Reitman ’95 interviews comedian, director about films in ‘Speaking of Movies’ series

Jacob Goodman

Writer, actor and director David Wain said he validated his comedic voice while working with the sketch comedy group The State when he spoke to Jason Reitman ’95 Oct. 9 in the sixth installment of Reitman’s interview series “Speaking of Movies.”

Wain has written and directed movies such as “Wanderlust,” “Role Models” and “Wet Hot American Summer” and television shows like “The State” and “Children’s Hospital.”

He spoke about his original aspirations and how his career as a comedian developed.

“When people said ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ I said ‘the best magician in the world,’” Wain said.

Wain said that he moved away from magic when he was around 12 or 13.

“The magic went out the window when I realized it wasn’t interesting to girls,” Wain joked.

Wain discussed his beginnings in the industry as a member of the sketch comedy group The State, which he and other students started at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University.

“As soon as I met and saw all of those guys I thought ‘Wow, this is incredible,’ Wain said.

The State was eventually turned into series that ran for two seasons on MTV. Wain and the other cast were allowed to run their show how they liked.

“We got into a situation where no one was telling us what to do,” Wain said. “We didn’t come from Groundlings, UCB or Second City. We were teaching each other.”

Wain also spoke about “Wet Hot American Summer,” which he co-wrote with “The State” member Michael Showalter.

The movie was originally a group of 10 story lines that were outlined with the intention of being filmed during the summer with a bunch of  friends. However, as they kept writing, the kept story developing into more, and they began to think of it as a feature film, Wain said.

“We started to realize it was more of a full screenplay, and then as we started to go out and try to get people to invest money in it,” he said. It took three years to finally get the movie together, he said.

“Wet Hot American Summer,” which stars Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Poehler premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2001 and was released later that year.

“The goal for us was to finish it and have its day in court, which meant open in one theater,” Wain said. “So when it opened in two theaters that was amazing, truly.”

Wain went on to write and direct “Role Models,” “Wanderlust” and “Children’s Hospital.”

Through it all, he has been influenced by that original group of comedians from The State, he said.

“My dream was always to be on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ By the time I was a sophomore in college I didn’t have that dream anymore,” Wain said. “Because I was like ‘We’re doing “The State.” That’s what we’re doing. That’s our thing, and I want to do my thing.’ And I’ve always done that for better or worse. I would probably be a much richer man if I did something else, but I just said ‘I said I’m doing my thing whether it’s nothing or big or small, I’m doing my thing.’”

To watch the full interview go to