If you’ve been a devoted MTV watcher as long as we have, you’re probably very familiar with David Wain. The actor/writer/director started off on TV as part of MTV’s groundbreaking sketch comedy show The State, and since then has made his name as one third of the spin-off trio Stella, as well as directing hit movies like cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer, and general public favorite Role Models. All the while, he’s been steadily releasing seasons of his self-titled web series Wainy Days exclusively on MyDamnChannel since 2007; a show about a guy named David Wain pushing people to the ground and making out with hot women.
There’s a lot more to it, of course, but the series perfectly channels Wain’s absurd humor, and features a bevy of guest stars, ranging from Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks, to many, many members of The State. The entire first four seasons of the series will be hitting DVD on Valentine’s Day, along with some choice extras, including a cast reunion/pajama party filmed just for the DVD release. To find out more, as well a very short update on Wet Hot American Summer, read on:
MTV Geek: I’m curious to talk about your approach to Wainy Days... It seems like there’s a tone, and rules to the world, but what’s the main impetus for the series?
David Wain: The main impetus for me is more a way to express - in a way - the most personal corner of my work; which is specifically writing what I know, what my life outside of work has been about for most of my adult life. It’s meeting someone, meeting girls, and how embarrassing or bizarre, or tough funny that can be.
And when I sat down to come up with something that would be a web series, I figured, what do I know really well that hasn’t been the subject of something I’ve done in the past? It’s very natural, because each episode focuses on a relationship, and I know that any of them are bizarre, or absurd, or silly, and very heightened... But they are, in some degree, all based on some kernel of truth in my actual life. [Laughs]
Geek: Wainy Days was really one of the first modern web series that popped up. For you - as well as for the landscape - how do think things have changed since you started doing Wainy Days?
DW: It’s interesting, the first web series experience I had was doing the Stella Shorts for ComedyNet.com, which was 1998. We made these shorts, and put them up on this long defunct website. You had to be in a military installation to have enough bandwidth to watch them. They were played on a tiny postage stamped sized window, and very pixelated. That was also a web series we did ten years before.
Doing Wainy Days was exciting because, wow, there’s a bigger picture, more people have a chance to actually see it. But of course since we’ve been doing Wainy Days, yeah, things have exploded.
But for me, it’s been a great venue to do these fun, very quick, very low budget shorts. I haven’t been really majorly affected by the landscape of web series, other than the fact that I’ve been able to keep doing it!
DW: It’s a blast! I’m amazed of the volume of stuff, and it makes me laugh. I’m probably the biggest fan of my own work, but it was so cool... We went back when making the DVD, and did a little reunion party with members of the cast. We did these pieces between the shorts chatting, or doing shtick, or dancing. So it was really great to see all the people again, just for the material we were making for the DVD. And watching it all again, it does feel like we’ve achieved a lot. We’re up to episode thirty-nine now, so it’s a legitimate series.
Geek: I loved the pajama party on the DVD, by the way... Ken Marino coming back in different “disguises” each time killed me... Where did that bit come from?
DW: We were heavily in the editing of Wanderlust at the time, and wanted to do something quick and fun that would be a bonus for the DVD. So we just thought it would fun to do a “Playboy After Dark” party where everyone is walking around and coming up with shtick. Ken Marino’s wife Erica, who is a great writer did the bits, and we just had a really fun day. As you said, Ken just forced himself in whenever needed. [Laughs]
Geek: To take a step back and talk about the series as a whole... You’re clearly front and center, and wrote and directed a number of the episodes; but there’s a bunch that have other writers, or other directors... How does the process work? Is there a writers room, or is it looser than that?
DW: There was never a writers room, but other than that, it was run sort of like a regular TV show, insomuch that... Well, it wasn’t really. Here’s how it would work: if I didn’t write the script myself, generally I would approach someone I like and say, hey, would you like to write a Wainy Days? You just have to write five pages, and that’s all you have to do. So I got a lot of great people to write something. Because it’s so short, or so simple, I’d give a few notes or thoughts, they’d do another draft, and or I’d do my own pass on it like a showrunner would do on any real TV show. And then we’d go shoot!
Similarly, with Directors, if someone else was shooting, they’d have a chance to do the editing... But I’d usually do the final pass of editing on all of them. Because editing is sort of my big thing.
Geek: During that process, has there ever been an idea someone has pitched to you - or you’ve come up with yourself - that just would not work as a Wainy Days?
DW: All the time. As all over the place as it might seem to some, there have been many ideas, both from outside, and myself that I would say, eh, that doesn’t make any sense. Or it didn’t feel original enough, or it felt like something we’ve already done. There’s definitely a kill ratio. I won’t shoot something unless I feel like I have enough ideas I’m excited about. I just wait until then.
Geek: Similarly, you’ve had a ton of guest stars... Is there anyone you’ve desperately wanted on the show, who just hasn’t worked out?
DW: Well, there’s been a lot of people who haven’t worked out, and it’s usually timing. I usually only ask people that I’ve met somewhere, or have some loose connection to. I’m sure maybe a lot of them were turned off by the whole idea, and so they said they were unavailable for scheduling and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. [Laughs]
Generally, it’s been really great, because people who are actors want to do something different, and the time commitment is very small. We’re usually asking four or five hours from somebody. We’ve been so lucky and fortunate to have so many great people come and do it. But there’s a huge list of people I’ve come across, or worked with on something else that I’d love to have on Wainy Days that I haven’t gotten around to having enough episodes to fill.
Geek: I imagine doing something like Wainy Days - the total control of that, versus working on big Hollywood movies - must feel like a bit of a release for you.
DW: I feel like its kind of like my sketch pad, it’s the one corner of my work that I don’t have to get somebody else’s approval to do anything. There is something nice about that. Everyone should have something like that, a chance to go in whatever direction you deem funny without having to ask somebody. Even though I have loved, and have continued to work over, and over, and over again with the collaborators I work with; it’s just a nice change of pace to say, “This is mine.”
Of course, I still work with great collaborators. John Stern, my Producer, and as you mentioned, all the people who write, and direct, and participate. I could not even remotely take credit for all that’s fun about Wainy Days.
Geek: You’ve worked on Children’s Hospital, which was a web series that made the leap to TV, and you clearly have a good working relationship with Adult Swim... Could you see Wainy Days making the leap, or is the web the best venue for the series?
DW: I’m definitely thinking about. I’m always thinking about what would be a good way to do Wainy Days as a TV show. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to bring it to TV in different forms, and frankly it’s so much fun to do as a web series, and there’s so very little obstacles on getting what I want on this. So the only reason I would take it to TV is if it was a truly ideal situation, if I found a place where they saw eye to eye with me on what the TV show could be, and if we could evolve it... Kind of what we did with the Stella shorts going to the Stella series on Comedy Central. To me that was a good way to do it, because the series was inspired by the shorts, but it wasn’t the same thing. I think I’d want to evolve or reinvent it in some way.
Geek: While we’re talking about taking things to TV, I’m curious if you’ve ever thought of making Wet Hot American Summer a TV show - it seems like a bit of a natural fit.
DW: Well, there’s all sorts of Wet Hot American Summer related projects in their infancy, but we are definitely actively working on the next movie installment... So that’s definitely one of the things we’re focusing on.
Geek: Lastly, what else is coming up for you?
DW: On February 24th, this little thing called Wanderlust is coming out-- I’m joking, I’ve worked on it for, like, five years. [Laughs] It’s a big movie with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. In the Spring, the new season of Children’s Hospital comes on, which I’ve been working on for the past few months, and am still working on right now in the edit room. New Superjail on Adult Swim is in progress at the moment, I directed an episode of The New Girl which is going to be on in the Spring... And more to come!
WAINY DAYS SEASONS 1-4 hits DVD, XBOX and Playstation on February 14th!