Michael Showalter Takes on Millennial Angst in Search Party, Talks Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

by | November 18, 2016 | Comments

"Search Party" Executive Producer Michael Showalter (Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Turner)

Every generation has their own angsty comedies. From Growing Pains to Saved by the Bell to Friends, young people have tuned in to see their brethren deal with life in funnier ways than most people get to live. Who better to do it for millennials than one of the creators of the Generation X sketch comedy show The State and the cult hit Wet Hot American Summer?

Michael Showalter produces the new TBS comedy Search Party with co-creators Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) stars as Dory, an aimless 20-something frustrated with her group of friends who’d rather vent about their First World problems than connect with the world around them. When she notices an old friend from college has gone missing, Dory joins the search as a way to find a purpose.

There’s more Wet Hot American Summer coming too. Showalter called while halfway through filming a second season for Netflix. Their prequel series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp was such a hit, they are moving ahead with Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later. That’ll be on Netflix in 2017.


Alia Shawkat in Search Party (TBS)

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: In The Union of The State oral history of The State, your very first quote is “You have to believe that the people you’re working with are funnier than you are.” Is that the case for Search Party?

Michael Showalter: Yes, in a sense. What I love about Sarah-Violet and Charles is that their point of view comedically is so specific and in the best possible way, it’s so idiosyncratic. There’s a sort of a world they create with their writing that is very on display in [their film] Fort Tilden and is really what we wanted to try to harness with Search Party. It’s a sort of misanthropic, jaded, really, really weird, interesting, funny point of view. I’m sort of like a soccer dad. I’m so proud of this show. I just think it’s such a cool, interesting smart show.

RT: As a pioneer in MTV comedy and Generation X, do you sympathize with the millennial generation portrayed on Search Party?

Showalter: Yes and when I was younger, I remember Bret Easton Ellis was just starting to write his books. I think there’s always a jaded young voice, whether it’s going all the way back to the Beatniks and then The Graduate, and there’s always a kind of disaffected story to tell, so in a way, there’s a universality to it. That’s more how I see them. I see them in a continuum of Catcher in the Rye and The Graduate and Less Than Zero and now these guys. I’m sure there’s others in between. So it’s not so specifically to me just a story about modern millennials. It’s a story about being young and trying to figure out who you want to be and how you want to fit into the world. That’s a really long process. Some people do it more gracefully than others. I think Sarah-Violet and Charles have a really specific take on their generation, but that very much speaks to my generation. I’m Gen-X. We have our own specifics but I think there’s a lot of carryover.


Alia Shawkat and John Reynolds in Search Party (TBS)

RT: Does Search Party also represent something you like to do sometimes, which is melancholy comedy that’s not supposed to be funny?

Showalter: Oh yeah, definitely. These characters are not the happiest group of people. In a certain sense, they’re very privileged, and we’re not trying to make anyone feel sorry for them per se, but they have their struggles. We’re trying to find humor in situations that aren’t necessarily funny.

RT: Television is also dealing with this idea that a 30-minute show isn’t necessarily a comedy. Does cable allow you to play with the tone more?

Showalter: There’s no question that this is an unorthodox show in just the way that you described. The line between comedy and drama is getting less visible and you see it in all kinds of different shows now. I think that’s exciting.

RT: Are there some episodes that lean more heavily funny and some more dramatic?

Showalter: Yeah, there is this dark murder mystery happening as well, and so there are going to be certain episodes that lean more into that, but we always tried to make sure that the show is funny. I think every episode is very funny in its own way.

RT: Is the mystery solved at the end of the first season?

Showalter: There’s definitely a big answer. The audience will get a very big answer at the end of the first season, but it’s an answer that raises a few more questions as well.


Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)

RT: What did you learn from doing the first season of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp on Netflix that helps you do the second?

Showalter: Wet Hot American Summer is really like a movie. It’s a four-hour movie. What we learned about it is really just the writing process, the production process, all of the challenges that come with making a movie, in terms of trying to tell a story over eight episodes.

RT: Is Search Party a five-hour film?

Showalter: Search Party is also very serialized. We’re hoping that people will be trying to solve the mystery or guess at what’s going on. It’s a little bit more serialized than Wet Hot. Wet Hot really is a movie divided into eight parts, whereas Search Party is 10 standalone serialized episodes.

RT: “10 Years Later” puts it in the ’90s, in your era. Are there any specific tropes or references you’re looking forward to spoofing?

Showalter: Yeah, it’s a reunion story so the characters are all reuniting after 10 years. There was a whole spate of reunion-type movies in the ’80s [and ’90s] of ensemble 20-something stories. which are a lot of tropes we’re playing with, whether it’s St. Elmo’s Fire or Singles or Reality Bites. Those are some of the inspirations for it.

RT: Does it give you an out if anyone’s not available? You could say, “Oh, they couldn’t make the reunion.”

Showalter: That would give us an out, but luckily we didn’t have that issue. Hopefully everybody will be back this year.

RT: Since it’s a reunion, is it still all set in one day?

Showalter: Yes.


Michael Showalter in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)

RT: Did you already know where the Wet Hot gang was going to be 10 years later?

Showalter: Oh, this is all new. We started just with the premise and just imagined, spent a couple of months just dreaming up scenarios, and trying to figure out what this whole story would be. It was really fun trying to figure it out.

RT: It’ll be fun to see Jai Courtney do comedy. Did Jai do a comedy audition for you?

Showalter: He’s absolutely hysterical. No, we offered him the part. We were fans of his and thought it would be fun to see him do something different.

RT: It says Mark Feuerstein’s character has always been there. Is the idea that we just never saw him, but he was there?

Showalter: Exactly, exactly, exactly. The assumption is that he was there all along, yes.

RT: You directed another movie, The Big Sick. What would you say is the tone of that film in the continuity of all the various things you do?

Showalter: It picks up in that vein of Hello, My Name is Doris, which is to say it’s a really funny movie, but it also has a lot of strong dramatic elements in it. It stars Kumail Nanjiani, who cowrote the film with his wife, Emily Gordon. It was based on a true story and also stars Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter. It’s a really funny story with a lot of comedy in it, but it’s also got a lot of heart and deals with a lot of pretty heavy issues. Judd Apatow produced this film with Barry Mendel. I think as you’ve seen Judd Apatow’s career shift in the last couple of years with his work on Love and Girls and his own films, it tries to blend serious subject matter with comedy.

Search Party airs Monday nights at 11 p.m. ET on TBS


Watch the series premiere of Search Party now:

Tag Cloud

BAFTA toy story Discovery Channel CMT Rocky WGN Mindy Kaling Trivia war Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Schedule prank Marvel Studios medical drama video on demand DirecTV psycho Polls and Games 2016 ABC Video Games dceu discovery Superheroe Musicals king kong cancelled TV shows GIFs Starz Opinion zombie Reality comics a nightmare on elm street boxoffice Sundance Stephen King Mary Poppins Returns Hallmark Christmas movies Funimation SDCC spy thriller BBC TV movies Britbox travel international Acorn TV Disney cats USA Nominations mission: impossible Marvel Television serial killer DC Universe asian-american Lifetime Christmas movies blaxploitation cartoon Action Disney Channel TV Land cancelled TV series Travel Channel ViacomCBS canceled TV shows Kids & Family BET children's TV See It Skip It universal monsters USA Network richard e. Grant Disney+ Disney Plus Comics on TV justice league fresh Interview PBS NBC television quibi The Arrangement TCA 2017 dramedy marvel cinematic universe NYCC screen actors guild MTV popular spain Character Guide Adult Swim tv talk Food Network mockumentary CW Seed New York Comic Con cinemax boxing Premiere Dates films SundanceTV all-time politics Netflix Emmy Nominations renewed TV shows IFC hispanic binge nature diversity deadpool Crunchyroll GLAAD Exclusive Video Writers Guild of America Pet Sematary Brie Larson Song of Ice and Fire festivals Year in Review Comic Book docudrama Mudbound lord of the rings 2019 Lifetime scorecard Summer Toys 2015 comedies football emmy awards science fiction women 2021 godzilla Drama Black Mirror TCM Fall TV spanish TIFF Baby Yoda sag awards comic books Photos adaptation Christmas Apple period drama Tubi Apple TV Plus The Walt Disney Company Dark Horse Comics 007 WarnerMedia award winner ghosts Sundance TV free movies CBS facebook FOX Horror canceled unscripted Lionsgate BBC One TNT Emmys Creative Arts Emmys President Vudu technology Fox News political drama Oscars Calendar Black History Month Cartoon Network movie 4/20 rotten movies we love historical drama Country psychological thriller Amazon Election true crime Film National Geographic TV renewals cars halloween tv DGA Tarantino The Walking Dead Teen Holidays BET Awards Spring TV series rotten 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards RT21 HBO Go slashers rt archives Film Festival Thanksgiving VICE hollywood dogs theme song Family sitcom elevated horror trailers Superheroes Animation 20th Century Fox romance RT History Masterpiece Marvel Comedy south america Disney Plus stop motion comiccon ABC Signature FXX Martial Arts new york strong female leads 2018 99% Winter TV ABC Family 2020 Disney streaming service Logo Sundance Now HBO Ghostbusters Television Academy Paramount Network aliens reviews The Academy blockbusters obituary Crackle Amazon Prime Ovation YA miniseries Cannes game of thrones DC streaming service American Society of Cinematographers cooking screenings criterion The Witch Spike Walt Disney Pictures zombies Bravo chucky Pride Month adventure Television Critics Association anthology YouTube video laika Freeform YouTube Premium anime finale blockbuster comic french nfl vampires BBC America AMC OneApp telelvision TBS Spectrum Originals ESPN APB Mary poppins Tomatazos Amazon Studios 21st Century Fox 2017 PaleyFest YouTube Red golden globe awards nbcuniversal Mystery Women's History Month Showtime A&E talk show 24 frames cults remakes Reality Competition Pacific Islander versus Alien cancelled ID Western Paramount toronto History dragons thriller Fantasy E! festival Rom-Com teaser Best and Worst LGBTQ Pixar doctor who OWN Infographic crime drama book Shondaland spider-man Legendary zero dark thirty TCA Awards latino Marathons Podcast dark Amazon Prime Video independent concert Box Office El Rey Watching Series Captain marvel Chernobyl VH1 social media dc CNN The CW IFC Films SXSW CBS All Access romantic comedy Awards transformers Sci-Fi australia Music HBO Max MCU Epix hist Red Carpet MSNBC high school joker San Diego Comic-Con FX Trailer scene in color Sneak Peek Nickelodeon composers Broadway spinoff satire Avengers Fox Searchlight Pop TV disaster what to watch space sequel casting The Purge sports child's play First Look worst movies Warner Bros. sequels batman Sony Pictures LGBT ratings docuseries Paramount Plus book adaptation Star Wars spanish language pirates of the caribbean critics scary movies news cancelled television 93rd Oscars franchise Lucasfilm jamie lee curtis TV harry potter Winners directors Syfy Trophy Talk james bond Countdown Cosplay Arrowverse reboot TruTV A24 Hulu heist movie name the review supernatural breaking bad Mary Tyler Moore Binge Guide worst Esquire Pirates kaiju parents First Reviews Turner documentary saw Hear Us Out Ellie Kemper best based on movie fast and furious twilight ITV aapi TLC Super Bowl crossover Heroines Holiday Grammys VOD werewolf Academy Awards stand-up comedy DC Comics Comedy Central die hard live action TV One stoner streaming christmas movies Elton John know your critic Turner Classic Movies italian FX on Hulu new star wars movies Rocketman cops biography venice Hallmark kong Columbia Pictures revenge natural history Tumblr Set visit Image Comics foreign rom-coms razzies superman Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt superhero Musical GoT black streaming movies indiana jones TCA Winter 2020 Biopics 72 Emmy Awards crime Apple TV+ Pop Rock halloween singing competition golden globes robots jurassic park Extras Star Trek archives movies PlayStation hidden camera Peacock Valentine's Day monster movies animated classics green book documentaries Universal E3 police drama 71st Emmy Awards Awards Tour indie witnail crime thriller X-Men Endgame game show 45 target mutant Netflix Christmas movies new zealand TCA Nat Geo kids Classic Film Quiz Anna Paquin japanese Shudder Certified Fresh