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

doctor who political drama Marvel Studios stand-up comedy cancelled television disaster GIFs YouTube Superheroe festivals Disney streaming service IFC Warner Bros. social media teaser technology space San Diego Comic-Con YouTube Red witnail versus kids Election Captain marvel zombie Hallmark television Britbox game of thrones Esquire Animation Sundance Now TIFF natural history WarnerMedia TNT Quiz Shondaland cancelled TV series cancelled TV shows christmas movies VICE canceled TV shows YA Sundance casting Pet Sematary Black Mirror Marvel Television Lionsgate renewed TV shows YouTube Premium Family TBS Spectrum Originals DC Universe A&E Brie Larson Women's History Month Elton John LGBT Disney+ Disney Plus sitcom CBS All Access 2016 Apple Photos VH1 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Shudder Action Anna Paquin Rocketman Paramount Network Mary Poppins Returns 2019 thriller MCU Certified Fresh Opinion Spike Winter TV 21st Century Fox The Arrangement Freeform E! Tomatazos Trophy Talk comics Turner New York Comic Con Baby Yoda HBO Max Paramount Lifetime Christmas movies Amazon Prime LGBTQ Star Wars science fiction Ghostbusters reboot Disney Channel Peacock First Reviews GoT streaming sports Holidays See It Skip It Infographic 2017 Mary Tyler Moore cartoon CNN PaleyFest TLC Awards Marvel crime thriller blockbuster spy thriller breaking bad cults Heroines Sundance TV Columbia Pictures harry potter Stephen King psychological thriller romantic comedy mockumentary Martial Arts singing competition Mystery Crackle Star Trek Arrowverse dramedy Endgame Discovery Channel Amazon History spanish language RT21 FX crossover blaxploitation Writers Guild of America slashers spider-man Year in Review SDCC Spring TV Hallmark Christmas movies Marathons 71st Emmy Awards OWN Oscars BBC adventure The Walking Dead romance APB Superheroes Interview revenge X-Men spain police drama screenings WGN Rom-Com PBS Sneak Peek what to watch MSNBC indie tv talk Walt Disney Pictures TCA 2017 Awards Tour Lucasfilm DGA HBO Avengers Music AMC USA Network Vudu werewolf Ovation hist Creative Arts Emmys rotten movies we love ratings travel halloween elevated horror Cannes Tarantino animated binge Mary poppins Syfy nature Starz Epix Emmy Nominations BET Universal Adult Swim Watching Series aliens Food Network joker Turner Classic Movies canceled El Rey ABC Family Film Festival Bravo DC Comics adaptation award winner Kids & Family game show OneApp children's TV President richard e. Grant Fall TV latino south america 2018 sequel DC streaming service series facebook DirecTV biography screen actors guild Television Academy Video Games Song of Ice and Fire Thanksgiving Western Cosplay cats First Look Mindy Kaling cancelled video MTV Box Office documentary Hulu politics Academy Awards Pixar Pirates Valentine's Day dc theme song psycho Dark Horse Comics Netflix FXX free movies Logo Apple TV Plus crime Character Guide Pop finale Country A24 TCM Sony Pictures FOX medical drama 2015 Grammys book mutant comiccon Apple TV+ true crime Winners USA Red Carpet 2020 discovery strong female leads Binge Guide Tubi movies Biopics 45 Cartoon Network The Witch TCA Acorn TV Comic Book Classic Film Disney ghosts unscripted Drama SundanceTV golden globes anthology Musicals Premiere Dates quibi Nat Geo period drama 007 Nickelodeon based on movie Trivia cops dragons TV Land Podcast Reality Trailer Super Bowl TV renewals diversity Calendar RT History CMT NYCC zero dark thirty batman Nominations GLAAD Christmas Disney Plus hispanic The Purge cinemax ESPN Showtime Toys Best and Worst Ellie Kemper Extras anime Fox News crime drama Holiday vampires National Geographic Masterpiece supernatural boxoffice TCA Winter 2020 historical drama jamie lee curtis Crunchyroll Mudbound toy story Rock Netflix Christmas movies cooking justice league war transformers Comedy dceu American Society of Cinematographers CW Seed sag awards zombies TV Teen Schedule Comedy Central Comics on TV Set visit E3 BBC America Emmys Rocky CBS Horror IFC Films green book ITV Chernobyl Summer name the review cars SXSW robots composers spinoff foreign miniseries Film serial killer independent directors Countdown ABC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Reality Competition The CW TruTV NBC Sci-Fi Pride Month Fantasy 24 frames Polls and Games 20th Century Fox comic docudrama Tumblr Amazon Prime Video Lifetime talk show Musical