The entertainment world is finally catching up to David Wain. The co-creator of television’s The State and Stella helped introduce a fresh new comic sensibility — as well as the likes of Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks — in Wet Hot American Summer, a certifiable cult classic. With Role Models, he proved he could direct a mainstream hit movie, and he just completed work on Wanderlust, the Jennifer Aniston comedy that comes out in February.
But even as bigger and more expensive Hollywood projects come his way, Wain remains dedicated to his smaller, quirkier projects. Last week, he began shooting the fourth season of Childrens Hospital, Adult Swim’s off-kilter medical satire that began as an online series. And this morning, Wainy Days returns with two new webisodes after an 18-month hiatus. The web-series, which is produced exclusively for MyDamnChannel.com, chronicles the inane dating misadventures of adorable/pathetic “David Wain.” It’s sort of like Seinfeld — if George had been the likeable hero. “It’s the only thing I do that’s 100 percent just mine, you know?” says Wain, who admits that many of his alter-ego’s social mishaps are inspired by his own real-life encounters and promises that this season’s six episodes will deliver more of the cringe-worthy delights that have made the series an underground hit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ll be honest, it took me awhile to warm up to Childrens Hospital simply because I felt like it was indirectly responsible for killing Wainy Days. But now both are back, which is wonderful, but it makes me wonder how you’re juggling it all.
DAVID WAIN: It had to go to the side for a little while, but Wainy Days was always something that I could sort of squeeze between the cracks. The whole first bunch of them I did while I was prepping and shooting Role Models. On average, we usually shoot two a day. I usually write a script very quickly — maybe in an hour or two. So we would do them on the weekend — some in New York, some in Los Angeles, wherever I was, just because it was so much fun.
Do you plot out seasons in advance or do you just take six of your best funny ideas and say, “Let’s make six episodes’?
In this case, we did it a little differently. The six episodes this season work together as a whole, more than they ever did. They’re their own little adventure, but each one is “To Be Continued…”
Can you tell us a little something about this arc?
It’s basically about how I meet a girl that I like, and my desires are thwarted by my neighbor, a former TV star played by Ken Marino. And then in his efforts to make it up to me, he helps me meet another girl, and it’s about the ongoing challenge of trying to figure out how to make it work with one girl or the other. Adventures ensue involving a book on tape, a Walkman, and Steven Weber.
Okay, so tell us three things that we’ll learn about David Wain this season that we didn’t know before?
We get a much better idea of how meticulous I am about washing my hands. We will learn how far I’m willing to go to get what I want. Even if it means giving someone a lethal injection. And we’ll learn how I can deftly use political humor to try to convince someone that I know about something that I don’t.
This year, Fiat is the show’s official sponsor. How did that come about?
Basically, Fiat looked around the landscape of pop culture and recognized that Jennifer Lopez and myself are the arbiters of taste and cool in the larger world. So they paid her untold millions to do a series of commercials, and they paid me untold dozens to make some Wainy Days. But it’s very cool. They came to me and basically said, “We like your show. Why don’t we underwrite it and you just stick our car in there and we won’t tell you what to do otherwise?”… And it is a very, very cool car.
After only 32 “Wainy” episodes, I think you’ve passed Jerry Seinfeld with the number of hot, funny girlfriends you’ve made out with for an episode before they landed their own hit TV show or movie. Was that always the goal?
Yes. Quite simply, yes. I have very little to add.
Just running through the old clips: Julie Bowen, Elizabeth Banks, Amanda Peet…
Look, you’ve got to earn a living. It’s not fun but somebody’s got to do it. I’ve got to punch in and do my job.
Tell me a little about David’s ladies this season.
We have the amazingly beautiful and talented Erinn Hayes (Childrens Hospital), who plays a theater critic from the New York Times. We have the amazing Lizzie Caplan (Party Down), who’s playing a bookish, intellectual, Jewish, coffee-shop, Brooklyn, cool, hipster girl. The first episode is about me on a date with Erinn, and I think it’s going well, and then the Ken Marino character gets in the way of it.
After four seasons, David’s dated some eccentric women. How would he describe the perfect woman?
I hate to say it, but character David Wain and the real David Wain are not so different from each other. And much of, if not most of what happens in Wainy Days, is directly based on things that have happened in my past. And so ultimately, the on and off flirtation I have with my co-worker on the show, Zandy, is probably the kind of woman that my character should probably end up with. Which, in fact, in real life is what happened. [Wain and Zandy Hartig married in Feb. 2009 and have two sons.]
So you’re saying this season’s arc with a former TV star getting in the way of your date with a pretty girl is something based on your own experiences?
[Laughter]. I would say the experience of going on a date with someone — or thinking you’re on a date with someone — and then her hooking up with someone else you know has happened to me many, many times.
Has being married in real life effected your character’s on-screen romances in any way?
We had been together for a relatively short time when I first started Wainy Days, so it was cool in a way because my real-life period of time of being single and trying to date had come to completion. It was a fun way to look back at that with the perspective of not being involved in it anymore. It actually helps me because if I was on the market, and these actresses came in and they weren’t really sure if I was actually trying to hit on them or something, that might be really creepy.