Putting on the “Funny Pants”

Comedian Michael Showalter tackles the written word.

Michael Showalter's affinity for cats is only matched by his love of spiritual rock group Creed.

Photo courtesy The Windish Agency

Michael Showalter’s affinity for cats is only matched by his love of spiritual rock group Creed.

Andrew Penkalski

What: Michael Showalter

When: Sunday, March 13, 9:00 p.m.  

Where: Varsity Theater (1308 Fourth Street southeast)

Cost: $14

Michael Showalter is not a comedian. He is a professor âÄì at least for now.

His spot on the adjunct faculty roster at New York UniversityâÄôs graduate film program has been the singular constant amidst his turnstile of pilots, road shows and a few of disillusioning moments in the past five years of his career. His current public-eye platform is also one that lends itself greatly to this big-man-on-campus mantra. He kicked off a national tour last month in support of his new book, âÄúMr. Funny Pants.âÄù It is a restructuring to the standup road experience that Showalter himself has found a bit elating.

âÄú[The shows] are more like âÄòa special evening withâĦâÄôâÄù he said. âÄúBasically, itâÄôs like a James Taylor concert.âÄù

There is some sensibility in Showalter trading the white-collar attire of his âÄúStellaâÄù days for the corduroy blazer of a liberal arts commoner. His work has often based itself around a fascination with the excess and eccentricities of contemporary yuppiness. The scripts for his 2001 summer camp comedy âÄúWet Hot American SummerâÄù and his 2005 quirky romance âÄúThe BaxterâÄù are typified by his absurd, albeit sincere, caricatures.

âÄúMr. Funny Pants,âÄù also toes this line of mockery and earnestness. There is a post-preface. There is also a pre-post preface. It is rabbit hole of his creative process, something that largely was born from his most immediate efforts for his written debut.

âÄúYou sit down to write a book and realize âÄòwait a second, IâÄôve never done this before,âÄôâÄù Showalter said.

Much of the writing is disarmingly candid. It is a matter-of-fact delivery that makes many of his anecdotal recollections seem utterly surreal. However, Showalter maintains that his experiences are entirely biographical.

âÄúI also sort of felt like if I were reading a book, I would enjoy hearing the author being candid about these kinds of things,âÄù he said.

One particularly so-weird-it-has-to-be-true moment finds the writer discussing his recent attempt to adopt a cat from a local Petco. The story involves an adoption process that rivals that of a human infant, and he is ultimately denied a feline cohort.  

âÄúMy opinion is that I didnâÄôt look to them like the kind of person that in their minds would be good for a cat,âÄù he said. âÄúBasically, they wanted me to be a cat lady and I was this young white guy.âÄù

It is a mishmash of perpetually unguided but continually funny ruminations. Moreover, it digests in a manner that is more compatible with his brand of wandering punch lines.  The flighty plotlines and uncanny caricatures of his cancelled television series âÄúStellaâÄù and Michael and Michael Have IssuesâÄù has always attracted a certain audience of weirdos. However, neither programsâÄô drastically wryer approach benefitted from their âÄúSouth ParkâÄù lead-in. 

âÄúThe foundation of [Comedy CentralâÄôs] audience on any given day are South Park fans,âÄù he said. âÄúWhen South Park is over, they change the channel.âÄù

While his current career path may lend itself more so to tenure than an Emmy, he discusses his quieter existence with sincere satisfaction.

âÄúIâÄôm taking a step away from TV, not out of spite, but because IâÄôve enjoyed writing this book so much,âÄù he said.

It is also a blessing in disguise that Showalter now spends his time testing random non-sequiturs in a lecture hall full of NYU film students. There is always a chance a pupil may tease out a solution for absurdist comedyâÄôs mainstream breakthrough.