Comedian Michael Showalter talks fears, 'Housewives,' and his new book, 'Mr. Funny Pants'
Image Credit: Showalter: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagicThose who have seen the criminally under-appreciated film Wet Hot American Summer can attest to writer/actor Michael Showalter’s truly unique humor. The same can be said for fans of his various television credits, which include Michael & Michael Have Issues and The Michael Showalter Showalter. The Brooklyn comic (and one-third of the comedy team Stella) has brought his wit to bookshelves everywhere — except approximately 200 Borders locations — with his first book, Mr. Funny Pants. We caught up with he of the humorous trousers to discuss the book as well as his latest foray into viral videos.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you categorize the book?
Michael Showalter: I think ultimately it’s humor writing. I think a lot of it is commenting on the trend of men writing memoirs about their troubled existences. It’s in the tradition of Woody Allen’s early humor books or Steve Martin’s, where it’s meant to be read half a page at a time on an airplane or on the subway or something. So in terms of genres, I would say it’s a humorous quasi-memoir.
About how much of the book is true?
Anything that seems true, is. Anything that seems like it could it at all be possible, is true. Anything that is obviously not true, like couldn’t possibly be true, is also not true. It’s mostly my true experiences and my true observations with some notable exceptions. I don’t know Malcolm Gladwell, but I also point that out in the book.
A lot of Mr. Funnypants revolves around your struggles to actually write the book, a process which comes across as equally low-pressure and painstakingly stressful. Would you say writing the book was more or less work than, say, putting together a TV show?
It’s weird. I think, in a way, it was definitely a lot of work. I don’t think I expected it one way or another, and that’s kind of what the book is about. I really didn’t know what to expect. I think I had a fantasy that I would sit down at the computer and laser beams would shoot out of my fingertips and I’d walk away with Portnoy’s Complaint or something. That didn’t happen.
You mention a lot of your fears in the book. Have you have any luck in defeating those?
Sure, I think putting them down on paper is a good step in that direction. Copping to it is sort of like facing your fear. I like the fears a lot myself.
Would you recommend that people pick up the book and read from whatever page it opens to or does it need to be read cover to cover?
It’s like dim sum. They can go in any order they want. It was written in some very vague chronological order but it was constructed physically to be flipped though.
Out of curiosity, was it awkward asking your friends to write blurbs for the back cover?
Was it awkward asking people? Why do you ask?
I’m just curious. If you write a book and you ask people you know to write something good about it, would that be a strange interaction?
This is an insecure reaction but is that because my book is so bad, why would anyone possible write anything good —
No, no, no. I didn’t mean that at all. I just mean it sounds like a strange situation.
Oh, well I think there’s an understanding that I’d do the same for them. I asked people who I felt like I have a rapport with and there is some mutual admiration and they like me, per se. If that makes sense. I would have loved to have had Salman Rushdie write a quote for it but I don’t know that Salman Rushdie gets my humor. Obviously, when someone writes you a blurb, you’re basically asking a friend for a favor. I suppose it would be awkward if they said no, but they didn’t say no. It would be awkward if they said no.
If there is one thing you want readers to take away from your book, what is it?
That’s a really good question. Ultimately the book is just silly. I just want it to be something that people find offbeat and alternative. It’s really there as an alternative to all the other books we all read and it’s something to make people laugh and have a moment of identification and laughter.
By the way, we found your video, ‘Project Top Chef Model,’ online. How did that come up? Was it your idea?
Yes, it was my idea. I love any reality show on Bravo and I just thought it would be funny to do a show that would combine all of them into one show.
Do you watch the Housewives as well?
I do, I do.
You should be excited because the Miami season is coming up.
Are you gonna watch it?
I already did.
How was it?
It’s a little bit of a different flavor.
My wife watches Real Housewives and she kind of forces me to watch it, although the minute I start watching it I can’t stop watching it. I can’t even say it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s just guilty. There’s not a lot of redeeming qualities going on on that show. I don’t watch to talk smack.
For those of you in New York, Showalter will be at Barnes & Noble in Union Square this Thursday to entertain your literary needs. And to read from his book.