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

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