the personalities, that gets old. It's almost like we're just despondent around each other. We're like a married couple that has been together for 50 years.

CP: For a while Comedy Central was marketing Stella as the modern Marx Brothers. Is that a title you enjoyed having?

MS: I think we actually might have thought of that ourselves and gave it to them. What I like about the comparison is the Marx Brothers are very well-meaning and they walk into a situation that is normal, and they screw it up. And that's kind of what the Stella guys did. They meant well, but they were like bulls in a china shop.

CP: I read that you guys are voracious readers of your press clippings.

MS: We are? I think what we obsess about is negative reviews because we worry about being misunderstood. In terms of anything else, I don't think we're too obsessive. But I will read this. I think all artists only focus on the negative reviews. And if they don't, they're probably not very good.

Laugh—or stare awkwardly—at Stella on Thursday at First Avenue. 18+.
Thu., Dec. 4, 7 p.m., 2008

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