David Wain is not for everyone. I say that as an enormous compliment, because when I meet someone who shares my affinity for his inane comedy, I know I’ve met a kindred spirit. His films have graduated from cult novelty (Wet Hot American Summer) to the comic mainstream (Role Models and Wanderlust) but he still embraces the nonsensical. David Wain lives by the comic rule that when you run into trouble and you’re about to lose the room, double down on the gag. A little might not be funny, but total commitment has redemptive comic value. It’s part of the appeal of Wainy Days, his long-running MyDamnChannel web series that stars a pathetic version of himself navigating a bevy of beautiful single babes (like Elizabeth Banks, Amanda Peet, and Julie Bowen). Last night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Lower Manhattan, Wain and some special guests celebrated the recent release of the Wainy Days DVD with a live show that finally answered the question: What was “David Wain” like in middle school?
The evening was informal, to say the least, with quasi-serious interviews with drummer extraordinaire Fred Armisen and proud luddite Janeane Garofalo, video clips and extras from the DVD, musical solos from songstress Amy Miles narrating the raising and lowering of a glacially paced movie screen, crowd-participation during a game of Mad Libs, and a re-enactment of the two-part musical episode, “Rochelle.” But the highlight of the night was an unprecedented reading of an early, unproduced Wainy Days script. How early? Wain claimed it was the original Wainy Days script, written in 1982. Armisen narrated the raunchy teen male fantasy, Wain played the horny teenager who proved irresistible to the gorgeous new girl, played by Michelle Federer, as well as his Mary Kay Letourneau-esque principal, Garofalo. Wain’s wife, Zandy Hartig, played the sweet, wholesome girl who ends up being David’s more compatible date to the dance. They share a moonlit kiss and a promise, a nod to their future together and the only trace of sweetness in the skit. But enough of such sentimentality — it was immediately buried by a subsequent video inspired by this early sophomoric draft.
Live, Wain has a gift for making the well-crafted seem desperately spontaneous. There is a method to his madness, most especially when he paints himself into a corner. Though the middle-school skit didn’t reveal too much about Wain’s actual youth, it was the perfect showcase of where he is as a writer and performer today.
Are you a fan of Wain’s oeuvre? If so, what’s your fave: Wainy Days, Childrens Hospital, Wet Hot American Summer, The State, something else?