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Five questions with: David Wain

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Green Gravel Presents: Wet Hot American Election

Stoner Theater — Friday, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m.

Comedian David Wain comes to Des Moines this month for a reading of his 2001 classic ‘Wet Hot American Summer.’ — video still

Green Gravel Comedy, well known in Iowa City for their top notch comedy festivals of the last several years, bringing names like Tony Clifton, Bill Plympton, Rachel Bloom and Kevin MacDonald to the area, has done events in Toledo, Iowa City and Des Moines since they first started. Green Gravel’s Lee Keeler says that they “enjoy the freedom to pop up with something unexpected, bombastic and dynamic” — and this week, they’re doing just that, as they bring David Wain to Des Moines for Wet Hot American Election at the Stoner Theater, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20; the event is 17+.

Wet Hot American Election is a performance of the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer in the form of a live reading featuring local actors. Keeler will be part of the show, as will Iowa City favorite Megan Gogerty and names familiar to fans Green Gravel and Iowa comedy, including Travis Bails and Spencer Loucks.

The event is co-presented by BearWolf Comedy and DMACC Democrats in support of Scholten4Iowa, and the main goal of the event is registering voters in advance of the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Wain — co-writer and co-producer of Wet Hot American Summer — will be performing at the event.

Wain made his television debut on MTV’s The State in 1993, and has been acting, directing and performing live comedy ever since. In addition to Wet Hot American Summer, he wrote and directed The Ten, Role Models, Wanderlust, and They Came Together. His work for TV includes Stella and Children’s Hospital. Wain answered some questions for Little Village via email.

It’s coming up on two decades since the Wet Hot American Summer film was first released. What drew you to the concept initially, and why do you keep coming back to it? Why do you think it struck such a chord as to gain “cult classic” status?

I always knew I wanted to do something about summer camp, because it was such an important and formative experience in my own life. I also always felt it was the perfect setting for a movie, because there’s a heightened, compressed feeling when at camp, and when you are away from home and with your friends 24/7 for the first time, with hormones raging.

I think the movie struck a chord with people who discovered it because it has a sense of humor that’s clearly its own, unburdened by commercial concerns or studio notes. And because it never did well in theaters, people found it on their own and had a sense of ownership over it and shared with friends.

With Green Gravel you’ll be doing live readings of Wet Hot American Summer. How has the translation from screen to stage been? Any challenges/fun discoveries?

I think it’ll be a fun time, and I look forward to the great group of performers who are gathered for this. Doing it live on stage will have a spontaneity and immediacy you can’t get on film.

See David Wain join Megan Gogerty, Lee Keeler and more at Des Moines’ Stoner Theater on Oct. 19.

I notice a lot of local actors involved in the festival; have you been working closely with them? How has the local talent helped shape the performance?

Truthfully, I’ll meet them all for the first time when we gather to perform — that’s part of the adventure!

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Your work over the years has been very satirical but seldom overtly political. Does the Wet Hot American Election take feel different? Are there different rules for political comedy than traditional skits and bits?

No, I think comedy is comedy. I’ve always been a close follower of politics and loved stories with a political bent — just haven’t gotten around to doing one of my own yet.

We seem to be at a bit of a cultural crossroads with this election; tempers are hot and the stakes are high. What do you think of the place of the comedian in moments like this? The artist in general?

It’s monumentally crucial. For many of us, seeing the world through the lens of art is the only/best way to discover a real truth or access how you personally feel about something. It’s a great honor to be helping to contextualize the insanity around us. Comedians, writers, artists, filmmakers — all of us are needed now more than ever!


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