David Wain on Wanderlust and Wet Hot American Summer 2

The writer/director talks up the alternate cut of Wanderlust on DVD and the upcoming Childrens Hospital spin-off.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

 

The free spirit of a hippie commune is the prefect vehicle for a David Wain comedy. In Wanderlust, Wain works in mortgage scandals, nudists, local news and free love around the story of a New York couple, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, moving to a commune led by Justin Theroux. Wain even said there is a bizarro cut of the film on DVD featuring all new footage. I got an exclusive interview with Wain to talk about his comedy style, his process and upcoming TV and film projects.

 

CraveOnline: Will the Paul Rudd/Justin Theroux cover of Spin Doctors be on the Wanderlust soundtrack?

David Wain: That would be great. I don't know that there is going to be a soundtrack. In fact I’m pretty sure there’s not but if there was that would be great.

 

Even a single track on iTunes to promote the movie.

Yeah, that’s a good idea. Put the word out there, CraveOnline.

 

Thank you for exposing the scam of buying vs. renting in this movie because I knew all along. That whole idea of, you have to buy something because renting is a waste, yet I’m still paying an upside down mortgage, kicking myself because I knew better.

Yes, exactly. We actually, that whole situation in the movie, is based quite directly on my wife and I living in a tiny apartment in Manhattan that we can’t afford. We just recently put it on the market to sell it and we can’t sell it because no one wants to buy.

 

Right, the realtors were your friends insisting you need to buy, then immediately turn on you.

That’s the brilliant Linda Lavin.

 

Is there more of the news banter segments, with you, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, than the two you put in the movie?

Oh, there’s lots of stuff there, lots and lots, some of which you’ll see on the DVD.

 

Do you have an affinity for or desire to spoof those types of morning shows with their artificial banter?

Yes, any sort of artifice like that I always find interesting, the fact that people feel this need to act a certain way because they’re on screen. So I always find that funny. I think it’s something the three of us Stella guys, it was a natural fit to play those parts.

 

Is the bizarro cut the same plot, just different takes?

It’s the same plot but it’s a combination of whether it’s different takes, different jokes, totally different scenes that were cut and replaced, different ways of editing. Everything’s different about the bizarre cut.

 

Is Wanderlust a little looser with a plot structure versus taking diversions into comedy, even than Role Models was?

I guess so in some ways. It had such a different gestation in that Ken and I wrote Wanderlust’s first draft completely by ourselves. We weren’t being paid by anybody. It was just our creation. The draft that we first showed Paul Rudd, who was the first person we brought into it aside from the two of us, was not so far from the final movie. Whereas Role Models was a movie that had been developed and packaged and in progress and very much set up, actually in preproduction at the studio two months away from shooting when I first read it. So it was a very, very different process. That said, ultimately the making of it was somewhat similar in that we just really worked on identifying the storyline and the spine of it and trying to keep as much of the comedy as we could on the spine of the story. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

 

Do you get a lot of the weirdness out of your system when you do Childrens Hospital and Wainy Days, so when you do a movie you can be more story-based?

Yes. Clearly the smaller the venue, the more chance we have to really go in crazy directions but part of my goal in making movies for a larger studio is to see how much of that sensibility I can layer in that will actually serve the comedy and have your cake and eat it too.

 

Has Universal been really supportive of that?

I think so. Basically if it works it works. If people are laughing and it’s funny, nobody’s arguing with that.

 

Does it help when they can put out a poster with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston?

Of course. I think it’s just a question of what level or what type of comedy can work for a mainstream audience. Doing our Stella show on Comedy Central was definitely not for everybody and Role Models was a lot more broad-based. I don't know that I would shift my head so completely. It’s just that we’re just serving a different kind of story.

 

I love The Ten. Is there room for more abstract comedy like that?

In my life?

 

In movies.

I think so. I think it just depends. So much of what makes a movie successful is timing and stars and marketing and things that have less to do with me. I still think The Ten is great and I recommend it to anybody. I’m surprised often. Clearly The Ten, of the four movies I’ve done, is the most out there in some ways. But I’m surprised to hear people of all walks of life who really enjoy it. I don't think you have to be some kind of urban hipster to enjoy certain kinds of alternative comedy so to speak.

 

It seems to be the most divisive one though.

I can understand that. The Ten was, more than any, probably one that we really were not making for anyone but ourselves. We just decided to go for it and just serve our own comedic whims. I think to some degree Wet Hot [was] the same. I just think that was, for people who like it, they really like that because it’s got a pureness to it.


Are you still planning a Wet Hot American Summer prequel?

Yes.

 

The idea is still a prequel?

Uh, yes. And we’re writing. The script is being written as we speak.

 

How is that shaping up?

Beautifully.

 

Are you being especially cagey about the plans for that?

No. Just that’s what we’re doing. We’re writing it now.

 

I read it would be set in the same summer, just earlier.

That I can’t talk about.

 

What are some other things you wanted to do with those characters?

Well, you’ll have to see.

 

Does it have the same sort of structured plot with jokes around it or can you be a little more abstract with it?

It’ll be a companion piece to the first one so it’ll probably share certain structural elements.

 

Will you have to have seen Wet Hot American Summer 1 to enjoy it?

Absolutely not. It will stand on its own.

 

Have you ever wanted to pack up and live on a commune?

 

I’ve always fantasized about walking away from whatever my current life is and doing something else. When I first visited a kibbutz when I was 25 and saw people just living really happy lives, their priorities every day being very different than my daily priorities, there was something very alluring about what if you could just chuck it all? So yes, I think about it all the time.

 

How many of your movies or TV shows’ storylines are based on experiences you’ve had?

All of them to some degree. Some of them more metaphorically than others, but I think it’s hard to write something really good that doesn’t in some way resonate to your real experience.

 

I imagine you’ve never been a doctor though, so Childrens Hospital is not autobiographical?

No, I have not. Childrens Hospital, because each episode is only 11 minutes long, each episode is really more of a sketch. It’s so much fun for me. In fact, not only have I never spent a lot of time in any hospital, I very decidedly don’t even watch any shows about high schools and I haven’t done any research. I think that just helps me in my contribution to that show to be as purely imaginative and whimsical as we can. So Children’s Hospital is a really fun playground. I love that show and the characters we’ve put together and the situations. It’s sort of a different thing. There is almost by design no real heart to it.

 

And it inspired a lot more 11 minute shows on Adult Swim.

Well, one of them is our direct spin off, Newsreaders, which we’re going to start shooting in the spring.

 

What will that show be?

Every season of Childrens Hospital there’s one episode that’s a Newsreaders which is basically a 60 Minutes-esque documentary about behind the scenes of Childrens Hospital.

 

What sorts of non-Childrens Hospital stories will they cover?

Covering anything, nothing to do with Childrens Hospital, just off on its own set of topics.

 

So will you have a new cast each week for whatever subject it is?

Along with the regular cast of correspondents.

 

What is your writing process?

Both this and The Ten were started with a week long very intense period where we had no idea and we made it our goal to in seven days, working 12 hours a day, would start with no idea and end the week with a finished first draft. That was how we start. After that we just keep rewriting and rewriting and rewriting time permitting. Sometimes we’ll have a reading with friends. We’ll just sit in our living room and read the script out loud and get a lot of insight from that. We’ll get some notes out of that, keep rewriting, keep rewriting. We did two readings like that and a bunch of rewriting over time and getting notes. Basically at the end of that process over a couple years I think is when we finally started going to cast.

 

So it’s very structured writing?

Yeah, well, we have to structure our time a lot because both Ken and I both have small kids and a lot of different projects going on all at once. So if we don’t really schedule it very hardcore then it never gets done.

 

What scenes from the movie just came from the moment and weren’t in the script?

Well, there were no scenes because it wasn’t like that. Every day we had a set of scenes to shoot from the script, but there were just a lot of moments within the scenes that were either improvised or come up with on the day. Certainly a lot of what Paul Rudd says in the mirror when he’s psyching himself up in that one scene is a lot of his improv. Similarly when he’s in the bedroom with Eva, Malin Akerman. But throughout there’s little pieces of found material, improv throughout.

 

Is Wet Hot 2 next?

Possibly.

 

I was always disappointed Louie’s catch phrase “I wanna dip my balls in it” didn’t catch on.

It will.

 

I keep trying to bring it back.

There’s always time.